Last December, the HPC team had the pleasure of meeting Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson at a private event in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin.

 

It was the eve of HPC’s sponsorship of the L&DI Annual Conference at which Amy was the keynote speaker. She had just flown in from London after winning the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award for Right Kind of Wrong – based on her research into psychological safety and how to learn from failure and take better risks.

 

 

Her book won over the judges with its “systematic, richly illustrated exploration of how to build on “intelligent failure” and its critique of the craze for failure that often hypnotises entrepreneurs and innovators.”

 

Attendees of the Annual Conference were buzzing about her presence and delighted when they all received a copy of her book. Having read his copy, HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear dives into the key messages from the book and the high level takeaways that resonate throughout.

 

 

A fresh look at a new time

 

Professor Edmondson’s writings on “psychological safety” have been well known and understood since 1999. Books, articles, podcasts, and videos have all explained the critical importance of psychological safety, and have painted a clear picture of what happens to a work environment and a person when psychological safety is missing. This book, while revisiting and reinforcing some of Amy’s long-standing contentions, comes at an opportune time for us all.

 

What’s the key message?

 

Creating and maintaining psychological safety is still as critical as ever. Particularly if we want people to disclose important failures and mistakes and to learn from them so we can avoid them or adapt how we do things. That message hasn’t changed at all. What has changed is the environment of work and life. We know that psychological safety is key, but that is no guarantee that we will do what’s necessary in our workplaces to bring it into existence.

 

 

Why is this so difficult?

 

We find ourselves living in a time of perfection, where many feel the pressure to always say, do, and be the perfect thing. Coincidentally, we also find ourselves in a time of reduced attention span and ever-weakened ability to focus in detail. Finally, so many of us are exhausted by the relentless pace of life and the unstoppable flow of information. Some of us feel burned out. These three environmental factors – demand for perfection; weakened attention; and exhaustion from the pace of life – all threaten our ability to learn from failures and mistakes. Perfect people shouldn’t make mistakes, or so it goes. Learning takes time and careful attention, and we don’t have either.

 

Taking the first steps into a new leadership practice

 

Naming, understanding, and learning from failure requires us to recognise that some people are extremely attached to being right. Being right has become their way of feeling like a valued human being. But we can’t be right all the time, and no human should feel like their value remains only as long as they are right. Helping others to see the value in learning, to embrace what can be discovered from a disclosure that something went wrong or failed, is a critical reframing of what it means to be wrong. Being wrong could create opportunity for powerful learning, for new ways of thinking, and for releasing yourself from the burden that ties your value as a person to being right all the time.

 

One other key lesson Amy shared in her original work, and still shares as she addresses audiences today, is to show the way by role modelling your own fallibility. She tells the story of a successful airline pilot who begins each flight with new colleagues by disclosing that he has never flown a perfect flight. He tells them that today’s flight will likely be the same and that he is depending on his colleagues to work with him and tell him when something is not right or needs adjusted. This self-disclosure of fallibility helps to tear down the perceived walls of perfection that others can put up around us, or that we ourselves put up, without us knowing.

 

Overarching advice

 

Don’t aim to be perfect or right all the time. Slow down and spend some time exploring what happened and what it is teaching us. And recognise that rushing, try to do too much, or working while exhausted causes avoidable mistakes and failures.

 

 

Justin Kinnear – HPC

 

Justin is Head of Research at HPC and is at the forefront of creating blended content that is relevant, impactful and in line with the current needs of individuals and teams. Justin undertakes external research and analysis for leading L&D bodies and works in collaboration with our clients to evaluate the impact of HPC’s solutions within their organisations.

 

His passion for people development and his ability to inspire makes him a key member of HPC’s facilitation and coaching teams. His work with HPC focuses on the development of a high performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback.

 

As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic.

 

justin.kinnear@wearehpc.com

Connect with Justin on LinkedIn >>>

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Ahead of HPC’s sponsorship of the L&DI’s National Learning & Development Conference, the Sunday Times explores the theme of ‘reLearning for reInvention’ that will be at the heart of this key event.

