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What kind of shared future are we building for business and the economy?

Listening to the BBC yesterday on the UK Government’s plans for immigration policy after Brexit raised some interesting questions. The intention is to allow highly skilled and well-paid workers to gain employment in the UK while placing significant curbs on the entry of low-skilled migrants.

Of course, in comparison with its European neighbours, Britain has long been a low skill, low wage economy. UK firms are generally more inclined to organise work in ways that minimise skill requirements, and they have been comparatively slow to take up the high performance workplace practices that lead to skills enhancement. The result is a predominantly low skilled workforce with low aspirations and few opportunities to raise their qualification levels. Moreover, the system is largely self-perpetuating, with an educational, training and policy framework that reinforces the status quo.

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How can Scotland’s Fair Work Framework lead to sustained enhancements
in both business performance and quality of working life?

Our vision is that, by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society.

Fair Work Framework 2016

Join us at one of the highly interactive workshops that we’re facilitating (jointly with BITC Scotland) on behalf of the Scottish Government. They're designed to provide an introduction to workplace innovation and its business benefits, as well as offering participants an opportunity to help shape the Government’s Fair Work Action Plan.

Each workshop will be led by international experts Peter Totterdill and Rosemary Exton, plus an inspiring story of transformation told by one of Scotland's business leaders.

Current dates and venues are:

  • Edinburgh – 24 October 2018, 09:00-12:00. Doug Johnston (GM, DS Smith Lockerbie) will demonstrate how the company achieved remarkable improvements in business performance through employee-driven improvement and innovation. Book here.
  • Aberdeen – 31 October 2018, 10:00-11:30. Rob Cowman (Engineering Director, East Coast Oil & Gas) describes a strategy for growth that is keeping enterprise and a culture of innovation at the heart of the company's vision and values. Book here.
  • Stirling – 20 November, 09:00-12:00. Mairi Martin (Leader Cornerstone Central) demonstrates the transformational leadership that inspired radical change in her organisation, leading to win-win outcomes for the business, its staff and its clients. Book here.
  • Dumfries – 21 November, 09:30-12:00. Aimee Doole (Marketing and Communications Manager, Booth Welsh) will show how this engineering services company gained a competitive edgae by harnessing the ideas and creativity of its employees, leading to widespread business improvements and a more engaged workforce. Book here.

Why does Fair Work matter?

Fair Work lies at the heart of the vision for Scotland’s economy. It promises win-win-win outcomes for companies, their employees and society as a whole. – prosperous businesses, good jobs and an inclusive labour market. n 2016, Scotland’s Fair Work Convention, comprising a cross section of employers, trade unions, policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders published the Fair Work Framework. It argues that five core principles should drive the development of Scotland’s economy: employee voice, job security, opportunity, fulfilment and respect.

It’s almost a cliché to point out that the world is changing quickly, and that businesses need to adapt and become much more versatile if they are to thrive in this increasingly volatile environment.

And survival isn’t compulsory.

So the challenge is to ensure that the organisational structures, working practices and cultures of our companies unleashes this potential to reflect the demands of the twenty-first century.

Our table below shows how the Framework’s core values are aligned with the transition from traditional workplaces characterised by rigid and top-down structures, to the versatility and engagement required to compete and survive in an innovation-driven economy:

We see the principles of Fair Work operating at two levels. There are the baseline factors which form the foundations of Fair Work and are widely recognised as the mark of any good employer. These include constructive employment relations, effective information and consultation arrangements, a commitment to equality and diversity measures, learning and development opportunities, fair remuneration (including the Real Living Wage), flexible working, positive working relationships, and a presumption of employment stability. These factors do not in themselves lead either to high performance or to great places to work, but they provide the necessary preconditions for those that do.

The key concept here is workplace innovation. It describes workplace practices and cultures which lead to significant and sustainable improvements in both organisational performance and employee engagement, well-being and opportunity. It is the realisation of Fair Work principles in practice.

With a strong basis in evidence, workplace innovation is also a very practical concept. It includes all those factors that enable employees at every level to use and develop their knowledge, skills and creativity to the full, including how their jobs are designed, the teams they work in, the technologies they use, their opportunities to contribute ideas and to take part in improvement and innovation, how their performance is measured, and how their managers and leaders act.

Our team and its partners co-created workplace innovation as a concept and it’s spreading. It is part of the EU’s strategy for innovation and competitiveness, and has been adopted by governments in several European countries, including Scotland, as a means of boosting economic growth and quality of working life.

We found four distinct bundles of workplace practices (or ‘Elements’), each associated with high performance and workforce health and well-being:

  • Jobs and Teams
  • Structures, Management and Procedures
  • Employee-Driven Improvement and Innovation
  • Co-Created Leadership and Employee Voice.

Download our free Guide to Workplace Innovation for a fuller explanation.

The figure below shows how baseline factors and workplace innovation practices interact to create high performance and high quality of working life when Fair Work becomes part of a company’s values and mission, supporting the delivery of its strategic goals and objectives:

Making it happen

Change is rarely a straightforward linear exercise. It usually involves experimentation, failure and a willingness see failure as an opportunity for learning and development. It requires consistency of purpose combined with a willingness to rethink the vision and objectives set out at the start of the journey. The more you try to change an organisation, the more you learn about it and the higher you raise your aspirations. Your understanding of the nature and extent of the change required will certainly deepen as the journey progresses.

