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High performance working: Developing a survey tool

The development of a longitudinal employer-based survey tool is one of three linked subprojects commissioned by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills within a project concerned with Skills Utilisation in the UK. The concept of skills utilisation encompasses a range of high-performance work practices with a focus on creating a working environment in which employee talents can be deployed for the optimal mutual benefit of themselves and their employer. As such it implies a particular concern with identification of workforce talents, designing work in such a way that employee talents are optimally used and offering opportunities for employees to contribute to shaping the broader development of the organisation beyond the confines of their job descriptions. Concerns about adequate deployment of workforce skills derive from broader concerns about the role of skills in contributing to the UK’s economic performance. The UK ‘skills problem’ is multi-faceted, well documented and has a long history. Our stock of skills and their optimal deployment fare relatively poorly when compared internationally according to Skills Utilisation measures such as labour productivity and levels of qualifications among different workforce groups. Access to opportunities for skills acquisition is uneven as are their impacts and a number of reasons are provided for this, often deriving from Human Capital Theory (Becker, 1964). For organisations, underinvestment in skills may appear to be a rational response in the face of risks such as poaching of trained workers and payback time on investment. Equally organisations may be keen to invest in developing workforce skills, but lack capacity or capability to manage the process, or simply find it difficult to source appropriate training or lack broader knowledge of how skills utilisation can be optimised. It is within this context that this survey tool has been developed.