Irish National Workplace Surveys: Almost a third of private
sector employment is in organisations with no pension scheme for any employees
and less than 50% is in firms that offer all employees membership in such a
scheme. Almost one in five private sector employees works in a firm that offers
membership of a pension to some, but not all, employees. Meanwhile, intense
media scrutiny and Freedom of Information requests are causes of stress in the
These findings come from two new National
Workplace Surveys that are launched today by the Minister for Labour Affairs and
Public Service Transformation, Mr. Dara Calleary, T.D. The studies were
conducted by ESRI researchers and are published by the National Economic and
Social Development Office. The studies draw on in depth surveys of over 3,000
employers and 5,100 employees in Ireland carried out in 2009. Similar surveys
were carried out in 2003 and this provides an opportunity to examine change in
the Irish workplace over a period in which there was a dramatic shift in the
Irish economy from rapid growth to deep recession, and to examine the impact of
those changes on employees and employers.
The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employees’ Views and
Experiences By Philip J. O’Connell, Helen Russell,
Dorothy Watson and Delma Byrne National Economic and Social Development Office,
The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employers’ Views and Experiences By
Dorothy Watson, John Galway, Philip J. O’Connell and Helen Russell National
Economic and Social Development Office, 2010
Accountability is viewed as an issue for a substantial
proportion of the public sector: 32% of the public sector experiences intense
pressure as a result of scrutiny by the media; 25% as a result of requests under
the Freedom of Information Legislation and 26% as a result of increased
accountability to the Oireachtas. Scrutiny by the media and freedom of
information requests have both become significantly more important as sources of
intense pressure in 2009 compared to 2003.
The surveys show that aspects of the downturn are also making
change more difficult in the public sector with budget constraints, recruitment
constraints and uncertainty about the future emerging as the most frequent major
barriers to change.
Significantly, inherited structures and practices that make it
more difficult for organisations to adopt flexible employment practices were
identified as major barriers for change much more often than in 2003.
These systemic barriers to change include the management
structure within the organisation, the hierarchical nature of the organisation,
the centralisation of HR, the promotions process, the willingness of staff to
change and the willingness of unions to engage constructively with change.
The reports say it is likely that these barriers have become
more salient with the intensification of efforts to introduce new workplace
practices in line with the Transforming Public Services agenda.
These responses suggest that public sector managers experience
considerable frustration arising from structures over which they have limited
control in their efforts to introduce reforms. There was also a great deal of
diversity across different types of public sector organisations in the factors
identified as the major barriers to change. This suggests that a tailored and
customised approach to public sector modernisation will be needed in order to
progress the transformation agenda, say the authors.
In the private sector, the highest incidence of workplace
innovation was found in the Financial/Insurance/Business Services sectors (67%
of employment), Traditional Manufacturing (66%) and High-Tech Manufacturing
(65%), with lower rates of adoption found in the Construction, Distribution and
the Hotel, Restaurant and other Services sectors.
Foreign-owned firms are also more likely to introduce workplace
innovation, with 74% of employment in the multinational sector being within
firms that have introduced workplace innovation in the past two years. The
difference across sectors in the commitment to workplace innovation was also
reflected in the percentage of employment where the CEO considers workplace
innovation to be very important to the future success and viability of the firm.
The survey reveals a high proportion of public sector employment
in organisations with a commitment to innovative work practices and who have
also been able to deliver new or improved services in the previous two years.
The impact of the Transforming Public Services agenda is very evident in
these figures, and also in the very high proportion of public sector employment
in organisations where the manager believes workplace innovation to be ‘very
important’ to the future success of the organisation: 81% in the public sector
compared to 43% in the private sector.
The overall levels of commitment to workplace innovation in the
private sector were lower than in the public sector. The main differentiating
factor with respect to innovation in the private sector was firm size. Smaller
firms were less likely to have introduced new products or services or workplace
innovations in the previous two years and were less likely to believe that
workplace innovation was very important to the future success of the firm.