Above all, it means making change happen with people, not to people. They have the knowledge, experience and creativity that can make change happen, and make it stick.

Use it!

Contact us!

Workplace Innovation Limited is a not-for-profit organisation created specifically to stimulate and share better ways of working that lead to enhanced performance, higher levels of innovation and better working lives.

We are a dedicated, passionate and highly experienced team, led by:

Peter Totterdill, an international expert and practitioner in workplace innovation, and a Visiting Professor at Kingston University and Mykolas Romeris University Vilnius.

Rosemary Exton, who builds on many years’ experience as a clinician, manager and trade unionist in the NHS to help organisations in many sectors achieve effective and sustainable change.

Let’s talk!   e:  w:

More than 60 Portuguese company representatives took part in an interactive workshop held in Porto where the experiences of two Scottish businesses were used to demonstrate the beneficial outcomes of workplace innovation and employee-led change.

The workshop was facilitated by UK based Workplace Innovation Europe Limited who introduced Doug Johnston, General Manager at DS Smith’s Lockerbie operation and Dundee based David O’Byrne from animal pharmaceutical business, Argenta.

Both companies have recently participated in Scottish Enterprise’s Workplace Innovation Engagement Programme (WIEP) which sought to help Scottish businesses introduce people centred change and action planning based on a novel combination of individual learning and development, peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and experience, and on-site coaching and facilitation.

The workshop marked the launched of a ‘Portuguese Organisational Innovation Community of Practice’ with the aim of creating a high profile coalition of organisations who will promote the concept of workplace innovation amongst Portuguese companies.

It was supported by a number of high profile public and private sector bodies including employers’ organisations, chambers of commerce, universities and public sector agencies including the Portuguese National Innovation Agency.

Facilitator Peter Totterdill said: “It was a very inspiring and interactive event where we managed to keep up some real energy in the room throughout the day. The experiences that Dave and Doug brought to the workshop gave the delegates real food for thought and were really enthusiastically received."

“Dave talked about the real culture change at Argenta created by engaging people in organisational redesign and breaking down silos between different functional areas. Doug talked about a comparable change in culture and working practices as a result of devolving decision making to inclusive morning meetings and involving frontline employees in ideas for process improvement. Both described the support they received from WIEP."

“Doug also talked about 20-60% improvements across a range of business indicators purely as a result of different working practices and behaviours – without any capital expenditure. This reflects our own evidence, shared earlier in the workshop, that: “Comparing like with like, companies that adopt workplace innovation practices systematically achieve 20-60% performance gains in productivity, innovation and employee health.”

Delegate feedback was very positive. Susan Carneiro, Technical Director of Centro Pinus, an association of organisations promoting forest sustainability, said: “I participated in the Workplace Innovation workshop in Porto and I highly recommend it. The team is extremely experienced and promotes an engaging event. This workshop was truly inspiring.”

Jorge Silva, Head of IT at multi-national automotive equipment supplier, Huf Group, added: “It was really inspiring to hear the experiences and results of different initiatives in several sectors and learn from real examples.”

Co-facilitator Rosemary Exton concluded: “The key to inspiring organisations to adopt workplace innovation and employee-led change is to close the gap between theory and practice. We can do this by introducing the very real experiences of people like Dave and Doug who now understand the power of positive change and are willing to share their knowledge with other aspirational organisations."

“They have certainly helped to inspire our Portuguese hosts who have invited us all back to speak at events in Lisbon during June and September.”

Read more about inclusive and devolved decision making at DS Smith here.  To read more about culture transformation at Argenta, click here.

Click here to view the Fresh Thinking Labs Programme

Keep in Touch

Interested to learn more? Fresh Thinking Labs is the international platform for company networking and workplace innovation, On Line  and In Person:

Please contact us for further information!

Two things are clear.

Firstly, a vast and growing body of evidence and experience shows that workplace innovation practices which empower employees to make day-to-day-decisions, challenge established practices, contribute ideas and be heard at the most senior levels lead to better business results as well as enhanced workforce health and engagement.

Secondly there is a substantial gap between “what works” and what happens in the majority of workplaces. Most surveys suggest that only around 15% of private or public sector workplaces are making fullest possible use of evidence-based practices equally associated with high performance and employee health.

US research shows that workplace innovation has a substantial effect on efficiency, with performance premiums ranging between 15 and 30 percent. One of the most significant European studies, a survey of 6000 workplaces in Europe, confirms that direct employee participation can have strong positive impacts on productivity, innovation and quality. Of firms which implemented semi-autonomous groups, 68 per cent enjoyed reductions in costs, 87 per cent reported reduced throughput times, 98 per cent improved products and services, and 85 per cent increased sales.

Extensive Swedish surveys found a very clear link between participative forms of work and performance: these organisations were more productive (+20-60%), showed a much lower rate of personnel turnover (-21%), and a lower rate of absence due to illness (-24%) compared with traditionally organised operational units.

