Workplace stress - a comprehensive approach
A 1996 Institute of Management Study estimated that 270,000 people take time off work every day due to workplace stress, resulting in a cost of £7 billion annually
So what should progressive, forward thinking organisations be doing about stress? A comprehensive approach requires three elements: prevention, management and treatment
At the forefront of prevention
"As a responsible employer, ESW has a duty to identify as objectively as possible whether stress is a problem that requires attention, and if so take appropriate actions to mitigate and preferably eliminate such stressors" - Frank Sharp, HR Director, East of Scotland Water.
As Chair of the IPD Occupational Health Committee, Frank has a keen interest in workplace stress, particularly legal issues. Frank commissioned The Keil Centre to design, manage and deliver a bespoke Organisational Health Audit for ESW which identified levels of stress, sources of pressure and provided recommendations on which to base a preventative approach.
The audit was based round a series of stress management seminars, which ensured high participation. Says Frank "Initial reactions from staff have been very encouraging, with over 70% of managers reporting a positive change in their habits as a result".
"Contrary to popular opinion, surveys are not the only way to identify and reduce organisational stressors", says Ronny Lardner, one of The Keil Centre's Chartered Occupational Psychologists. "We have worked with many employers to design a variety of preventative approaches which suit their organisation.
Prevention is clearly better than cure".
The Health and Safety Executive's approach to controlling workplace stress
Five key elements in the control cycle
- Acceptance of stress as a business issue
- Assess potential stressors
- Identify who could be harmed
- Take practical steps to control
- Monitor progress
Treatment from the clinical professionals
Confidential, professional, individual therapy can be invaluable to people with a variety of work and personal problems.
So what is on offer at The Keil Centre?
Ian Tierney is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist. He offers a variety of proven treatments.
By helping people change habitual negative thinking, and how they view the world and act, cognitive therapy can address a wide variety of psychological problems and help prevent a recurrence.
So do such "talking cures" work any better than a chat with a sympathetic friend?
A recent British Medical Journal review concluded - "…if these psychological treatments had been drug treatments, they would have been certified as effective and safe remedies…"
In some occupations, exposure to traumatic incidents is unavoidable. Some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is notoriously difficult to treat. Recently The Keil Centre's Chartered Occupational Psychologists trained in a new technique for treating trauma. The results have been very encouraging. When compared to traditional treatments, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) offers a much higher rate of recovery within a shorter number of treatment sessions. Says Ian "People will always remember traumatic events but they don't have to continue to experience the emotional distress that goes with it".
Improve your company's health with Apples and Oranges
"We have to make a 5% saving to stay afloat"
"How do we improve workflow planning and optimise capacity utilisation?"
"Margins are tight - how do we communicate what affects them?"
"What else are we cutting when we're cutting costs?"
A & O
"Apples & Oranges surpassed our expectations by a wide margin. Apples & Oranges not only gives us a foundation to build on - it also creates enthusiasm and gets people involved. These are essential components for us as we launch our development programme" Bo Lycén, Personnel Manager, Volvo Bus Corporation, Sweden
Apples & Oranges is a new development tool we can offer clients. Developed by Celemi, people who, like us, understand the psychology of learning - it creates energy for change, is interactive and fun.
This table top simulation helps to strengthen the business sense of employees at all levels, increasing their ability to use time and money where they do the most good. Employees run a business where cash comes in as revenue and flows out as cost. They see for themselves the impact of adjusting key variables. The experience triggers ideas for continuous improvement.
The workshop runs over a day, with 12-30 people in groups of four. Service, Production, Healthcare, Public Sector and Retail/Distribution versions are available.
The value provided can be measured most simply as the financial worth of the improvements the participants suggest for their own business.
Contact Louise Clarkson for more information on how Apples & Oranges could help your organisation.
Consultants in Public Health case study
Managers who have been relying on interviews for years are right to be suspicious about the addition of psychometrics and other assessment techniques to the selection process. Examples of bad practice include sitting inappropriate tests, intrusive questionnaires, no opportunity for feedback, results presented in a dogmatic or judgmental way. Sometimes activities are not clearly explained and do not inspire candidates to give of their best.
However, used properly, the results aid the decision process and help ensure a good person-job fit, a benefiting candidate and employer.
