As we enter the new year, many employers are conducting end of year pay reviews for their employees. This year’s pay trends are likely to differ from previous ones due to a variety of factors which may influence how leaders and workers approach their compensation strategy in the coming twelve months. Considering that a recent study by Willis Towers  has revealed that 75% of organizations are struggling to win over new talent, it is critical for companies to actively improve their compensation IQ in order to be a viable talent competitor. 

As there is a clear need for employers to improve their compensation IQ in 2023, consider the following trends that are rising in the compensation space as your organization looks into how best to reward talent.  

  1. Salary Budgets are Rising - A recent report from Salary.com has found that the long-predominant 3% raise has been replaced by a median raise of 4% across all employee categories, breaking the more than 10-year trend of stagnant projected salary increase budgets. A quarter of employers even plan to offer increases between 5-7% this year, marking 2023 as a ‘banner year’ for compensation. It’s good to keep in mind the careful balance organizations will have to strike so as to meet the talent market demands to competitively compensate the workforce in 2023, all while striving for positive financial performance in a difficult economy.  
  1. Data Based Compensation Decisions – Those employers who have limped along without clear salary guidance or practices in past years may find it increasingly difficult to continue down the same path. Now is the time to put in the hard work to build a compensation structure if your organization has been navigating compensation without defined salary ranges. In a data-driven world, employers who leverage competitive salary ranges will find that making data-based compensation decisions for new hire offers, promotions, annual increases and other pay adjustments have an advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent while avoiding other pay-related issues such as salary compression and pay equity issues.  
  1. Pay Transparency – Across the board, pay transparency is becoming a hot topic, and if there was a single reason to establish salary ranges, as mentioned above, pay transparency is it. Employees want to work for organizations who are transparent about pay. With the UK’s launching of a pay transparency pilot program and pay transparency legislation beginning to be enforced in multiple US states, it is looking as if being open and honest about compensation is going to become more than an expectation but rather the norm. Doing the work now to establish transparent pay practices and guidelines will help you to, if not get ahead, at least not fall behind the curve of the burgeoning pay transparency movement. You will also be demonstrating to the talent market that your organization values pay equity and equality.  
  1. Pay Communication – How members of the organization discuss pay can be as important as the pay itself. Communication is everything. Now more than ever, organizations should be devoting time to train leaders about how to have effective compensation discussions. Being able to articulate why someone is receiving an increase and how the amount was determined is something that employees want and deserve to know. This means detailing the rationale behind data-based compensation decisions and knowing the difference themselves between pay adjustments, merit increases, lump sum payments, and so on, and why we allocate one over another depending on the circumstance. Educating your HR team, especially Talent Acquisition, is also critical to ensure the organization is painted favourably with fair offers and a well-articulated total rewards package. To be effective in bringing candidates in the door, recruiters must know how to effectively leverage salary ranges and formulate an offer based on the candidate’s experience and alignment to the open role, as well as understanding the current compensation elements someone may be leaving behind. Investing time in proper training helps to foster trust in new and current employees, and will demonstrate why your organization is an attractive place to work, while reminding those who already work for you why they want to continue doing so.  
  1. Geographic Pay Policies – With the rise of remote and hybrid working arrangements, geographic pay differentials are becoming a more prominent topic of discussion, and a highly complex component of compensation. It can be difficult to determine how to approach compensation for people who are performing the same work from different places or if it makes sense to differentiate compensation between remote and on-site workers in areas with different costs of living. Borderwork’s Geographic Pay Policies study found that of the 62% of organizations with existing geo-pay policies, 44% of them are considering modifying or have modified their policies due to the increase in full-time remote work. There is a growing need to develop strategies to navigate this in the coming year as inflation continues to impact the cost of living and the concept of how we work continues to evolve. 
  1. Getting Creative - Compensation is both a science and an art. Creative solutions to compensating the workforce are always worth exploring. Effective compensation programs require that you compensate the right people, at the right time, at the right level, in the right way. Creative solutions will be circumstantial but could include some of the following to effectively attract or retain the right talent: establishing new and innovative incentive programs, re-thinking employee recognition, improving leverage of sign-on and retention bonuses, offering sabbaticals, 4-day workweeks or instituting programs to emphasize your company’s commitment to making a positive social and/or environmental impact, just to name a few. 

Making the effort to invest in improving your compensation IQ as an employer can be the differentiating factors when it comes to your talent strategy in 2023. Amongst the rising inflation rates, the cost-of-living crisis and changing attitudes towards work, understanding how to leverage compensation as a way of making you stand out will help ensure you are bringing in the right people. To discuss growing your compensation IQ or reviewing your compensation strategy in more detail, get in touch with me at alisa.cardenas@orgshakers.com  

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

As we venture into this new year, none of us can be sure what the future holds. However, with ‘unprecedented’ events becoming commonplace this decade, there are sure to be more than a few surprises in store for employers over the next 12-months.