 

Recognised by Thinkers50 this week as the #1 management and business thinker in the world, Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at Harvard Business School, Amy C. Edmondson will deliver the keynote presentation at this year’s National Learning & Development Conference, hosted by The Learning & Development Institute (L&DI), at Croke Park on December 6th.

 

Titled reLearning for reInvention, the theme of the Conference will focus on the current landscape for L&D professionals and their organisations focussing on how to navigate a way forward to rethink ways of working.

 

Amy will explore the theme of her new book ‘Right kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well’, shortlisted for the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year, and how we and our organisations can embrace our human fallibility, learn exactly when failure is our friend, and prevent most of it when it is not. This is the key to pursuing smart risks and preventing avoidable harm.  This concept of failing well is essential for leaders leading in an uncertain world and building a culture of psychological safety as it matters more than ever in today’s organisations.  This is a culture where problem sharing is encouraged, and where individuals feel safe to bring problems forward, even if they don’t have solutions.

 

With so much riding on innovation, creativity, and engagement, it is essential to attract, cultivate and retain talented employees – but even more important to ensure that they can speak up to contribute their ideas and expertise. Amy will focus on the role of senior executives in building psychological safety to ensure those high-quality conversations take place.

 

In a world characterised by constant change and uncertainty, innovation, creativity, and employee engagement are the lifeblood of thriving organisations.

 

For organisations to thrive in this uncertain world, leaders must be adaptable, willing to step out of their comfort zones, and capable of adopting the most effective leadership style a given situation.

 

 

 

A BLUEPRINT FOR AI INTEGRATION

 

Opening the Conference will be An Post CEO, David McRedmond, who will share his insights on bringing an organisation through reinvention, creating a climate and culture to support people through that change and what it means for leaders today.

 

Later in the day, the potential of AI within organisational learning and performance support will be dissected in detail by futurist and author, David Kerrigan, who will give a pragmatic overview of the way AI is transforming how people learn. David will paint a picture of the current landscape with a measured forecast of the future. There are tangible impacts and realistic prospects of integrating AI into L&D without losing sight of AI’s role as a tool, not a destination, and David will provide that blueprint.

 

Feeding into the relearning angle of the Conference, Sacha Dekker, a Leader and Talent Development expert, who has overcome sudden physical adversity, will speak with sincerity and authority about relearning when life doesn’t give you a choice. Her experiences will feed into people’s personal perspectives on growth and evolution of their career – a theme which will be further explored by a panel discussion facilitated by HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear.

 

Sinéad Heneghan, CEO at L&DI, stresses the importance of the conference to set L&D’s agenda in Ireland: “We’re delighted to welcome Amy C. Edmondson for our National Conference on December 6th. A thought leader and speaker of the highest calibre, Amy will help L&D professionals in Ireland unearth the connection between creating a safe environment and unlocking the potential for high-performance teams.

 

“Amy will bring that thinking to a level where we can discover the actionable behaviours that leaders can adopt to cultivate psychological safety within their organisations. She will explain the difference between intelligent, complex, and basic failures, and what leaders must do to ensure that organisations have more of the first type while preventing the other two types.”

 

A UNIQUE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY

 

This Conference offers L&D and HR professionals unique networking opportunities, fostering a dynamic environment for the free exchange of ideas and the chance to connect with like-minded colleagues. Additionally, the event includes an exhibition area featuring more than 15 organisations supporting the L&D profession, providing attendees with valuable opportunities to enhance their learning experience.

 

Justin Kinnear, Head of Research at Conference sponsors HPC, adds that “Professor Edmondson’s work continues to powerfully shape the high performing cultures of great teams and great organisations all over the world.

 

He notes: “Professor Edmondson’s latest work is a timely reminder that our future success depends on us embracing the learning from failure, learning from experiments, and the learning that accrues when we develop a greater understanding of the contexts in which our organisations exist.”

 

Justin will be chairing a panel discussion that explores how L&D leaders have relearned and reinvented themselves over the course of their careers and what skills they have had to build and rely on.

 

Justin believes: “The L&DI Conference provides a unique opportunity to embrace Professor Edmondson’s work by coming together and share experiences and approaches, to discuss what worked and what did not, and to use these individual high-value learning exchanges to enhance what we do inside our respective organisations. By truthfully exploring, sharing, and understanding our successes and failures, we can position ourselves strongly for individual, team, and organisational success in the future.”

