How to create workplace culture where people feel trusted and valued with Sir Cary Cooper

by BIM Academy | March 15, 2024 | 4 min read

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“How do you create a culture where people feel valued and feel trusted? It should be something that’s strategic, something that comes from the very top down. It’s more than having an office with free sushi, bean bags and a ping pong table! It’s got to be a strategic issue like you would do any other critical business factor.”

These are the words of Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE when he spoke to Dr Graham Kelly , BIM Academy Managing Director, about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

For Sir Cary, one of the most crucial elements of wellbeing is to listen to your employees by giving them a voice and letting them know their voices will be heard.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper’s own voice is a trusted one in the world of psychology. He is the 50th Anniversary Prof of Organisational Psychology & Health at the Manchester Business School for the University of Manchester. He is a world leading expert on workplace wellbeing, occupational health psychology, women at work and occupational stress, and has authored more than 250 books on the subject.

Sir Cary is also currently Chair of the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work and received his Knighthood in 2014 for his contribution to the social sciences.

For some time, Sir Cary has talked about the “accidental manager”, and Graham wanted to know more about this and how organisations can address and avoid it.  He began with: “The results of a Chartered Management Institute study which found that 80% of managers are accidental managers, that typically get to their positions based on their technical skills. Most of these types of people have little or poor people or communications skills.”

Based on his own experiences and research, Sir Cary applies a 40, 40, 20 philosophy, where approximately 40% of managers in most organisations have good social skills, with another 40% lacking in these skills, but can be trained to have this as part of their own personal development.

“That then means, 20% have zero empathy and are not trainable. Technically, they are very good at what they do, but they should not be in a managerial role.

“Good human resources departments should know where these people are within the business and take action to support their management teams accordingly. This is why it is critical to have an organisational wellbeing strategy. When people are managed well, they work well. When people are managed poorly, they suffer.”

Graham also asked Sir Cary his thoughts on the impact of technology on our mental heath, and how we live in a technological age, where technical innovation is evolving at a rapid pace. Digital tools in the way we design and build have become expected, yet there are fears the technology has advanced faster than the human skillset needed to implement these tools. Graham asked Sir Cary if he would  agree, and is this a factor we need to address in preventing poor mental health and promoting positive wellbeing?

Sir Cary responded: “Are we getting technologically overloaded? Yes! Even taking email into account, email overload can be a cause for enormous stress. There has been a lot of research into the field of technology stress and, of course, sometimes this technology is useful, but it’s got to be done and delivered in a way that is an enabler for better performance and outcomes and not a human replacement process.

“Employees make our businesses. I urge everyone to collect data as much as you can about your workforce. Find out from them what they think about everything, from their managers to their email inboxes. All the issues that that concern them and all the aspects of their work they enjoy. Listening to our teams will take us a long way to tackling mental health and providing a happy healthy workplace.

Listen to the full podcast to hear more about Sir Cary’s research, his recommendations for workplace wellbeing strategies and his work with large construction companies and how they implemented successful wellbeing strategies.

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