But the truth about ‘surprises’ is that very often we will have had an idea they were coming our way. So, whether it’s based on the extrapolation of an established trend or simply ‘gut instinct’ based on years’ of experience, we asked the OrgShakers to predict what will be surprising us in 2023.

  • Stephanie Rodriguez believes that many organizations will be wrong-footed by the increase in employees putting boundaries around their working hours. A significant proportion of business leaders and front-line managers still cling to the belief that staff ‘prove’ themselves by how long they work and their ability to always be available. With the rising popularity of remote working, it has become even more difficult to adhere to normal working hours due to the ability to work whenever from wherever. And so 2023 is going to see the misnomer that is ‘quiet quitting’ actually becoming a necessary step for the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Learning to navigate this new attitude towards work is going to be a new challenge in the coming twelve months.
  • Therese Procter believes that businesses may falter due to organizational paralysis. Quite simply, the past 2-3 years have been so overwhelming that many leaders are struggling to identify a way forward. Therefore, she believes that we are going to see many more organizations reaching out to consultancies about people trends and how to navigate through difficult times. In addition, 2023 is the year of power skills for those in charge – she believes there is going to be a surge of leaders developing their emotional intelligence and empathetic skills, as this will help them to really understand the evolving needs of their team.
  • Amanda Holland believes that leaders may be surprised by the increasing importance their employees place on ‘making a difference’. The social agenda has been brought to the forefront in 2022, and now many people want to work somewhere that they believe reflects their values. Allowing employees to play their part in driving the social impact of the organization could enhance recruitment and retention result and accelerate collaboration and innovation in the workplace. She also believes there is going to be a rise in demand for remote work in the metaverse, as people seek a more realistic human connection in a virtual space.
  • Sayid Hussein agrees that there is a greater focus on the digital employee experience, adding that this may also accelerate the adoption of the four-day working week. 100 UK companies have already signed up for a permanent four-day week which he believes will act as a catalyst to propel this idea forward. Firms will, however, need guidance in navigating this new way of work.
  • Pamela Kingsland predicts that a surprise employers may encounter in the coming year is the rise of individualisation in corporate culture. The demand for flexible work schedules, tailored rewards and benefits, and personal development plans will continue to rise, as well as the emerging concept of individualised wellness. This would be data driven, and focus on people having customized gut biome treatments, individualised vitamins, and tailored exercises to a person’s specific metabolism, as well as neurological fingerprinting. Bodily health and brain health will play a big part in optimizing people to their full potential, not just as workers but as human beings.
  • And finally, one of the biggest surprises that Alisa Cardenas believes employers may see is the establishment of white-collar trade unions. There has been a significant rise in employee consciousness as we have emerged from lockdown. People have become more inclined to question the five-day, nine-to-five structure. Remote and hybrid work has introduced a new type of flexibility and being faced with a pandemic has caused a mass recalibration of what people value. We may see this begin to emerge through new unions being established in the corporate sectors.

What we do know for certain is that 2022 brought with it many unexpected surprises that had a great effect on the working world, and so as we venture into 2023, OrgShakers are ready to help employers optimize every opportunity that comes their way. To get in touch with us about your people strategy or organization dynamics, head over here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Today is the Winter Solstice – the longest day and the official start of the coldest season of the year.

So, would it surprise you to know that in a couple of weeks’ time the Earth will be at the CLOSEST point in its orbit to the Sun? In other words, that we’re nearer to our fiery star in the chill of Winter and farthest away in the heat of Summer.

If it does you may, like me, be falling into the trap of so-called Northern Hemisphere Chauvinism, the same bias that assumes that North is ‘up’, and that Australia is ‘down under’ (where it is now, of course, summertime).

But this got me thinking – maybe we all need to turn things upside-down from time to time to understand them better.

This idea is particularly applicable to change management strategies. According to research by McKinsey, 70% of all change initiatives fail – and this is largely due to employee resistance (active or passive). So, maybe, the key to ensuring they succeed is by changing the way organizations are looking at change.

Imagine a change process as being like an iceberg. The new stuff – the end goal of the change – stands gleaming above the surface. Meanwhile, down below, are the existing processes and the people that implement them. And herein lies the problem – these things are below the surface, and all too often that is where they remain.

So, organizations need to flip the iceberg. To bring to the surface what lies beneath and focus on the employees that will be impacted by the changes.

But now ask yourself this: how many of the change initiatives within your organization have an HR presence on the project leadership team? My guess is that it won’t be many.

For me the case for challenging the way we approach change implementation is clear. And to make this happen we need to turn accepted thinking on its head. To put people ahead of processes and technology.

Now that may not be such a radical idea for the HR profession, but for many others it will be as counterintuitive as suggesting a world where the South Pole is at the top and sundials run anti-clockwise.

