Contact us today - 0330 094 9338

Welcome to the era of the feelgood job.

The debate about what makes a job a ‘good job’, really matters at the moment. It is especially important to employers who are struggling to recruit and retain staff and therefore finding it difficult to operate, let alone grown their businesses.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review sought to define a good job and quotes statistics from the US that show 4 million people a month are leaving their jobs in the US, looking for more meaningful work. This highlights the root of the problem, namely that a ‘good’ job is no longer simply one that is secure, steady and fairly paid. Rather, a good job is one that makes the person carrying out the work feel as if what they do really matter. What else can and/or should the employer being doing to retain talent? It is not quite as simple as having a meaningful role, of course, otherwise every teacher and nurse would be happy in their jobs. It is much more about respect and understanding each employee’s personal circumstances and what is important to them, in life. Fair pay, equality, security and a manageable workload are still as important as they ever were, but so is the opportunity to attend a school play, or look after a loved one attending a medical appointment. Yes, people are paid to carry out a particular function, but productivity and happiness scores are bound to increase if flexibility is added to the mix and reduces domestic stresses, for example.

The problem is not just to be found in the US. Many UK businesses are understandably struggling with the growing demand for ‘feelgood’ jobs. Their staff are waking up and asking themselves whether their job excites them overall, rather than what the pension scheme is like. If the answer is not a resounding ‘yes’, you can be sure those employees will be Googling ‘how to write a resignation letter’ before too long. Employees want to grow in roles, they want to develop and they want to feel valued and appreciated.

A feelgood job is one that offers opportunities for personal growth and an insight into the purpose of the business. People no longer want to check in at 9 and check out at 5. They want to know that the work they do counts towards a bigger picture, which means they need to be kept informed about the wider objectives of the company. They want to feel part of the business plan.

The message employers should be taking from this is that the push for good jobs is excellent news. Which business would not want a team of people working for them that is eager to help the company achieve its objectives? What boss would not want a proactive employee, who is keen to contribute and be recognised for it? 

Turning to the boardroom, therefore, the discussion that needs to take place around ‘feelgood’ jobs is as follows:

  1. How do you communicate company goals throughout the business and keep workers informed?
  2. What changes are needed to create an environment where people feel inspired and listened to rather than overworked and taken advantage of?
  3. Are your policies and procedures on equality and discrimination ‘lived’ with integrity at every level of the organisation, creating a workplace where people feel safe and understood?

Returning  to the excellent HBR article, the definition it comes up with is as follows: “A good job is one where you feel seen for being the best version of yourself; you sense that your colleagues have your back; you don’t feel discriminated against based on your gender, race, or sexual orientation; you feel your position is secure; and you have confidence that you’ll get help navigating constant changes in the working world”. How does your business measure up?

Richard Port is an employment lawyer and strategic advisor to boards. He can be contacted by emailing