Soft Skills Matter Most

“Social interpersonal skills key. Having socially skilled line managers is key.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE made an inspiring appeal for organizations to take more care of their employees’ wellbeing work in an entertaining and insightful opening address at this year’s CIPD Conference in Manchester on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015.  The talk was entitled ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing at Work. Bridging the Productivity Gap’. As the titles before, and letters after, his name suggest Cary L Cooper has had a distinguished career.  Professor Cooper has written or edited 120 book on organizational and industrial psychology, stress in the workplace and women in employment. Additionally, he has penned more than 400 articles for academic journals.  Furthermore, Professor Cooper, who is now the 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health in the University of Manchester’s Business School, is the Founding Editor of two academic journals; The Journal of Organizational Behaviour and The International Journal of Management Reviews.

Professor Cooper is the President of both RELATE and the Institute of Welfare. He has advised the World Health Organisation and the ILO.  Most pertinently, considering the subject matter he wrote a report entitled ‘Stress Prevention in the Workplace’ for the EU’s European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. In short, he has done more during his career than most of us ever will. And, he seems like a thoroughly approachable person, too.

Headline health statistics ‘A Critical Business Issue’
“Mental health costs the UK £70bn per year, equivalent to 4.5% GDP.” (Source: OECD).
“Mental ill-health costs each employer £1,035 per employee, per year.” (Source: Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health).
“Only 2 in 5 employees working at peak performance” (Source: BUPA).

The Californian explained how coming to work when we are ill does not add value.  Presenteeism is not necessarily a good thing. He explained how those in precarious employment were more likely to come into work when they were unwell because they feared the consequences if they did not.

Professor Cooper told us how in the UK one in four of us will suffer from a mental health condition at some point during our lives; a statistic that is broadly the same around the world – in both developed and developing parts of the planet.  He fervently expressed his belief in the danger of working too many hours, a practice which is all too common in the UK and US. “If you consistently work long hours you will get ill. We work the longest hours in the EU, the second longest in the developed world behind the US.”  Towards the end of his engaging address he lamented how in the UK: “we work astronomical hours; it really is penal.”

According to Professor Cooper 25% of people in the UK do not take all of their holidays.  He cited the example of one of his PHD students who is investigating presenteeism in a North West police force.  His student has found that some officers use part of their leave to do work they are unable to complete during their normal working hours!

He reminded his audience of the need when managing to: “praise and reward not find fault.  It’s about having fun.” Amen to that.

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