If you want to discuss the different approaches to managing change initiatives in your company, get in touch with me at andy@orgshakers.com or head over to our contact page.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

For many around the world the festive season is upon us once again – a time of celebration, family gatherings and neighbourly sharing. These days, it is also underpinned by a flurry of purchases to achieve the idyllic picture of copious presents sitting under the Christmas tree. And as our TVs and social media feeds fill up with retail adverts encouraging us to part with our hard-earned cash, it will be no surprise to hear that online sales have increased by almost a trillion dollars worldwide between 2020 and 2021.

Whilst the COVID pandemic accelerated this trend, using the internet to buy goods has already become second nature to many of us. The rise of the online marketplace is something that employers are keenly involved in, and make most of their goods and services accessible from in order to apply to the largest group of consumers.

And yet, if companies were to take a step back, they would see that there are 10 million people lacking basic digital skills in the UK alone. This is a vast pool of potential clients who are unable to access those online services and interact with the world of e-commerce, which is a large potential profit being lost, especially during the holidays when commercialism is booming.

Signposting and providing alternative options and channels for customers to communicate with your organization will help to open your virtual business doors to those who were previously being excluded as they didn’t know how, do not have, or cannot use the digital technology of today. Upskilling those staff who are customer-facing will also help widen communication abilities – but this brings into question the digital competency of your staff, too.

If we look more closely, there is a large potential pool of talent that is being iced out due to a lack of digital proficiency. The recent FutureDotNow report, which examined how many people could complete Lloyds’ Essential Digital Skills for Work tasks, found that only 32% of the UK workforce were able to complete all 17. And yet, a report published by Oxford Economics has discovered that by 2030, 75% of jobs will require advanced digital skills.

What we are seeing is that workers and consumers alike are yet to fully develop their digital abilities, and so if a company is not finding alternative ways to access these groups of people, then they are at risk of missing out on a large opportunity to increase their market scope as well as their hiring potential.

Employers should also consider offering training to new staff in their digital comprehension, as this will ensure that everyone has the desired skills they need to be able to successfully achieve at their place of employment. This also means that all the experience that has been gained from those older workers who are less tech-savvy will not go to waste, helping to further enrich and diversify your talent.

To discuss any of these topics further, or for guidance on how to create an accessible business model, get in touch with me at gavin.jones@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The holiday bonus is carrying a lot more weight this year. With financial concerns at an all-time high, many employees may find themselves eager to receive an additional monetary gift more than ever this holiday season. And while WorkNest found that nearly a third (30%) of employers are planning on giving staff one-off bonuses, this still leaves a majority of companies who either do not have the means to offer one or have not considered it.

However, an end of year bonus doesn’t necessarily have to be money. Whether you are a small organization who cannot afford to offer gifts, or you would like to give something a little different this year, here are some fun and cost-friendly alternatives to show employees gratitude this time of year:

  1. Gift card and handwritten note – it does not have to be a high dollar value, but it will still help leaders convey appreciation for their teams. A small Starbucks gift card and an accompanying, individualized note can easily put a smile on someone’s face, especially when they treat themselves to a holiday beverage.
  2. Or even just a card – if the budget is very tight, even a heart-felt card to each member of staff helps to show the appreciation being held for them. Taking the time to write each one and add in a unique detail will demonstrate how well a manager knows their employees and will make them feel seen and valued.
  3. Get creative – Leverage your creativity and gift something handmade to your employees this holiday season. If you are a business that operates remotely, use your design skills by putting together fun, personalized backgrounds for each team member. Use the background to showcase positive feedback or accomplishments highlighting employees’ most impactful achievements throughout the year. Handmade gifts are one of the best ways to show gratitude for your team. The time dedicated to each individual’s gift speaks volumes about your commitment and appreciation.
  4. Virtual holiday party – if the budget for an end of year staff party is tight, then why not consider hosting it online? Encourage those that wish to attend to slip on a quirky jumper or ugly sweater, change their Zoom or Teams background to something from their festive beliefs and host a virtual game of Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to get everyone involved. Check out our tips and tricks for hosting a fun and appropriate holiday staff party here!
  5. Host an awards ceremony – Take a new twist on things. A team awards ceremony is a great activity that can be done in person or online. To coincide with awards season, why not set up your own mock red carpet? Whether you deck out with a buffet and drinks or just keep it simple, this is an innovative way of showing gratitude to your team and gives you the opportunity to have a good laugh as a team with fun awards!
  6. Or, if you do have more of a budget…there are a variety of things that can be offered in exchange of a monetary bonus that can prove to be more thoughtful and sincere, while still being relatively budget friendly. For example, planning an activity to do together, such as a curated beer/wine tasting (in person or virtual!) or something more physical (bowling, escape room). And, if you are a remote company, there are plenty of virtual experiences that everyone can take part in – this could be anything from a virtual cooking class to an interactive online murder mystery party.
  7. Make it meaningful – Those looking to give back to the community whilst providing a cheery team building experience this season should consider stepping away from the office and volunteering together. Employees can appreciate the time away knowing it’s for a meaningful cause. Another idea is using a service like Packed with Purpose, which allows employees to curate their own gift box full of a variety of goodies while supporting a variety of social and environmental causes. So, while the gift is thoughtful and individual, it is also having a positive social impact. Demonstrating the company’s alignment with personal values is becoming more attractive to talent, especially across the younger generations in the workforce. Something as simple as making a donation to a charitable organization of an employee’s choosing can go a long way, as it shows how important their social values are to you as an employer. Opting for these more meaningful gifts that give back is an excellent way for companies to demonstrate the investment that they have in their employee’s social values.

