What lies ahead in 2016?

18 January 2016 -


Productivity and remuneration will be key issues for managers over the next 12 months

Jermaine Haughton

The workplace is always evolving and changing, and that is set to continue over the next 12 months. To best prepare employers, managers and Human Resources professionals for the oncoming challenges to managing relationships and issues, and deliver success for their organisation, The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has produced a special report which examines the key workplace trends in 2016.

While predicting the future of the workplace is never certain, there are a few events that occurred in 2015 that management experts expect to take effect this year.

UK Labour productivity finally seemed to pick in the later stages of 2015, after a long and drawn-out stagnation which baffled many bosses and economists alike. Therefore, the challenge for British employers will be whether they can boost productivity growth to match those of other leading economic powers such as Germany and the US, which could benefit every British household by around £21,000 per year.

Staff remuneration is also likely to be the focus of much discussion after the new National Living Wage was announced last summer. Although welcomed by many, the proposal has met with concern, largely from some employer bodies, questioning how the new rate of £7.20 would be afforded.

The Regulatory Policy Committee estimated the measure will cost businesses more than £1 billion including; more than £800m in direct wage costs, £280m in the cost of maintaining wage differentials for people earning just above the minimum wage and £23m in transition costs.

Joint research from CIPD/Resolution Foundation also reveals that over half of all employers reckon their wage bills will be affected by the new wage, while in sectors such as hospitality and retail this percentage rises to over three quarters.

And finally, the office dynamic between bosses and staff is likely to be affected by the new Trade Union Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, as it looks set to transform aspects of collective relations, including the law on industrial action.

Given this context, the Workplace Trends report focused on advising managers how to lead, communicate, behave and be productive.

Regarding leadership, Acas chief executive Anne Sharp advised bosses to be multi-faceted in their approach to leading their organisations, but always incorporate four key components: authenticity, communication, authority and service.

The ability to model behaviours that reflect and support organisational values, using a variety of different methods to communicate effectively to staff, gain office respect and confidence of colleagues and putting the needs of the company above those of individuals are the perfect building blocks for managers to successfully hurdle of the challenges in 2016.

Sharp concluded: "Being an effective and authentic leader involves having understanding and control of your own emotions and awareness of their impact on others."

With regard to office communications, Acas Chief Conciliator David Prince identified the skill as an “essential ingredient for happy and productive workplaces”, but challenged managers to tailor their communication methods to fit the different needs and expectations of their work.

“Trust your instincts: we all instinctively know how we should interact with one another and the fundamentals don’t change,” Prince said. “The trouble is, of course, that everything around us is changing and presents some very tricky questions. For example, as the threat/promise of workplace automation grows, just how do you communicate with a robot?

“And when a workplace has employees working for half a dozen different employers, due to outsourcing, how do you logistically get everyone round the same table, let alone singing from the same hymn sheet? How does communication work in the gig economy, when some employees may be appearing in your office for ‘one night only’ before moving on?”

Prince also proposed that managers be willing to communicate in a much wider way, sometimes speaking face-to-face, over the phone or through email, but ultimately be very clear about the information they convey.

The report also touched on the issue of workplace bullying. Certainly not a new problem, but research suggests that up to 40% of workers have experienced disrespectful or humiliating behaviour at work – from insults, rudeness and teasing, to shouting, intimidation and threats.

Acas’ chief operations officer Susan Clews states that employers must do more than just operate anti-bullying policies by creating clear standards for what constitutes acceptable workplace behaviours.

She explained: “Just as vital is the overall organisational climate in which those policies operate. Put simply, policies will only work effectively if people have the confidence to use them. This is more likely where the workplace culture provides a shared sense of responsibility that unacceptable behaviours can and should be reported, and then dealt with appropriately, whenever they are experienced or witnessed.”

By creating the role of the Anti-Bullying Tsar in the workplace, an independent figure who bullied staff can raise their concerns to in confidence, researcher Dr Makani Purva gained three main findings:

1. Staff facing bullying issues appreciate their voices being heard and their concerns acknowledged.

2. Most bullying behaviours appear to manifest initially as small acts of unprofessionalism that, left unchecked over time, transform into fully fledged bullying behaviours. Hence, tackling concerns early is a key preventative measure.

3. Finally, the most important realisation has been that staff empowerment is perhaps the key to transforming long-term behaviours and culture.

Gill Dix, Acas head of strategy, said: "Acas has worked with organisations of all sizes and in all sectors to help them get the balance between values, skills and processes right... You can be both effective and fair if you are willing to reflect on how things are done, seek help where needed and take action."

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