 

 

L&DI & HPC Contributors

 

Sinéad Heneghan – L&DI

As CEO of the L&DI, Sinéad leads the Institute’s strategic development work and oversees research and engagement with members. This informs the ongoing development of the member offer and continuous professional development opportunities for practitioners.

 

She has vast experience with Individuals, Corporates, Further and Higher Education Providers and State Agencies and has represented the industry in an influencing and Advocacy role for many years.

 

She holds an MBA from DCU, MSc in Leadership & Change Management, a BA in Local and Community Development from Maynooth University and a Certificate in Training & Development.

 

Connect with Sinead on LinkedIn >>>

Connect with L&DI on LinkedIn >>>

 

 

Justin Kinnear – HPC

Justin is Head of Research at HPC and is at the forefront of creating blended content that is relevant, impactful and in line with the current needs of individuals and teams. Justin undertakes external research and analysis for leading L&D bodies and works in collaboration with our clients to evaluate the impact of HPC’s solutions within their organisations.

 

His passion for people development and his ability to inspire makes him a key member of HPC’s facilitation and coaching teams. His work with HPC focuses on the development of a high performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback.

 

As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic.

 

justin.kinnear@wearehpc.com

Connect with Justin on LinkedIn >>>

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David Storrs reflects on the key themes from his attendance at this year’s hugely insightful ATD Conference in San Diego.

 

Each year ATD boasts an impressive range of presentations, workshops and panels with the promise that the event is the best place for learning professionals to “reconnect, recharge, learn, and network”.

 

For many, the biggest draw was the headlining keynote speaker – Adam Grant, who offered refreshing perspectives that saw the social media backchannel buzzing with live tweets and quotes from the sessions.

 

 

As business leaders, we need to get better and faster at rethinking

 

Few in the L&D or talent development field draws a crowd quite like Adam Grant and in his keynote session ‘Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know’, he certainly lived up to the hype.

 

In a wide-ranging and captivating keynote, he covered themes such as challenging upwards, accountability, rethinking and unlearning, decision-making, leadership styles, feedback and psychological safety (a key theme across the event this year).

 

Grant argued that leaders are often good at thinking but not rethinking. Rethinking requires going against conventions, challenging norms, and getting things wrong – hence for many, this can feel too uncomfortable. This is why we need to have a strong ‘challenge network’ when seeking feedback on performance or decisions. These people are unafraid to provide constructive honesty over endless conformance.

 

Grant proposed that we spend an hour a week thinking about the way we do things currently and using that time to identify what needs to change. In Grant’s words: “Weak leaders shoot the messengers and strong leaders promote the messengers…let’s get better and faster at rethinking.”

 

AI can enhance what we do in learning, but we must use it with caution

 

Having climbed an impressive twelve places up the rankings in Donald H Taylor’s Global Sentiment Survey, it was no surprise to see generative AI as one of the most popular themes at ATD 2023. Conversations were mainly speculative over the potential of AI and what could happen in the future – no one has the answers yet, but we know developments are happening rapidly.

 

There’s no doubt that AI will affect every aspect of L&D in future, from instructional design to learning management systems and delivery methods. Within a few years, we might expect it to impact a merging of technologies. Could AI with VR, for example, have the potential to create highly realistic, in-the-moment behaviour-based scenarios and deliver solutions at scale? We will leave the tech wizards to answer this!

 

It will be particularly interesting to see if AI makes its way into coaching. One presenter at ATD talked about how they used both real coaches and AI versions in their coaching practice. Whilst the experience was rated equal by the coachees, there was concern about the potential of glitches with the AI version. There is also the risk that the company could lay itself open to litigation from a coachee experiencing a potentially career-derailing impact as a result of this method, which highlights how we must approach it with caution.

 

In essence, developments in AI will enable us all in many ways in the coming months. But in the near future, the step change will probably be in the domain of the large corporates who will likely develop their own versions to solve their security challenges. The truly transformational impact will undoubtedly happen for all of us in L&D. And by ATD 24 we should have a clearer idea on how this revolution will play out in our profession.

