What is “neuro-agility”?
This term refers to the brain’s ability to move quickly and easily, to think fast, understand and draw conclusions. In the same way we’d refer to an athlete’s agility if they easily soar over those hurdles. It’s a hot concept in HR right now and for good reason.
To explain, the idea of having an agile brain has been born of the amazing advances in the field of neuroscience. Whilst our brains aren’t exactly a muscle, like our biceps we can strengthen and grow them, and the ways of doing this are surprisingly simple! Big news for businesses of any size.
It’s likely you’ve noticed the increasing pace of change in the world and in business, from the rise of gig economy, to the HR software revolution and the great impending unknown that is AI, everything is in flux. The knock-on effect to businesses is that the skills that are relevant and valuable are drastically changing.
Which skills will take us into the future?
According to the World Economic Forum, the skills most in-demand by 2020 will be:
the ability to quickly make good judgement decisions
They’re all cognitive skills and they can all be enhanced by integrating the findings of neuroscience in to the workplace to increase the “neuro-agility” of staff.
The keys to brain power
There are 6 factors that have been identified by neuro-scientists as being key to optimising brain power:
- Brain fitness – this means helping your team to use both sides of their brain simultaneously. Variety and curiosity help build brain fitness. At work this can be done by ensuring that tasks are as varied as possible for each person and that they are learning new skills, solving new problems and working with different people triggering curiosity through the learning process.
- Stress coping skills – during times of stress our less dominant brain hemisphere switches off, immediately reducing (by half) our capacity to make good decisions or learn effectively. The theory is – stress goes down, productivity goes up.
One way of doing this is for those who give disciplinaries and handle grievances, to be particularly aware of how stressful these situations can be for the employees concerned. Something as simple as speaking in a calm, measured way can reduce the associated stress. Managers could also look at ways to incorporate stress coping techniques into staff training, perhaps encouraging deep breathing – this carries more oxygen to the brain, in turn increasing brain function and our ability to think clearly and cope with stressful situations.
- Sleep – as a small business you can help its staff get good zzzzzzs in by trying to make work a positive place to be and encouraging staff not to reply to emails or work in the evenings.
“Sleep-deprived workers cost the UK £40 billion in lost productivity” RAND (global think tank)
It’s a big one and can be easily overlooked because it seems so obvious (poor sleep habits may not be anything to do with a person’s job, but equally they may be directly related). Building a culture that promotes all the elements listed here will naturally support an employee’s ability to sleep well.
- Movement or exercise – regular aerobic exercise has been proven to improve memory, learning ability, mood and sleep – excellent! It’s becoming quite popular to offer exercise perks to a team, as savvy businesses clock how important movement is in our ability to function to the best of our abilities. Lunchtime fitness classes, or the cycle to work scheme are a great start in encouraging movement and exercise as part of working life. This one has real scope for managers to get creative and do some team building at the same time!
- An optimistic mindset – a positive environment and positive encouragement triggers the release of messenger hormones in our brains, these facilitate thinking, learning and creativity. On the flip side, negativity plays havoc with our brains, producing inhibiting chemicals that immediately reduce our performance. This might seem irrelevant to some roles that aren’t obviously creative, but imagine if your team was a bit slicker, perhaps they’d be better problem solvers and it would cut down time spent asking for help. Or perhaps they’d create a more efficient processes.
- The food we eat – our brains and bodies are like engines that need the right fuel. Everything we eat affects our ability to think clearly or function optimally.
In fact the brain uses 20% of our total energy!
Brain fog, sluggishness and depression are amongst the ill effects if we are depleted of essential nutrients. Whilst it’s bit harder to address at work, offering free fruit or healthy eating perks is a step in the right direction by increasing awareness and encouraging healthy habits.
All good stuff. If there’s manager out there who would say no to boosting their team’s productivity this way, then I’ll eat my hat. Engaged people are involved in their work and enthusiastic, they care about the business and they’re loyal.
Improving the brain power of your team will also help future proof them (and the business) for the changes that lie ahead. Your team could be your competitive advantage, thinking faster, creating better solutions, out-performing the competition and keeping your business relevant!
Who’s in charge of HR at your business, and do you use HR software? Our HR software is designed for SMBs and will streamline your HR, freeing up time that can be better spent on things like creating ways to boost neuro-agility, building a great culture and productivity rather than paperwork. For a free trial click here >>
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