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Emma O'Connor
Emma O'Connor,
HEAD OF TRAINING
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HR Conference – Achieving Sustainable Workplace Productivity – What we learned
23 October 2019

Our London HR Conference last week brought together speakers from legal, corporate, wellbeing and academia to share their thoughts on how we can encourage and support productivity in the workplace.

“It was a great event”

Don’t take our word for it, this is how delegates described the day! Want to hear what we learned and listen to our podcast.

Emma O’Connor shares her thoughts:

“We are all working long hours it seems, we have access to new mobile technology which allows us to work agilely or flexibly, we strive for a work/life balance and yet statistically, as recent reports indicate, workforce productivity in the UK is failing to improve. That is why I wanted to focus on workplace productivity as a theme at our June HR Conference in Reading and last week in London. Productivity is complicated and made worse when we consider the external uncertainty which surrounds us at present. What has struck me in putting together both events was just how much has been written about productivity over many years and it is still a hot HR topic in 2019 – and no doubt beyond this too. From focusing on some of the barriers to workplace productivity and also how we could use the tools that we have already at our disposal to increase productivity for the short-term in June, last Thursday moved the discussion forward in terms of how we can engage, motive and inspire our workforce for the long term.

I started the day with a focus on fairness – a topic which underpinned the whole day. I asked whether, in our quest for compliance, had we lost sight of fairness in terms of our processes and also the outcomes? As one commentator wrote “want a more productive workforce – start with fairness”. I discussed the business case for going back to “fairness basics”, the link between fairness, engagement and productivity and what a fair organisation or workplace might look like. I discussed how training and people development can increase consistency in terms of decision making and following workforce policies thereby leading to less conflict, more engagement and productivity. I shared how Amazon in the US were using people training and development as a means of future proofing their businesses, developing employees/skills for the future as well as using training as part of the “employee experience”. I discussed how training could benefit your organisation. I also discussed how productivity is impacted by the rise of workplace disputes, claims and compensation and I shared statistics as to how employment tribunal claims had increased - a consequence, perhaps, of unfairness. I then considered the direction of legislative travel – what might we expect in terms of legislative changes in this area especially around workplace harassment and family friendly changes and asked whether we could wait for the government to catch up with the demands our people are making of us as employers.

We then moved the discussion on with Barry Stanton, talking about what motivates employees: pay v perks? This involved a lively table discussion around workplace perks and what might be the global Top 10 perks! Barry also discussed the impact that pay and perks could have on fairness and productivity, particularly around pay transparency as well as their impact on the gender pay gap. Barry shared some statistics around this year’s gender pay gap reporting. Barry also asked what perks say about your culture – do they really reflect with the overall message and brand of the organisation? Are pay and perks still a fair, relevant and effective way of increasing productivity? There were some interesting statistics around differences in generational attitudes to perks, with some being dismissed as "gimmicks". The conclusion was, used correctly and perhaps together in the right way, there is a business case for focusing on both.

Gary Impett, Head of Corporate Sales at Vitality Health, shared his organisation’s research – Britain’s Healthiest Workplaces – as part of his focus on the business case for workplace wellbeing. This involved a fascinating discussion around how wellbeing impacts on overall attendance and absence figures as well as workplace productivity. The statistics Gary shared were staggering. It was also interesting to hear how we all think we are healthier than we are, how difficult it is to motivate oneself to be healthier and what steps employers can take to help and encourage wellbeing and the ROI for this. To receive a copy of the Britain’s Healthiest Workplaces white paper and to understand your business’s ROI please go to [email protected] and QUOTE – Boyes2019.

Professor Karina Nielsen from Sheffield University and Chair of the Insights Productivity Group, shared her team’s research around how employers can encourage and support those who have been off sick back into work. The research was around encouraging returnees to thrive at work as well as supporting them through workplace initiatives to encourage them back into being productive members of the workforce. Karina’s research focused on a balanced approach between outside and workplace support/influences to encourage a more successful return to work plan and approach.

Geraldine Joaquim of Mind Your Business, delivered a thoroughly interesting discussion around how we sleep and why we need sleep. The discussion focused on sleep as not just one of the pillars of wellbeing but actually the foundation. We discussed how sleep is often forgotten in workplace wellbeing strategies and how businesses can help and support their people. The stimulus and distractions we have from mobile phones, workplace stresses and modern technology have created a disconnect with our natural relaxation and sleeping rhythms impacting on not just our mental health but also our physical health. A focus for employers there, I think. Geraldine and I will be working on some specific training on this area so do look out for invitations and news.

My thanks to all who attended and presented.

If you would like to listen to our podcast from the day it is available.

To find out more about Boyes Turner HR Solutions, our training, events or HR Conferences then do get in touch.”

To find out more about Boyes Turner HR Solutions or our HR Training Academy please email the team at [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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