 

 

Learner engagement requires time, space and psychological safety

 

Common themes across exhibitors, presentations and conversations with attendees were the subjects of psychological safety, learning in the flow of work and learner engagement.

 

‘Build it and they will come’ simply doesn’t ring true in the context of learning and development, no matter how impressive your technology is. The delivery method won’t automatically guarantee engagement. Instead, we need to go deeper than this and consider the cultures we are creating.

 

People need to be aware of learning opportunities, understand the relevance to their daily lives and be part of a culture that makes time and space for learning. They need psychological safety to know they can ask questions, share ideas and apply learning without fearing the consequences of failure. No matter how impressive a vendor’s feature set may sound, true engagement starts with a people-first approach and a supportive culture.

 

In the context of learning in the flow of work, it will be interesting to see how AI enhances access to highly personalised learning on the job, reducing the pressure that stems from a lack of time for learning and the need for constant productivity. While AI tools will help to save time and streamline the process, we still need to be mindful that we are actually supporting the skill of self-directed learning rather than creating workforces that are highly dependent on an overwhelming number of tools.

 

And this reiterates a key message from ATD 2023: while AI has potential and the learning landscape is fast-evolving, we need to be taking into account how we can use it to enhance, rather than replace, the work we do to get the best out of our people.

 

We look forward to continuing these conversations with our clients and partners over the course of the year as we all navigate this inflection point in our industry.

 

 

David Storrs leads the HPC team as Managing Director and is a key relationship builder amongst many of HPC’s clients.

 

David is a skilled consultant, facilitator and coach who has many years of experience in the arena of leadership and management. He has a sound awareness and understanding of the specific leadership challenges that face organisations, teams and individuals. He adds valued input into the scoping, design and evaluation of key client solutions, which he oversees at a strategic level.

 

Prior to taking over HPC in 1999, David spent the early part of his career in the navy followed by a 7 year term in corporate banking with Bank of Ireland.

 

david.storrs@wearehpc.com

 

Connect with David on LinkedIn >>>

 

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Perspective and insights from the annual Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition event at ExCeL London.

 

Learning Technologies is Europe’s leading showcase of organisational learning and the technology used to support learning at work. Each year, it attracts over 9000 attendees from 50 different countries, and with 200 free seminars and exhibitors, it continues to grow year on year. It’s a key event in the calendar for learning professionals worldwide and is one of the best ways to keep up with the evolving trends in learning and development.

 

HPC Client Director, Fiona Claridge reflects on her key takeaways from the event.

 

The first thing to note is that despite ExCeL London being such a vast space, one of the first things you notice when stepping into the exhibition hall is that it’s buzzing with activity. As an event that aims to create exciting and engaging experiences, the sheer wealth of free seminars on offer creates an environment where people actively want to learn.

 

The 2022 Linkedin Workplace Learning Report highlighted the fact that busy L&D professionals spend less time learning than their HR colleagues, so this was the perfect opportunity to focus on personal development.

 

When considering new technology, put people and impact first

 

For those looking to source learning technologies for their organisation, it’s easy to see how the exhibition hall can become overwhelming – everywhere you turn, there are stands pitching a wealth of features including content creation, social learning, data analytics, talent management and, more notably this year, AI.

 

My advice to anyone heading to the exhibition next year in the hope of sourcing a learning platform is to go well-prepared. Resist the temptation to become swayed by buzzwords – a ‘learning experience platform’ or ‘digital learning ecosystem’ might sound impressive, but without consulting with your stakeholders and gaining a full understanding of the organisational goals you’re supporting, not even the most sophisticated technology can outweigh the importance of putting people and impact first.

 

Ask yourself:

 

“What challenges can I expect the learning platform to help solve?”

“What are the behaviours that I am trying to drive in my organisation?”

“What organisational goals am I supporting with L&D?”

“What are the challenges faced by my stakeholders?”

“How can learning technology support a modern, blended approach to L&D?”

 

Ask yourself honestly what’s going to change in the business after you bring in the technology and roll out the training program. What will change in terms of how you embed the learning? How will you hold people accountable?

 

Knowing what questions to ask before engaging with vendors will help you narrow your choices to those that align with your objectives around people’s performance. The key is to remember that learning technology should be seen as a tool to help you achieve success and not as a silver bullet to solve all of your L&D challenges for you.

