Behavioural science could make employees more successful at work

Our understanding of the human brain has come in leaps and bounds, but the way we manage, motivate and develop people at work isn’t keeping pace. This is a sentiment that Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the CIPD, agrees with.

“We’re failing to keep up with these exciting advances, despite there being clear evidence that behavioural science can be applied at work to achieve positive outcomes for both individuals and the organisation,” he said. “This isn’t about ‘Jedi mind tricks’ or duping; science can genuinely make us happier and more productive.

“It’s about understanding what drives performance and human behaviour, what makes us tick, how we respond to threat and reward and how existing HR processes and policies may actually undermine professional ethics and create unwanted outcomes.

“While behavioural science is no ‘cure-all’ for the challenges that HR works to address, it’s an important, evidence-driven catalyst for change that can enhance employee wellbeing and boost productivity.

“There’s a real opportunity here for HR and managers to experiment with these insights and see how policies and behaviours can change for the better as a result. We’ve already witnessed real changes being made in government by applying behavioural science to policy-making; now leaders and managers in the workplace need to seize the opportunity.”

Here are some of the key elements that the report, ‘Our Minds at Work: Developing the behavioural science of HR‘, suggests employers keep in mind:

Personal effectiveness and smarter working

Neuroscience shows that we are essentially ill-equipped to cope with an increasingly fast-paced and fragmented world of work. Increasing our mental capacity and recognising the challenges of multi-tasking can help individuals become more effective at work.

Selection and recruitment

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of intuition in decision-making can help managers avoid falling prey to unconscious bias.

Pay and reward

Behavioural science identifies that financial reward isn’t the straightforward motivator we think it is. By understanding the power and potential pitfalls of incentives, HR can create more effective remuneration schemes.

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