The third annual Workforce Management Day in London took place at the Barbican Centre in the heart of the city on Thursday, May 9th with delegates from across the UK and Europe treated to unique insight, inspiration, and thought-provoking ideas from a stellar line up of speakers.
The event, which is the biggest of its kind in Europe, saw experts from the workforce management industry and keynote speakers including happiness and change coach Samantha Clark, former MP Nick de Bois, and the Rt Hon Lord Mark Price (former managing director of Waitrose and deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership) provide an audience of close to 300 people with an afternoon of learning around how to retain, engage, optimise, and attract a quality workforce.
With the focus firmly on ‘happy workforce = happy business’ alongside fresh thinking, innovative approaches, and ways business can grow, thrive and succeed despite tough economic conditions - there was a wealth of information throughout the day.
(Video of the event filling up at the Barbican, London.)
Here are our top highlights and learnings from WFM Day London 2019:
1. There’s a commercial advantage to happiness at work.
Too often happiness in the workplace isn’t taken seriously. It’s easy for business leaders and managers to sweep happiness under the carpet or to play lip-service to employee engagement by having funky break-out spaces with beanbags and beer fridges. Happiness at work isn’t about gimmicks. It’s about rewards, recognition, communication, wellbeing, having a sense of pride, feeling empowered, and having job satisfaction.
As the Rt Hon Lord Mark Price said: “The argument has to be won that happiness isn’t nebulous. It’s a real thing you can instil, encourage and measure. And there’s a commercial advantage to it as well as an advantage to the individual and to society.”
The commercial advantages for companies with happy employees include profits and productivity that are 20% higher, lower staff turnover and absence, 134% higher earnings per share, and a range of health and wellbeing benefits. In short, creating a happy workforce is an essential ingredient in creating a happy and successful business.
2. Create your own recipe for flexible working success.
One of the key drivers in creating a happy workforce is flexible working. In the words of happiness and change coach, Samantha Clark: “Flexibility isn’t a quick fix. You need to create your own recipe for flexible working success and this means talking to your employees and picking up the nuances of what they want. What can you do to help people bring their best selves into work?”
Flexibility means different things to different people but, at its heart, it’s a way of working where you give your employees more choice and control over when and how they work. Some workers will crave predictability, some will want more hours, some will want less. The only way you’ll know what works for you and your team is by talking with them.
In a day full of hard facts and stats, there was one particularly alarming one given to the audience by Lord Mark Price. He said, on average, people are thanked for doing a good job once every four and half months. Which works out about three times a year. Yet recognition consistently ranks as one of the highest influences on employee happiness - far more than salary. Put simply, we need to start thanking our workers more often, be better at doing it and improve how we recognise work done well.
4. WFM 2.0 is an exciting place.
WFM 2.0, a term coined by Gartner, is the combination of automating elements of the manger experience, making the employee experience a priority, and creating a flexible workforce. And it’s an exciting place. Thanks to cloud based software, powerful tech, and a deeper understanding about what businesses and employees want, the best WFM tools will become indispensable to forward thinking business - whether that’s by facilitating flexible working or developing innovative ways for managers to recognise and communicate with employees.
5. Businesses need to put pressure on the politicians.
Former MP Nick de Bois explained how profitability and productivity come from flexible working and happy employees. Yet, in a society where employment is high and wages are low, flexible working can often be seen as a race to the bottom. He said, while government can be advocates of change, its businesses who are the practitioners of that change and this means business leaders putting pressure on politicians to legislate in a way that makes flexible working work for everyone. Whether it’s social care or retail, flexibility at work must reach into the everyday economy.
With a day full of so many big ideas, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by all of them and to struggle to know where to start. But change can only happen through action, so we’ll leave you with Samantha Clark’s words: “What’s the one thing you’re going to put into practice right now to be an agent of change of happiness and well-being in the workplace?”