16 Mar 2017 | 08.46 am
Workplace Wellbeing Back On The Menu
There’s a renewed interest in workplace wellbeing, which is good news for Peter Purcell
16 Mar 2017 | 08.46 am
Workplace wellbeing is a concept that was sidelined in Ireland in recent years, as keeping a job at all was considered an achievement during the economic downturn. But there is now a renewed interest in employee wellbeing, and that’s good news for Peter Purcell.
Purcell operates Soft Skills Learning, which targets company boards and senior executives, organising workshops, experiential learning scenarios and consultation sessions to help improve management and people skills.
The company’s philosophy is rooted in Franklian logotherapy, which tries to offer practical ways for people to bring and to find a sense of meaning in their workplace. For employers, that could mean fundamentally re-evaluating how they see their workforce – not as resources to be used but as people who have needs and unique contributions to make to the business.
This workplace approach can also feed into promoting better project management with people of varying skills and aptitudes, general employee wellbeing, and better managerial decision-making through the promotion of concepts of ‘worth’ beyond mere profit.
Purcell uses simulation learning through mock setups to hone skills and interpersonal attitudes. Operating from Greystones, Purcell’s clients have included Boston Scientific, Pfizer and Google. The venture has its origins in Strategic Management Group, a business leadership skills company that was founded by Wharton Business School graduates in the US in 1981.
In 1994, an Irish branch of SMG was established, which Purcell started working for in 2000. He bought the Irish business out in 2004 after SMG was itself purchased by Swedish professional services firm BTS.
Changing business models now mean that people are being asked to do more with less, so soft skills training such as that provided by Purcell risks being regarded as expendable. Purcell challenges this by highlighting the tangible benefits of happier employees, in terms of productivity, company loyalty etc.
Another issue with tangible consequences that Purcell focuses on is workplace mistreatment, bullying and incivility. He collaborated with Maria Bradshaw, founder and CEO of suicide prevention charity Casper, for a white paper on workplace bullying, highlighting the financial and emotional costs of the growing workplace practice.
Research indicates that bullying is most prevalent in the education sector, following by public administration and health and social work. “Not only can prevention programmes help organisations avoid the legal and business risks associated with bullying and suicide, but they can act as a reminder to conventional wisdom that only thinks of ‘HR’ as Human Resources, not Human Relations,” says Purcell.
Other workplace issues can also affect employee productivity and wellbeing, especially role conflict. “This is often down to the dynamics of part-time teams trying to get projects done on time,” explains Purcell. “Temporary teams is much more common now, and those teams are often multi-disciplined. The leadership skills required for that is where we are specialised.”
Purcell’s services are bespoke, with fees ranging from €100 to €1,500 per person, depending on the level of engagement. Timeframes vary from half-day workshops to full-day sessions a couple of times a fortnight. “Sectors that I have most success in include financial services, pharma and medical devices. Construction and its related industries are becoming more receptive too.
“People have gone through a very tough time and many businesses had to revert to survival tactics. The emphasis now is off the relentless focus on driving costs down. The time is right to focus on the people who are managing and running that business. Have they been invested in?”