Whichever way an organization chooses to show their appreciation for their employees this holiday season, there is one key piece of advice that leaders need to remember:

It’s all about the messaging. As with any reward or recognition, the communication which accompanies the gift is very important. Ensure that any gift, activity or experience substituted for a monetary reward clearly expresses gratitude and shows how you have your employees’ interests front of mind when choosing them. Happy employees will lead to healthy business – and this is the ultimate goal.

If you would like to get in touch or need further guidance on how to approach an end of year bonus, you can contact me at alisa.cardenas@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Recently, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner for Inclusion & Diversity Consulting at Odgers Berndston, and OrgShakers’ Partner Therese Procter met to discuss the vital role diversity and inclusion (D&I) plays in helping UK workers navigate through challenging times.

I think there’s a growing unrest at work that’s just bubbling under the surface,” Therese began, going on to highlight how workers are facing both a cost-of-living crisis and the need to adapt to changing ways of working after the pandemic. And while this has brought financial and mental wellness to the top of the overall leadership agenda, responsibility for addressing these complex needs is typically falling to the individual in an organisation that leads D&I strategies.

This continues a longstanding trend in D&I – scope creep – with a growing number of People issues being added to the discipline’s remit in many organisations, including workplace culture, human rights, supply chain governance, and community engagement.

On the one hand this is a positive development, as organisations become increasingly responsive to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. The challenge, however, is that the growing demands on D&I specialists are not being matched with the required resources.

What you’re seeing is the job being expanded…the agenda is getting broader and broader,” Sue points out. However, the person who is responsible for responding to these D&I issues “are mostly reporting at a lower level… and to really make a change you have got to be able to have a seat at the executive table”.

Also critical is that today’s D&I specialists have the right blend of D&I expertise and wider organisational experience i.e.: they understand how the business ‘ticks’. Sue reflected that all too often in the past the people appointed to D&I roles had either “limited subject matter expertise but huge business experience … or came from HR with the subject matter expertise but lacked the wider business expertise required”.

Therese added that this is why “we are at a point in time where businesses need to reflect on current issues – and reset”. A D&I ‘reset’ that requires the appointment of individuals who, as well as having subject matter expertise and organisational know how, can also make things happen at pace and scale.

You have to have such high emotional intelligence,” Sue agreed. “You need to be a good influencer, you need to be able to write strategy, and you need to be skilled in change management.

And the insights, the awareness, the training, the support, the helplines – the whole infrastructure has to be taken seriously,” Therese added. “That starts with the Board. If it’s not taken seriously and led from the top – and by the top – it will never get traction in the organisation.

If the scope of the job is broadening, Sue and Therese concluded, then its importance increases by tenfold. And this means having an in-depth and contemporary understanding of all the corners of D&I, knowing how to respond and support employees accordingly – and then being able to win the support of senior leaders and stakeholders.

And aside from an employer’s moral obligation, there is clear financial gain from appointing a D&I specialist with this rare blend of skills. A workplace that is diverse and inclusive garners a higher revenue growth, has a greater readiness to innovate, and gains access to a wider talent pool. Research conducted by Great Place to Work also found that those who believed they would be treated fairly and included were 5.4 times more likely to want to remain at their company.

Adapting to this new normal when it comes to post-pandemic work has seen many new opportunities and challenges emerge in the working world, which is why it is more important than ever to be applying a central focus to your approach to D&I.

To discuss the ways in which the expanding D&I landscape is impacting your organisation, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Remote work seems to be here to stay. And if that is the case, then so are the burgeoning social challenges that accompany it.

As it stands, around 14% of UK workers are exclusively remote, with nearly double that proportion in the US at 26%. And what seems to be emerging is a growing sense of loneliness and isolation amongst these workers, as well as a significant lack of social interaction.

A survey by Statista found that after at-home distractions, a lack of social interaction with colleagues and feeling isolated/lonely were tied as the second highest challenge of remote work, with 35% of respondents citing either as their main struggle.

If you delve deeper, it also becomes apparent that these issues are affecting younger workers more severely. Chargifi did a study across the UK and the US and found that 81% of those aged under 35 would feel more isolated without time in the office, and 70% of them fear missing out on opportunities to socialise if remote work becomes the permanent norm.

