Three Practical HR Lessons from Top Organisational Psychologist Cary Cooper

September 13, 2016
Three Practical HR Lessons from Top Organisational Psychologist Cary Cooper

Cary Cooper is 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology & Health at MBS Manchester University. He’s done a lot with his life – for example, he co-founded the leading business psychology organisation Robertson Cooper in 1999, which helps organisations improve workplace wellbeing. He is also chair of the Academy of Social Sciences, which represents more than 80,000 social scientists and groups.

There’s no wonder Cary Cooper made HR Magazine’s 2015 list of HR Influential Thinkers, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that when he gives advice, it’s a pretty safe bet that you should listen to it.

With this in mind, here are three of our favourite HR lessons we’ve learned from Cary Cooper. Take a look and see what you think.

1.Connect With Your Employees Face-To-Face

Cary Cooper published an article in HR Magazine about the importance of connecting with employees face to face in order to engage them.

According to Cary, by far the most powerful form of political campaigning is that of doorstep canvassing. He says that this technique truly engages an audience, especially when there is a local cause at heart. He also says that this translates to the workplace, too.

A powerful leader is a visible one” says Cary in his article. He advises that the smartest leaders operate an “open door policy” – this means making time in their day to talk to employees no matter what level they are at within the organisation. Doing this helps truly engage staff, as well as ensuring they have the right resources they need to hit their potential. We’ve already talked about the importance of giving your employees the right tools they need to do their jobs, and engaging with them face-to-face is a great way to determine whether or not you’re doing this right!

2. Don’t Make Change for Change’s Sake

In this article about dealing with organisational change, Cary discusses Holacracy, or to put it into other words, he talks about organisations with a more “flat” organisational structure.

As we very well know, companies can operate successfully without a traditional hierarchy – in fact, it’s how we work here at People! Just take a look at our employee handbook, and you’ll see what we mean. Of course, we have worked this way since day one, which might be why it works for us, but there are lots of stories about companies who are already very well-established, who decide to suddenly change their entire organisational structure in the hope it might make them more successful further on down the line.

Drastic change at this level is always going to cause friction for employee wellbeing” he says. He goes on to say that even if a radical change might work out well in the long-run, the psychological impact of such a big change should always be considered. Why change something that is working perfectly well, into something that could backfire?

There’s an old saying that goes “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. We’re big advocates of trying new things here at People, but we think Cary makes a good point in saying that large-scale organisational changes need to be carefully considered for the impact they may have on your employees’ wellbeing.

3. Give More People the Option for Flexible Working

At People, we afford our employees a very good degree of flexibility. We let them forge their own working patterns, and as long as their responsibilities are being taken care of, we don’t really mind what those patterns are.

A lot of organisations seem to be squeezing their people into traditional “office hour” shifts for the sake of it. Maybe they are scared of giving their employees responsibility? Maybe they feel that flexible working takes away too much of their control?

We are big fans of flexible working, and so is Cary Cooper.

It provides employees with more control” he explains in his article on flexible working. “It transmits trust, allows for a better work-life balance, and even has a positive effect on the environment.

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