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Wellbeing is not about bean bags!

The world of work has never been so volatile, uncertain and complex. Seismic changes and trends that would normally take decades to emerge have followed one after the other; Brexit, pandemic, the great resignation, war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis. The scale of the changes are bewildering to employers and employees. To make sense of where we find ourselves and offering both encouragement and warning in equal measure is the world’s preeminent authority on organisational culture and employee wellbeing.

In this episode of That Wellbeing @ Work Show, host Chris Taylor talks to Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, 50th Anniversary Professor of Psychology at Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. He is a founding President of the British Academy of Management and Immediate Past President of the CIPD. Among his many achievements, Professor Cooper is currently the Chair of the National Forum for Health & Wellbeing at Work and is the author/editor of over 250 books in the field of occupational health psychology, workplace wellbeing and occupational stress.

I don’t like my boss [02:13]

Professor Cooper remarks that a significant driver of the so called ‘great resignation’ was in part employee’s dissatisfaction with their boss. He think this has led some in HR about whether they have right managers or managers with the right skills in place. Sadly he feels too many organisations recruit solely on technical skills and not soft skills or EQ.

What do we do about Millennials and GenZ workers? [04:03]

Professor Cooper believes this generation of workers have a very different value set to their parents. Mis-characterised as ‘Snow Flakes’ Professor Cooper argues that this ‘generation’ don’t feel entitled; they’re just not prepared to tolerate what their parents tolerated..

Hybrid working another way [7.14]

What is HR’s obsession with numbers of days at home or spent in the office? Professor Cooper takes us back to the psychological contract and tells us to look at this in a different way. Ask the employee what works for them and together agree what’s going to work. He says this isn’t a big conversation, so why have we made it one?

A new deal for blue-collar workers? [09:09]

Many of those in the ‘professional classes’ have enjoyed the ability to work flexibly but what about those jobs that cannot be done from home? Professor Cooper recommends that a new deal such as a 4 day week or a variation of is created to allow these workers some time off.

Employee wellbeing is not about bean bags [13:26]

Bean bags, sushi and ping pong is not employee wellbeing. Employee wellbeing is a major strategic shift. Professor Cooper highlights the NHS where every trust now has an non-executive director responsible for health and wellbeing. At [14:25], Professor Cooper argues for an NED responsible for health and wellbeing appointed to the board of every UK company whatever their size.

The difference between pressure and stress [18:45]

Pressure motivates and stress makes you ill is the simple answer and is witnessed by behaviour change.

Why don’t business schools teach soft skills? [23:28]

Business schools concentrate far too much on teaching technical skills such as the key theories in HR, marketing and accountancy but in the main ignore more experiential leaning that gets individuals to understand their personality and the effect they have on others.

Recruiting on the wrong skills [26:03]

Attending a top business school isn’t a guarantee an individual is going to be any good at managing others. Organisations need to look beyond the technical skills and assess instead an individual’s interpersonal or soft skills.


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