If the new normal is remote work, then this requires organizations to push the boundaries of what that really means and help employees find innovative ways to solve these feelings of isolation.

Here are some creative ways employers can encourage their remote workers to get the social interaction they need:

  • Public Outdoor Spaces

This is a weather-dependant option, but it is well known that getting some fresh air has many physical and mental health benefits, including giving your brain more energy and making your thinking sharper. Public parks, gardens and beaches are all lovely days out, but there’s no reason why someone can’t set up their laptop and work surrounded by like-minded nature lovers and the sound soothing waves and beautiful blooms.

  • Pubs/Bars/Cafes  

This is one of the most popular options. There is always a lively ambience in a pub or café, and many people find working in these environments much more mentally stimulating. This is largely due to the psychological effect known as social facilitation, in which a person’s performance will improve due to being in the presence of other people. For UK employers, encouraging your remote workers to set up shop in a Wetherspoons could benefit them financially, as the chain offers free refills on tea and coffee all day, and will help ease the effects of cost of living by saving on electricity usage.

  • Airports/Train Stations

A slightly unconventional place, but perfect when looking at the social facilitation effect mentioned above. The hustling and bustling of people can actually help, with ‘background noise’ known to improve cognitive function and focus. And the constant sea of new faces can reduce an individual’s feelings of isolation.

  • Fast Food Restaurants

Across both the UK and the US, the beauty of fast-food restaurants during typical working hours are that they tend not to be too loud, they offer free WiFi, and have affordable lunch options. Whether it is burgers, tacos, or fried chicken, being in an environment with other people can make someone feel less alone.

  • Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are becoming an increasingly popular option for companies that are fully remote. These comprise of office spaces that can be rented, where your staff will work alongside remote workers from other organizations and have the opportunity to interact and build relationships. It allows for the ‘office feel’ without having to actually rent an entire office block, so it is cost effective and will likely increase the wellbeing of your workers. Alternatively, encouraging employees to set up remote working hubs with friends who also work remotely allows for them to create small, sub-cultures at work where they are surrounded by friendly faces and can stimulate their socialising needs.

Remote work can very easily become lonely, and if employers are adept in responding to this then they can continue to reap the financial and wellness benefits it has to offer. As a company that operates fully remotely, we are experts in offering in-depth guidance on how to mitigate the challenges that remote work can bring, so for strategic guidance on this topic, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

HR teams can find themselves in a crossfire between employer and employee. At first blush, the HR department recruits, enables, and fosters employee growth, and so would appear as a service for the people. And yet, contrary to this, it is those in the higher leadership ranks who regularly seek HR counsel and guidance and ultimately hire and pay these HR professionals.

How does HR effectively balance the services it offers to the employer and the employees?

Balance can be difficult to determine and perceived differently in varying contexts. For example, in a business where there is a strong union environment, would it make sense for HR to provide additional support to managers and leadership in order to level the playing field, so to speak? If so, would employees feel limited or disinclined to express issues they have to HR?

A workforce perception that HR teams are only there to help “higher up” already exists, with one study finding that 70% of employees do not trust their personnel department. If we look at it from this perspective, HR teams need to seek ways they can recalibrate the balance so employees trust in HR’s neutrality and feel comfortable communicating their issues. A fundamental aspect of Human Resources is to be a connection between management and staff, and if they are being iced out by employees – who make up the majority of any company – then they will not be able to effectively enhance the workforce experience or workplace culture. Conversely, managers and leadership must also be able to trust HR’s neutrality and advice, viewing them as a strategic partner in meeting company goals and objectives.

Is there a ‘default’ view HR professionals can take when caught in the middle?

Simply put, their job is to help guide leaders on how they can optimize their company through their staff while also supporting workforce health, growth, and development. In this sense, HR teams are always advocating for the people, because those same people make up the foundation that buttresses managers, leadership, and business outcomes.  

With the contemporary workforce undergoing a great rebirth of their outlook on work and what they seek to gain from it, more people want to work in a person-centric environment. A 2022 report by Gallup found 61% of respondents said greater work-life balance and better personal wellbeing was a very important consideration when looking for a new job. Both attributes are key HR services, and it could be argued the true balance HR should seek leans more in favor of employees. By being consciously people-centric, this could ultimately benefit the employer through an engaged, energized, and dedicated workforce.

The reality is, there can be no one set approach. Companies vary in their needs and organizational dynamics, and so HR must seek to calibrate the unique balance for each company, department, division, team, or individual with whom they work.

If you need help navigating that journey, OrgShakers has a breadth of experience across all different types of organizations – whether that be public, private, global, unionized, or non-unionized. Head over to our contact page to get in touch, or you can email me directly at amanda@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

5. Reduce anxiety

Anxiety is known to be harmful to the brain, but how? Some anxiety is normal in us all, but evidence exists that individuals who experience long term and sustained anxiety are 48% more likely to develop cognitive decline. This is due to cortisol, the stress hormone, which if present over the long-term damages parts of the brain involved in memory and complex thinking.

