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Set your workers free, says thought-leader Dan Cable

06 Mar 2018


Alive at Work author urges businesses to switch on employees’ curiosity



201803  People  Dan Cable 2 

Leaders need to unleash workers’ innate desire to learn if they are to effectively address the persistent issue of poor employee engagement.

London Business School (LBS) Professor of Organisational Behaviour Daniel M. Cable argues that in the push to standardise working practices and establish clear-cut or SMART performance metrics, organisations are suppressing what neuroscientists call people's ‘seeking systems’.

In his forthcoming book Alive at Work, Cable describes how this approach is stifling the part of the brain which craves exploration and learning, and which makes people feel more alive.

He argues that once leaders have the right mindset, they can realize substantial benefits through small tweaks to organisational practices that can cost little or nothing.

“It doesn’t take much to make all this happen – not much money anyway – and both business and employees gain,” Cable says.

“But what it needs is a new mindset. Leaders can maintain the frame of production while they engender more productive and purposeful working practices and enable employees to play to their unique strengths.

“Newer generations place even more emphasis on meaningful work and self-expression than previous generations. If work can satisfy these needs, then work becomes an outlet that employees want.”

Cable, who will speak in Washington D.C. and New York on March 15 and March 20 respectively, has studied organisations such as Standard Chartered Bank, Roche, KLM, Google, Microsoft and Make-A-Wish to understand how best to engage employees.

He argues that rather than looking outside to try and poach top talent, businesses need to look towards tapping into the energy and creativity of their people once they are hired.

“The new war for talent is not about wooing employees away from competitors, but unleashing the enthusiasm that is already there within employees, but dormant,” he says.

“Organisations which allow greater self-expression activate employees’ seeking systems -- resulting in enthusiasm and the intrinsic motivation for individuals to invest their best in an organisation.

“Activating the seeking system is like putting a plug into a live socket. The potential is already flowing right under the surface—you just need to access it to get employees lit up.”

Dan Cable will speak about his new book Alive at Work and the neuroscience of helping people love what they do at The Loft at 600 F in Washington D.C. on March 15 and SECOND Floor in New York on March 20. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.