 

Learning data is more powerful when combined with storytelling

 

One talk that particularly stood out for me combined a powerful case study with supporting data that helped support a compelling narrative of success. While your stakeholders will always want to see solid data that proves impact, just presenting hard data without context can make it hard for them to understand what’s happened.

 

This is why the data storytelling approach was so effective.

 

The session used a good structure with supporting data at each step:

 

What problems was the organisation facing before the training program?

What was needed to overcome this problem?

How was the solution implemented?

What was the impact? Are there any key results that stand out that support how positive change has happened?

 

This is a good template to follow when presenting data to stakeholders to gain L&D buy-in. It’s important to understand how you will quantify what success means and use the technology to collect the right data to measure it.

 

For example, what does the data tell you about learner engagement, impact and learning transfer? Find the story about what happened next and ask learners to share their insights of what it means for them. Get better at collaborating across the organisation to find out what you achieved as a collective. Identify what data you need, how you will collect it and how you can wrap the narrative around it.

 

A blended learning approach still needs safe space for conversation

 

In the new, hybrid world of work, it was reassuring to see vendors demonstrating their understanding of how learning should create connection.

 

Many of them had built-in features enabling learners to share learning material, engage in discussions and deliver feedback virtually. In a blended solution, this is a valuable way of ensuring that connections are not lost – the challenge of self-directed learning is isolation, so having this technology in place ensures a consistent sense of community. Some vendors also offered coaching and line manager support, so feedback could be obtained from multiple sources.

 

However, we can’t overlook the importance of creating spaces for safe and trusted conversations when using a blended approach. We still need people to feel comfortable answering key questions about their development:

 

“How does the learning impact me?”

“How will I use and apply this?”

“In what ways am I accountable for my own learning?”

 

These opportunities for people to self-reflect and understand the role of learning offer a sense of depth rather than breadth, and are a key part of fostering a strong learning culture.

 

 

When we consider that organisations with a strong learning culture boast 37% higher productivity, we can see the impact a strong and connected learning culture has on driving real organisational change. Culture relies on genuine connection.

 

 

In conclusion

 

Would I recommend attending the Learning Technologies event to other learning and people development professionals? Absolutely.

 

It’s an ideal opportunity to keep up with the latest trends in L&D, network with other learning professionals and make time for the personal development we often lack time for.

 

Conversations around AI and skills-based talent management were very much at the centre of the event this year in alignment with Donald H Taylor’s annual Global Sentiment Survey. While no one has the answers with AI yet, it’s clear that developments are moving fast and it will be interesting to see where we’ll be next year.

 

 

Fiona Claridge’s role as Client Director within HPC is to partner with organisations to shape bespoke solutions that achieve impactful results. 

 

She works in partnership with clients across a diverse range of industry sectors and offers a deep understanding of how ever-changing business needs impact how HPC’s work adds value at a strategic level.

 

Before joining HPC, Fiona gained consulting experience across many aspects of Talent Development Assessment in global Tech, Pharma and Professional Services organisations including Manpower and Aon as well as niche start-ups such as Own The Room and cut-e.

 

fiona.claridge@wearehpc.com

 

Connect with Fiona on LinkedIn >>>

 

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In a world of change and chaos, HPC’s Kevin Hannigan explores how curiosity might see us through.

 

Looking at where the world is now, it is hard not to think that it is in chaos. Unprecedented technological change, political instability, war on the borders of Europe, a global grain crisis, financial instability and climate change are now part of our daily discourse.

 

This sense of chaos is no different in the world of business where social, political and technological changes are exacerbated by post-pandemic pressures and the phenomena of the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting”.

 

How do we deal with the challenges we face and how do we find new solutions that may solve some of our current problems?  

 

In perhaps his most self-effacing quote, Albert Einstein is reported to have said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. For those of us lacking Einstein’s gifts, this quote brings great hope but also shines a light on an often under-valued trait: that of curiosity. In a chaotic world dominated by individuals loudly claiming to have answers and telling us what the future will bring, perhaps we need to celebrate the people asking questions and those intent on understanding the world a little more. Where opinion and discourse feel even more polarised than ever, surely we should be spending more time seeking alternative perspectives.