Dr Eric Baijal of Fife Health Board needed a team of Public Health Consultants with a wide range of attributes. Their track record as professionals was not in question. Their ability to influence, consult and drive through initiatives with a wide range of people, for whom they had no line authority, was more difficult to establish. After discussion on key criteria, The Keil Centre designed a schedule of objective assessment techniques which complemented the panel interview. Over two years, as posts were established, The Keil Centre ran the assessment process. All the candidates were offered feedback and any of their concerns about the results fed back to the panel.
Dr Baijal commented on the value of the process, "Psychometrics give us insight to behaviours other than technical or professional. We know more about the person's style of working, problem solving, interpersonal skills and communication skills. Some of these come across in interview, others are more difficult to establish." The assessment report is useful for flagging up where personality clashes might arise in the team, what motivates the person and how to help them give of their best.
Using competencies to improve performance
Many firms restructure, then restructure again but the anticipated level of improvements do not materialise. For change to happen, people need to behave differently. Resistance to change tends to centre round control and fear. Clarifying what is expected of people can help address this resistance.
Mouchel is an international consultancy providing comprehensive engineering, environmental and management consultancy services to a wide range of public and private sector clients. In a restructuring initiative, Mike Davidson, Head of Group Personnel and Training, was tasked with identifying core competencies to help support the change process. He asked The Keil Centre to help ensure they reflected critical success factors based on reality, rather than a 'wish list'.
Mike's goal was a set of competencies cohesive enough to provide a common language, yet flexible to cover roles as diverse as support services, business development and professional engineer. This necessitated using a wide range of techniques and extensive consultation.
15 competencies, each with 3 levels, were identified. During the analysis stage, managers were often surprised how behavioural attributes, rather than professional skills and knowledge, discriminated between effective and ineffective performance.
As each role was defined, relevant competencies were chosen from the full set. On implementing the competencies as part of Investors in People, Mike reported how people initially found them complex to use. "However, with familiarity, the tangible benefits appeared. It was easier to identify the observable behaviours that drive or hinder the successful application of skills and knowledge"
Entrepreneurial teams - getting the chemistry right
"An invaluable aid…and a starting point for positive team-building, discussion and action" LEELCatalyst programme participant
Most successful companies are not formed by individuals, but by teams, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise (LEEL) run the innovative LEELCatalyst programme, which brings together experienced managers to create successful business start-up teams. To aid the team gelling process, The Keil Centre delivered a tailor-made team profiling process. This ensured team members clearly understood their individual strengths, and the collective strengths and limitations of the new management team.
One new business formed via LEELCatalyst is now a Keil Centre supplier.
For further information on the LEELCatalyst programme, contact LEEL on 0131 313 6119.
Developing Tomorrow's Leaders
The second of our leadership programmes starts in October 1997. The Developing Tomorrow's Leaders programme is not about studying to complete assignments. It is an opportunity for senior managers to take time out, to look realistically at where they are now and decide on future direction. Over a ten month period, participants attend regular Action Learning meetings, workshops and individual coaching sessions.
Action Learning involves meeting with other programmes delegates to explore options, make considered changes, reflect on the results and apply the learning. When responsibility for change lies with the individual, it is not always an easy process. Challenged with moving forward, some people readily create justifications for maintaining the status quo. By working with other delegates, support is available to tackle difficult issues and gain valuable insights. From its inception in the 1950s this approach to learning, now used worldwide, has consistently enabled people to make lasting changes.
Developing Tomorrow's Leaders starts on 22 October. Please contact Louise Clarkson, Programme Director for further information.
Human factors offshore
The UK Health and Safety Executive's Offshore Safety Division knows that addressing human and organisational factors can make a significant contribution to improving safety offshore. For example, failures of communication between shifts have contributed to several serious offshore accidents. To assist offshore operators assess and improve this aspect of their business, The Keil Centre has worked with HSE's Offshore Safety Inspectors to define best shift handover practice and design a comprehensive audit methodology. Their inspectors now have the tools to assess how effectively this topic is being managed by offshore operators, and make recommendations based on sound research.
"HSE believes major improvements to safety will come from addressing human and organisational factors. Many forward-looking businesses are already reaping the benefits" Bob Miles, Human Factors Research Manager, HSE