In 2020/21, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health, so focusing on reducing anxiety in the workplace will have huge beneficial effects for  employees, the organisation and society. Educating staff around techniques to minimize stress or to ‘reframe’ their perception of stress and make it positive are great ways of helping to reduce angst, as well as offering subscriptions to mental wellness apps such as Calm or great online platforms such as LibratumLife.

However, it is not all up to the employee. Additionally, organisations can help reduce anxiety in their employees by creating a culture of Psychological Safety where people can speak openly; by training and developing Leaders in Emotional Intelligence and encouraging supportive conversations; and by sponsoring employees to become Mental Health First Aiders.

Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, and so now more than ever helping manage anxiety should be a prime focus for employers who want to keep their workforce healthy and reduce burn-out and sickness absence.

6. Keep on Learning

The concept of lifelong learning is one that you may be familiar with. Developing new skills, learning new information and remaining curious can all help towards reducing cognitive decline. Remaining alert and interested in the world around you is one excellent way to keep the neurons in your brain firing and active.

Offering learning and development opportunities in the workplace is a great investment in your people and your business. Whilst it may be tempting to turn off the development tap at times of financial difficulty, it can be a false economy in the longer term.

There have also been many discussions about the efficacy of ‘brain training’. To date, there are many apps and other products which claim to help stave off cognitive decline. The jury is still out with most of these. MyCognition is worth a look as it has been developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and with support from the NHS. The best results for any brain training interventions seem to be achieved with regular usage over longer term rather than as a quick fix.

7. Ensure regular mental stimulation

Many researchers believe the key to maintaining a healthy brain is the habit of staying mentally active. This idea of more mental stimulation may seem counter-intuitive to many people already feeling mentally submerged by their current workload. However, the brain responds best to having a variety of different stimuli not just sitting on Virtual meetings or in front of a PC all day.

When thinking about mental stimulation, it can help to think of your brain as a muscle. The more you are exercising it the stronger it gets, but you need to exercise your brain as you would your body, with variety and care.

The efficacy of mental activity is improved by having a variety of different ways to stretch our brain. Making time away from work to listen to music, walk in nature, paint, play chess, or just do a crossword puzzle all stimulates our brains in different ways. Our brains need this variety to feel refreshed.

As employers, we need to be cognisant of this need for stimulation when we plan the activities of our employees. The key is giving a variety of work, giving time for rest, having adequate time to think and plan – these are great ways to ensure optimum brain health, better quality thinking and higher quality output.

Neuroscientists will tell you that the ability to multi-task is a myth as the brain uses a great deal of energy through activity switching, and that focusing on one key activity at a time is the key to quality thinking. Encouraging this kind of focused working, interspersed with rest breaks and time to let your mind wander, creates the optimum conditions for your brain to function.

As an employer, offering access to a variety of stimulating work and work which uses different ways of thinking can be really helpful. Encouraging people to take a real break and think about something else is also vital as this helps improve their brain health and can lead to them returning to their previous work task with a fresher headspace.

8. Actively seek out social contact

Social interaction can have profound effects on your health and longevity. In fact, there is evidence that strong social connections may be just as important as physical activity and a healthy diet. Strong social interactions can help protect your memory and cognitive function in several ways as you age. Research shows that people with strong social ties are less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who are alone. By contrast, depression, which often goes hand in hand with loneliness, correlates to faster cognitive decline.

Whether you class yourself as an extrovert or an introvert, having a network of people who support and care for you can help lower your stress levels. Additionally, social activities require you to engage several important mental processes, including attention and memory, which can bolster cognition.

Many people find this social contact in their community, their family and friends. But we also spend a great deal of our time working.

We are social animals for whom frequent engagement with others helps strengthen and develop our brain’s neural networks, and this emphasises the importance of promoting a sociable culture in the workplace. For those working in hybrid and remote settings, ensuring that there is time for consistent informal, as well as formal, catch-ups is a way of reducing the feeling of isolation at work.

Final thoughts…

In summary, the brain is an important organ and needs our support!

How we are working today is often unhealthy for our bodies and our minds and not in keeping with how our brains are designed to run best. We are not super computers and respond badly to being ‘switched on’ for long periods of time and to constant repetitive work which does not offer us a variety of mental stimulation.

But treated right, our brains are far superior to computers in terms of creativity, in imagining that which has not been done yet and in problem solving in the most lateral of ways.  

There are many things that employers can do to help their employees maintain healthy brains – and a great place to start is to lead by example. Cognitive decline is not inevitable and making some changes to old habits, as well as incorporating new ones, can pay great dividends in terms of productivity and quality of output at work in the longer term. To discuss how you can begin to incorporate brain health into your organization, or to learn more about Emotional Intelligence Training, Psychological Safety or any of the interventions mentioned in our two part article, please do get in touch with me at pamela@orgshakers.com

Whilst we may focus on maintaining the health of our bodies, we tend to pay less attention (if any) to the health of our brains. Maybe it’s because we cannot actually see how healthy or not our brains are; but helping maintain brain health should be one of the top priorities for employers in order to ensure they have a healthy, high-performing workforce.