 

Listening to the scientific research, the case for curiosity is compelling:

 

Our brains are hardwired to be curious. Research from Berkley shows that we are rewarded for curiosity by dopamine, which is released in the face of a new experience. Other research shows that curiosity is associated with higher levels of positive emotions, and greater psychological well-being. It may be the case that people who are already happier tend to be more curious, but since novelty makes us feel good through the release of dopamine, it seems possible that it works both ways.

 

Curious people also seem not only to do better at work through greater enjoyment, but also to have a greater ability to concentrate. It also appears that a number of organisations take great steps to hire curious individuals and to hardwire curiosity into their practices. Companies such as Google and IDEO have designed their hiring practices to identify the curious and Pixar has developed an approach to idea generation called “plussing” that involves building on ideas without using judgmental language. Instead of rejecting a sketch, for example, a director might find a starting point by saying, “I like Woody’s eyes, and what if we…?” Someone else might jump in with another “plus”. This technique allows people to remain curious, listen actively, respect the ideas of others, and contribute their own.

 

If all this wasn’t enough, the habit and practice of curiosity also appears to strengthen our social fabric.

 

Curious people are more likely to expand their social circles and the outcome of meeting people from different backgrounds with different perspectives is, unsurprisingly, greater empathy. Todd Kashdan took his research one step further and found that people were rated as warmer and more attractive if they showed real curiosity in a social exchange. This implies that demonstrating curiosity towards someone is a great way to build your closeness with them. However, this isn’t just about building closeness for its own sake. Research from Dr Jodi Halpern has shown that when doctors are genuinely curious about their patients’ perspectives, both report less anger and frustration, make better decisions, leading to better patient outcomes.

 

In chaos theory, small differences in initial conditions can yield widely diverging outcomes rendering long-term prediction of their behaviour impossible.

 

This is the Lorenz “Butterfly Effect” where the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. In a complex, even chaotic world, we may not be able to control or even determine how a complex system evolves, but we can control the choices we make that determine the conditions the system faces. Our hardwired sense of curiosity, which has served us for millennia, may turn out to be the trait that we didn’t realise we needed for this era.

 

Kevin Hannigan leads the Learning and Talent Consulting offering and is also a Client Director at HPC. He works with clients to develop, deliver and evaluate bespoke solutions that drive performance across their business.

 

He is a highly skilled consultant and facilitator with a wealth of experience in designing the systems and processes that support effective learning, measurement and talent development.

 

Before joining HPC in 2013, Kevin was head of learning and development for Matheson, Ireland’s largest law firm and for C&C Ireland.

 

kevin.hannigan@wearehpc.com

 

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn >>>

 

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When it comes to the use of technology in L&D, what does that refer to? How broad are we speaking? And how does it impact on the ground and strategically for the ever-changing workforce?

 

The most recent virtual HPC roundtable discussion encompassed the topic of technology and its role across organisations particularly in terms of development. Described according to a number of capacities and settling on the fact that it can have a plethora of interpretations, the talk was seamlessly facilitated by HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear to encourage a broad discussion. Justin prompted the raising of points pertaining to both the endless progress and ongoing challenges associated with implementing and adapting to different technologies.

 

 

Speakers Pauline Rebourgeon (Head of Learning Technology and Innovation, Ericsson) and Alan Reilly (Head of Talent Development, Version 1) offered varied insight and raised discussion with attendees through ongoing interaction including Q&A and breakout rooms. A panel of HR and Learning & Development professionals brought their own experiences of technology adoption with prompts from Justin, throughout.

 

 

Meeting needs for businesses and learners

 

Learning needs and environments are changing. This has brought forward challenges of bridging the gap.

 

Meeting the needs of the business and the learner have meant that there’s a new stepping up to happen. There has been an increased necessity to reassess and readapt and this is set to be ongoing. Businesses are increasingly holding L&D accountable for skill development. As a result, L&D Leaders are agilely straddling expectations. Learners are asserting themselves for flexibility and require ongoing change.

 

Hybrid working patterns have changed the social context of work and so, learning must be integrated seamlessly into online work. Learning must go where people live and meet them there. Meanwhile, there’s the balance of seeking human connection and finding new ways to stay motivated just as attention spans are shortening.

