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What's your challenge at work?

May 1, 2018

At our Academy of Design Thinking, all the courses have a real challenge at the core. Participants try and find solutions while applying design thinking mindset, process and tools. These challenges are always complex, sometimes so complex that they are considered "wicked" challenges. And while there is not one possible solutions to solve them, there could be myriads of solutions addressing the problems at the root of those challenges.

This week we looked at the top five workplace challenges facing organisations in the UK,  according to ‘Great Place to Work’:


Productivity.  The UK’s productivity per hour is significantly lower than most of its competitors, with weak private investment, uncertainty over Brexit, skills gaps and poor infrastructure some of the reasons. At organisational level, lack of employee engagement is crucial: in the average British workplace only 57% of staff are engaged, with poor management and leadership cited as main factors. The cure? A culture that motivates workers, encourages innovation and cares about leadership quality. 

The Gender Pay Gap.  The wage gap between men and women is falling, but still stands at 9.1%, forty years after the Equal Pay Act. When employees see their organisation’s practices as fair, this increases trust in managers and hence engagement.

Managing Change.  Famously, more than 70% of change initiatives fail, and as all change - successful or not - brings anxiety and uncertainty, the impact on engagement can be huge, and even irreversible. The key is, of course, communication and involvement, allowing change to be perceived as an opportunity rather than a threat. And management must create a vision that employees can buy into.

Mental Health.  Mental health is a complex state of psychological and emotional well-being. Stress, depression and anxiety are now the single biggest cause of long-term sickness absence. And then there’s the problem of staff feeling obliged to come to work although they are unwell, with a consequent drop in performance and productivity. One estimate says that this ‘presenteeism’ costs UK organisations £26 billion a year. The answer is to be proactive - building open, understanding culture - and reactive - providing resources and support for struggling employees. 

Pay and Reward.  Employers’ costs have risen as a result of the National Living Wage and the increase in pension contributions. At the same time, growth in wages is still weak, with the UK at the bottom of the European league table for salary increases. There is more to job satisfaction than financial reward, but the companies rated as the best places to work have a much higher proportion of employees who see their wages and share of profits as fair. 

Each of those challenges has got people at the heart, and using a human centred approach to tackle them, seems the right fit. We deconstructed each of those challenges, and tried to get to the causes of them, before turning them into How might we....and look for solutions that are relevant, local, desirable, and feasible. 


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