The benefits of workplace innovation for employees are also demonstrated by a substantial body of research. Participative work practices such as self-organised teamwork enhance employee motivation and quality of working life, playing a particularly important role in reducing employee stress, enhancing job satisfaction and mental health, and improving retention.

Such factors in the work environment include empowering job design, self-organised teamworking, structured opportunities for reflection, learning and improvement, high involvement innovation practices, the encouragement of entrepreneurial behaviour at all levels of the organisation, and employee representation in strategic decision-making. These workplace practices enhance the ability of employers to secure a full return on their investments in training and technology, generating multiple improvements in performance, innovation and quality of working life.

Our approach, The Essential  Fifth Element, offers a practical, evidence-based approach to understanding the workplace innovations that lead to enhanced business performance and working life. It has found many applications in organisations across Europe, including the Workplace Innovation Engagement Programme involving 19 Scottish companies.

Discover more about The Essential  Fifth Element, see how our Diagnostic employee survey helps you identify and implement critical changes in working practices, and download details of our accredited Leading Workplace Innovation programme.

There is still time to join us, together with MBDA, Leo Pharma and other innovative companies at Engaging Everyone in Innovation, including a workshop hosted by SAAB Aerospace, on 22nd-23rd March in Linköping, Sweden. Or if you’re concerned with mental health in the workplace, the next Good Work & Mental Well-Being Lab event is hosted by Macmillan Cancer Support, on 27th-28th March in Leeds.

Click here to view the Fresh Thinking Labs Programme

Keep in Touch

Fresh Thinking Labs is your platform for learning, development and change across the whole organisation. Its programme is driven by you, and its aim is to help you build an international community of practice to help and support you in driving change forward in your organisation.

We hope you will join us, and welcome further discussion to ensure that Fresh Thinking Labs meets your requirements in every way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Professor Peter Totterdill
Workplace Innovation
20 Fletcher Gate
Nottingham NG1 2FZ

Telephone +44 (0)115 933 8321
Web and

Below are a few of the companies we've had the pleasure of working with.

Fresh thinking Labs offers access to a unique online resource portfolio including research evidence, case studies and practical tools including the Essential  Fifth Element Diagnostic - Online. Below you can find a few free resources to browse:

Try our Workplace Diagnostic - Online.

Fresh Thinking Labs the international open source movement for workplace innovation. Your pathway to the best workplace practices and latest thinking from across Europe and beyond.

Success in the new industrial revolution naturally requires that our industries use the best available technologies. But technologies alone are not the answer. Watch our 'Guide to Workplace Innovation' animation.

Watch our film about Workplace Innovation.

Workplace Innovation - Creating value

Interested to learn more? Fresh Thinking Labs is the international platform for company networking and workplace innovation, On Line  and In Person:

Please contact us for further information!

Fresh Thinking Labs has launched in Ireland! On Friday 6th October Peter Totterdill and Rosemary Exton together with Brendan McGinty, MD of Stratis Consulting our Irish partner, welcomed companies to our Symposium and Launch Event on Workplace Innovation for Irish Companies.

Interested to learn more? Fresh Thinking Labs is the international platform for company networking and workplace innovation, On Line  and In Person:

Please contact us for further information!

A Europe-wide platform for facilitating workplace innovation and knowledge sharing between businesses and organisations is set to launch in Dublin next month with a symposium to be held at IAA Conference Centre.

Fresh Thinking Labs (FTL) is the international open source movement for workplace innovation. It is part of Workplace Innovation Europe Limited and its membership includes both large and small businesses including Aviva, E.ON, GE Transportation, Novozymes, and Saint-Gobain.

Its extensive network provides a pathway for businesses to discover the best workplace practices and latest thinking from across Europe. It is currently facilitating workplace visits and networking events with SAAB Aerospace in Sweden, Leo Pharma in Copenhagen and MBDA Systems in the UK.

The launch follows the appointment of Dublin based Stratis Consulting as the exclusive Irish partner of FTL. Stratis comprises the most experienced and innovative team of practitioners in their field in Ireland working at leadership team, chief executive and board levels to support organisations to lead improvements in critical areas of employee relations, people strategy and workplace innovation.

Brendan McGinty Managing Partner at Stratis Consulting, said: “This launch event will give organisations an early opportunity to understand more about how FTL network could benefit them by combining an online community designed to support shared learning and innovation in the workplace with face-to-face dialogue and relationship building through inter-company visits and workshops at regional, national and international levels.

“Workplace Innovation Europe Limited’s Director, Peter Totterdill, will be speaking at the symposium. He and his team at FTL have an international reputation for bridging the gap between academic theory and practical application. They are inspiring businesses of all types to seek better ways of organising their workplaces, improving productivity and performance and enhancing employee well-being.”

The Symposium and Launch of the FTL Ireland Workplace Innovation Network will take place on Friday October 6th 2017 at the IAA Conference Centre, D’Olier Street, Dublin 2. (8.30am-12.30 pm). Further information and registration are available by contacting Robert O’Neill on 01-2166302/ 085-776 8833 or by e-mail to

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