Mental health is quite rightly a priority for many employers. That said, many strategies are aimed at fixing issues rather than trying to prevent them in the first place. Brain health is focused on supporting the continued wellness of the brain structure itself – the ‘hardware’. In turn, taking care of the health of our brain ensures great foundations for good mental health by preventing or reducing cognitive decline.

Interestingly, there is still very little known about the brain. We have some idea of how it functions and some ideas about what it needs for optimum health but there is still so much to learn. I describe the mind as the ‘undiscovered country’ – much like the deepest oceans and the furthest reaches of our galaxies.

The fascinating thing about the brain is that we now know that it is not fixed, it is capable of growing new cells (a process called neurogenesis), and so it can consistently benefit from daily stimulation throughout our lives.

We also know that the brain is capable of changing its activities in response to stimuli and that we are capable of learning new things throughout our lives, as well as adapting and changing our thinking to a much greater degree than previously thought. So you can teach an old dog new tricks! The brain’s ability to change its neural networks, to flex and adapt how it operates despite aging, is known as neuroplasticity. Employees in their mid-life are just as valuable and capable as their younger counterparts, so long as they are working in an environment of stimulation and so long as they undertake activities and practices that nourish their brain.

So, on the topic of brain health and nourishment, let me share with you some different ways that you can encourage and support your staff, as well as undertake for yourself, to maintain optimum brain health:

1. Get sufficient sleep

Getting consistent, good-quality sleep is known to improve overall health and prevent cognitive decline. Our bodies rely on a certain amount of regular sleep for a variety of essential functions, many of them in the brain. A study on the relationship between sleep deprivation and cognitive decline found that people who sleep less or more than the recommended seven to eight hours a night exhibited a more noticeable decline than those sleeping 7 hours per night.

As simple as it sounds, employers need to make sure staff are properly rested. Sleep is fundamental for the brain to function properly and will help to massively reduce the risk of burnout. A well-rested employee is 30% more productive and 40% more creative, which means that your overall output will be stronger if your staff are sleeping better.

2. Exercise

There are many neurological benefits that come from physical activity, and these include decreased stress levels, increased focus, improved memory and better blood circulation. While people will exercise for a variety of reasons, few people do it with the intent to improve their brain functioning.

Exercise can help ward off cognitive decline, and some studies have shown that engaging in a program of regular exercise improved cognitive function in people who already had memory problems. Exercise may be particularly advantageous for people who carry the APOE4 gene variant, which makes people more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

While exercising, oxygen saturation occurs in areas of the brain associated with rational thinking as well as social, physical, and intellectual performance. Additionally, exercise reduces stress hormones and increases the number of neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine, which are known to accelerate information processing.

What is incredible is that you are able to target and enhance a specific element of brain health through exercise:

  • For concentration: yoga, tai chi, aerobic classes;
  • For memory: aerobics, walking, and cycling;
  • To improve blood circulation: cardio activities (walking, riding a bicycle, running, swimming);
  • For stress and anxiety: yoga;
  • For depression: aerobic and resistance training.

Even people who engage in smaller forms of exercise, like gardening, are less likely to suffer from age-related neurological conditions. If intense exercise is not for you, gentle exercise can bring your brain a breath of oxygen-rich air. Much of the scientific community agrees that walking is one of the best and most accessible forms of physical activity, and gentle on the joints. It is therefore worth considering offering physical health memberships for employees, as keeping staff physically and mentally fit with increase their productivity.

3. Limit your consumption of Alcohol

Balance and moderation are key here. There is some evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. One study found that people over the age of 65 who drank up to one alcoholic beverage a day had about half the risk of cognitive decline as non-drinkers over a period of five to seven years.

We do know that a heavy consumption of alcohol can have damaging effects on the body and brain. When a person drinks to excess the liver cannot filter alcohol quickly enough and this can lead to long-lasting effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain, destroying brain cells and shrinking brain tissue.

The precise effect on the brain depends on the individual’s overall health, how much they drink and how well their liver functions. So, whilst the jury is still out on any benefits from light drinking, heavy drinking has definitely been proven to be damaging to the brain.

4. Manage your diet

Although there remains ambiguity around micro-dosing with alcohol, we do know that what you choose to eat can have a great effect on the health of your brain. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, and includes moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy products, while limiting red meat. This eating pattern has long been recognized as promoting better cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of certain cancers, and there is evidence to suggest that it can also contribute to protecting against cognitive decline.

Recent extensive studies have shown that consumption of oily fish is particularly associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil certainly play important roles in brain function and development. We also need to ensure that we are getting sufficient vitamins B6, B12, and Vitamin E in our diets.

