Reward Live: Former employment secretary says employers should stop making presumptions


Former Employment Secretary,David Blunkett, kicked off Reward Live 2015 by imploring businesses to do more to understand how employees think and feel in their organisations.

The former MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough was Secretary of State for Education and Employment from 1997-2001, and then later the Home Secretary. In his speech to delegates, he said: “It strikes me that too many people are worried about change, and worried about giving help to others.”

He said: “We need to get across that being a diverse business means being a better business, but employers need stop making presumptions about how staff actually feel.”

He added: “Employers need to think more about whether they're meeting employees’ needs. We need to see people in the ‘whole’ and understand whether the employment proposition is meeting their specific needs. He said: “For one of my step-nieces, the biggest issue was not pay, but how she’ll actually travel to work. I hadn’t even considered this to be something young people worry about.”

His advice to delegates was to “get things right from the beginning”, by researching thoroughly best practice. He added: Employers need to be better at listening, and then be less embarrassed about offering help.”

Blunkett, who launched the Learning and Skills Council, created Job Centre Plus, and also had responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Commission, said listening to staff was even more important following the election.

He said: “It seems likely the new business secretary will look harder at employment relations law. But really, all industrial relations is, is how people feel about themselves and how they are being treated.”

He added: “A lot of this isn’t rocket science, but the fact we’re still talking about it still means lots of companies are not yet addressing the basic needs of staff.”

He concluded: “Rewarding people correctly is pretty simply; if we treat people well, we’ll get the most from staff. But, it’s a two-way street too. Employers should rightfully expect employees to do things for themselves too. The point is, that it’s about a partnership. Get staff to ‘buy the ticket’ [buy into the company culture] and there’s a good chance everyone will want to work positively.”