Future of Work with Peter Cheese and Sir Cary Cooper

Published: 2 Oct 2019

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Bruce Carnegie-Brown opened the event at Markel, paying tribute to the Dive In festival for its extraordinary impact in bringing together the insurance industry on the subject of Diversity and Inclusion. With Lloyd’s soon to announce the Future of Lloyd’s, its blueprint for the furture of the market, Bruce reminded the audience it has never been more relevant to be having these conversations about the future of the working world.

President of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Peter Cheese, kicked off by painting the bigger picture: a period of huge political change, vast technological change, and rapid growth in globalisation, represents enormous uncertainty for business. This, paired with the lack of trust from young people, who fear their voice won’t be heard in their organisations, presents a risk of destabilising the economy if businesses don’t make themselves more attractive to employees and better catered for the people they serve.

Quoting consultant Peter Drucker, Peter reminded the audience “the best way to predict the future is to help to change it”. He explained that business should be welcoming of the shift in working patterns and look to the younger generation to mentor us. Using the recent example of Thomas Cook’s collapse, Peter Cheese reminded the audience that businesses fail when their model becomes out of date: when they fail to adapt and are not able to see the changing context.

He went on to explain that future proofing your business should involve putting your people strategy right to the heart of your business strategy. “If we want to create an economy that is most productive, we need to change the way we work” he explained. Respecting one another as humans and opening hiring to make sure access is given to everyone will help business to reflect the community it serves. With many of the world’s largest businesses renouncing shareholder priority in favour of valuing ALL stakeholders, we are shown that humanity at work is crucial for the future of productivity.

In the context of the Lloyd’s culture survey revealed at the beginning of the festival, Peter reminded leaders that employees need to have trust in their workplace in order to speak out. A lack of trust is the cause of the growing gap between the ‘establishment’ and the average person, but that gap can be closed by changing culture from the top and acting responsibly.

Peter then moved the conversation to the definition of a ‘good job’, covering not just pay and benefits, but terms of employment, job design and nature of work, social support and coercion, health and wellbeing, work-life balance and how valued the employee voice is. The most fundamental outcomes of the future of the workplace should be wellbeing, he says. “Work should be good for us” he added, “Look after your workers and they will be more productive”.

Professor and physiologist Sir Cary Cooper followed by grounding these assertions in statistics. The UK has the longest working hours, in comparison to its European cousins, yet has the lowest rate productivity, losing 4.5% of its productivity each year due to stress and mental ill health. Looking at the ‘presenteeism’ of the UK’s workforce, Sir Cary revealed that just 35% of our workforce are both healthy and present at work. 13% are healthy but absent- indicating job dissatisfaction, and 23% are present at work despite illness impacting productivity significantly.

Using insight from various studies he had conducted, Sir Cary highlighted the factors that can be the cause of mental ill health: including role ambiguity, role conflict, too little responsibility, lack of managerial support, organisational boundaries, bad relationships with senior leaders or subordinates and difficulties in delegating.

Introducing a wellbeing initiative can have considerable impacts on employee engagement and absenteeism vs presenteeism.  A recent report from CIPD highlighted that of those organisations with a wellbeing initiative recorded a 52% improvement in employee morale and engagement.

Seconding Peter Cheese’s sentiment, Sir Cary reminded the audience in order to build successful and future-proof businesses, senior leaders should be assessed on the parity of their technical skills and management skills to ensure that individuals are valued, and conflict is reduced. He concluded by asserting that a productive society should not be measured by its economic outputs, but by gross national wellbeing- valuing the person over the numbers.

The four speakers made a difficult subject feel relevant and accessible and above all kept the audience more than engaged with great storytelling and good humoured banter while sharing powerful personal stories and examples of practical and professional best practice.