Last updated: 06.11.14

The human brain ‘key to developing people at work’

Insights from behavioral science could make employees happier and more successful, but business practices are straggling behind these advancements, according to a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The ‘Our Minds at Work: Developing the behavioural science of HR’ study suggests that the inner workings of the human brain and factors that influence behaviour have accelerated during the last decade, but the way businesses manage, motivate and develop their workforce has barely changed.

Building on previous research undertaken by the CIPD, the new report details how behavioral science can be applied to learning and development. It describes the way people can react and respond to interventions, environments and stimuli in the workplace and how an organisation can apply techniques to get the best out of its staff.  

The report makes several suggestions for improvement, such as recognising the challenges of multi-tasking to enable employees to become more effective at work, and how understanding the strengths and weaknesses of intuition in decision-making can help managers fall prey to unconscious bias during the recruitment process.

It also suggests using behavioural science to provide practical insights into how employees can develop a “change-ready mindset” and change habits that appear to be set in stone.

Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the CIPD, 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.”

He added that it wasn’t about a ‘cure-all’ for the challenges facing a business and its workforce, but an evidence-driven catalyst for change that can be used to enhance employee wellbeing and boost productivity. 

“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,” he concluded.