And considering that the brain is circa 60% water, there is also a strong case for keeping ourselves hydrated. If water levels are too low, our brains cannot function effectively and must work harder than normal to complete everyday tasks. Dehydration can lead to confusion, drowsiness and memory loss so staying hydrated is vital. Research has shown that as little as 1% dehydration can negatively affect your mood.

To incorporate these findings into the workplace, it is good to offer balanced, healthy food when at work, as well as having multiple water coolers or means to remain hydrated. Having a vending machine that is filled with healthy snacks as opposed to fatty, sugary foods is a great little change that can be made to help promote healthy snacking.

Tomorrow, we will be posting the second part to this article, which outlines a further four things you can be doing to maintain your brain health.

In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch with me, you can email me at pamela@orgshakers.com

As they seek to broaden and mature their position on the diversity and inclusion agenda, most organizations agree that enhancing their accessibility is important. However, what many have not yet realised is the sheer scale of the opportunities that exists by proactively addressing this issue.

The UK government has recently produced an updated House of Commons research briefing on disability which highlights a 4% increase in those legally defined as disabled (now 22% of the population) with numbers having risen over the last decade from 12.7 million people to over 14.6 million. 

Similarly in the US, the Centre for Disease Control’s Disability and Health Data System has found that approximately 1 in 4 US citizens have accessibility needs, which equates to 61 million individuals.

These are big numbers, and organizations need to adopt an accessibility mindset if they are going to effectively engage with these potential customers and employees.  

From a customer perspective, a report from Click-Away Pound shows the commercial incentive for making the online shopping experience as accessible as possible. Their research found that almost 70% of individuals with access needs will ‘click away’ from an inaccessible site which, in the UK alone, equates to £17.1 billion in lost annual sales.

When it comes to hiring new employees, organizations will typically look at a candidate’s digital competency. Indeed, more than 82% of mid-level job advertisements demand that applicants have a proficiency in using digital tools. This, however, risks individuals with online accessibility issues being overlooked, despite being able to bring other valuable experience and skills to the table. A company that is flexible in its approaches to these needs will find that they gain access to a much larger pool of talent – as well as diverse mindsets that can help further develop a workplace’s culture.  And this does not account for the third of all potential job candidates who said they would not consider working for an organization where there was a lack of diversity amongst its staff.  

How to Improve your Accessibility 

The first step towards improving your organization’s accessibility is to start by understanding how it impacts your business. Every organization is as individual as the people who work within it and the customers that it serves – and this is where we can help. 

Step by step we can help assess where your organization is on its accessibility journey and then work with you to develop and shape your organizations capabilities to form a more inclusive business model. Get in touch with me at gavin.jones@orgshakers.com, or head over to our contact page

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The ability to be adaptable is becoming gold amongst leaders in the contemporary corporate world. A post-pandemic perspective has seen working life in a continuous state of flux, and if leaders want to stay on top of these shifting conditions, then they need to consider adopting a new, flexible management style.

One struggle that leaders may come across is the generational differences they face with their staff. Most people in leadership positions tend to be in their midlife, with statista finding that the average age of CEOs and CFOs in America was 54.1 and 48.9. Now, with Gen Z filtering into the workforce, along with them comes a new set of values that will likely differ to those in leadership positions. The recent ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon is a prime example of this.

In order to overcome these potential barriers, leaders should start practicing a more adaptable approach to how they manage their people. This will allow them to create a common language to communicate with their younger staff so that they can respond to the needs of these employees more effectively and optimize their talent.

The Centre for Creative Leadership outlines three components of flexibility that leaders should incorporate to help them seize every opportunity:

  1. Cognitive Flexibility

This is about using different thinking methods to be able to approach each problem from the best angle. Embedding these varying strategies and frameworks into their planning and decision-making will allow them to recognise when a change is needed. Leaders who are flexible and open with the way they think will be able to recognize new trends in the workplace and respond to them promptly.

  • Emotional Flexibility

Leaders who are empathetic towards periods of transition will be the most prepared to guide their staff through change, as well as manage their own potential feelings of angst and resistance. In this sense, those that are willing to show their own vulnerabilities can make their staff more willing to express theirs, and this leads to an open and honest culture in the workplace which allows for proper support through a transitional period.

  • Dispositional Flexibility

This concerns finding an equilibrium between being blindly positive and pessimistic. These leaders take on an optimistic perspective that is grounded in realism, and can acknowledge when a situation is bad but look ahead to how to make it better for the future. These leaders have a mindset which allows them to view change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Leaders who are using all three of these components will be able to interact with change as and when it comes. And with a workforce who have emerged from lockdown with new perspectives on what it means to work , as well as an entirely new hybrid working model, learning to respond to change swiftly and effectively will allow leaders to excel, while also propelling their people and their company forwards.

To discuss these flexible leadership strategies further, you can contact me at stephanie.rodriguez@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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