Is ‘quality of working life’ the secret to attracting and keeping the best employees?

A new psychometric tool, called Work-Related Quality of Life, has been developed by Psychologists at the University of Portsmouth that enables companies to gain a recruitment and retention ‘edge’ over their rivals.

The Psychologists concerned have now launched a spin out company, QoWL, to make the tool available to employers to help them measure quality of working life in their staff.

QoWL provide a free summary report to companies participating in their benchmarking research.

The tool was developed after years of research with 15,000 public sector employees. It enables a company to build up an accurate and detailed picture of quality of working life across the organisation and the factors that contribute to it.

Employers have found this approach to surveying their workforce much more attractive than the usual opinion or satisfaction surveys because they are able to demonstrate a commitment to quality of working life, which enhances their reputation with both existing and prospective employees.

QoWL’s research findings challenge prevailing views about what really counts with regard to quality of working life. Simon Easton, Clinical Psychologist, summarising their research stated:

“Stress may be less important than people think. General well-being, working conditions, management support and relationships appear to be more important factors than stress in determining quality of working life.”

“For office environments, practical issues tend to be particularly important in determining peoples’ quality of working life, both in terms of the physical working environment (e.g. buildings, temperature, comfort, equipment) and ease of getting to and from work (e.g. transport, travelling time, parking).”

“In some cases, it appears that workplaces where employees experience higher workload demands can also be those with a higher quality of working life. Employees in workplaces with higher quality of working life in the research tended to have more autonomy and control, and often chose to work harder.”

“The impact of pay on quality of working life appears to be complex. It ranked 14th out of 20 HR-related outcomes measured by QoWL as a contributor to quality of working life. Further research will be undertaken to explore the impact of pay. It may be the case that pay is less of an issue so long as pay is perceived to be reasonable, whilst dissatisfaction with remuneration may have greater adverse effect on overall quality of working life.”

The Quality of Working Life model fits well with recent UK Government initiatives on workplace well-being and work-life balance. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) launched Management Standards in 2004 with a view to reducing stress-related ill-health and absence and improving workplace health and performance.