 

Experiments with different technologies

 

Start small, narrowly focus, experiment and don’t over-engineer it. These were the key factors to consider when the topic of facing challenges and implementing new technologies were up for discussion. A digital roadmap that incorporates various technologies was a common theme. Using a data-centric approach to drive adoption of those technologies is the factor that will increase the likelihood of acceptance by the business.

 

The changes that have come to the forefront have impacted the acceleration of flexible learning and creative modalities. The use of virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence have been main areas of testing by Pauline. Highlighting the significance of innovation, she highlighted that ‘we’ll never have it fully figured out’ thus encouraging the importance of trying and testing.

 

Career development and a system that enables the visibility and progression of individuals across the company has been a focus and success, according to Alan. Allowing individuals to have visibility over career paths means enabling them to map where they’re going and move out of silos.

 

Such experimenting with roadmaps has had a positive impact on global learning. As a result of COVID and the Pandemic, a virtual classroom became the norm. This change has led to ‘the breakdown of barriers and borders’. In companies with people from all over the world, this has enabled varied international learning. Where before, it was not always viable to bring them over here to Ireland, this has been a solution, according to Alan.

 

Working towards solutions

 

So, in what ways can these needs be met? And where are they needed most?

 

Onboarding in an organisation has a huge impact on retention and is a common discussion topic amongst professionals. By having a strong onboarding process, staff can build habits that support their confidence in the role and organisation. It gives them a strong sense of belonging and likelihood of staying. Being innovative in general and coming up with ways of making key decisions for the onboarding process is pivotal.

 

 

Another way of positively impacting retention is via career development pathing. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees surveyed said they would stay at a job longer if they were offered pathways for career development. This showed to be relevant in 2022 as it was raised in breakout rooms and in the wider group citing it as front of mind for L&D.

 

Key takeaways

 

When prompted for words that come to mind when connecting to the term ‘learning technologies’’, a broad range was used in the discussion. It is a topic that can envelop a mixture of tactics, strategy and is endlessly dynamic. Persistently revisiting, assessing needs from various angles and adapting are consistent themes in organisations. As for the role of technology in driving this forward? It’s an opportunity to experiment, understand and continue to revisit best practices. As the workplace changes, so too will the role of technology and how it can be utilised to best serve learning needs.

 

This discussion was part of our HPC Talks series – a small quarterly forum to discuss topics and issues relevant to the world of L&D. If you would like to be kept informed of future events, please contact fiona.claridge@wearehpc.com

 

 

HPC Talks Contributors

 

Pauline Rebourgeon

 

Pauline is Head of Learning Technology & Innovation at Ericsson, where she has been conducting experiments into using extended realities within the organisation. With more than 10 years of experience in the learning industry, she’s passionate about developing innovative and effective learning experiences. Prior to her role at Ericsson, she held L&D roles in Primark, Indeed.com and Novartis.

 

Connect with Pauline on LinkedIn >>>

 

 

Alan Reilly

 

Alan Reilly is a Head of Talent Development with 25+ years’ experience working within the IT Consultancy sector and Global Financial Services industry. His remit spans the areas of Talent Development, Early Careers, Organisational & Leadership Development, Succession Planning, Culture & Engagement, Performance Management, Human Resources and Talent Acquisition.

 

At the time of our event, Alan was Head of Talent Development at Version 1 and was leveraging collective intelligence technology to support the skills gap and development of the organisation’s technical workforce. He is now Learning & Development Manager at Mercury Engineering.

 

Connect with Alan on LinkedIn >>>

 

Justin Kinnear – HPC

 

Justin Kinnear is Head of Research at HPC. His passion for people development and his ability to inspire makes him a key member of HPC’s facilitation and coaching teams.

 

As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic. His work with HPC focuses on the development of a high performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback.

 

justin.kinnear@wearehpc.com

Connect with Justin on LinkedIn >>>

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

HPC, in collaboration with Aon, has produced a research report that offers key insights into the challenges facing employers who want to nurture early careers talent within their organisation.

 

 

We surveyed large companies from more than 15 industries that together employ approximately 150,000 people across Ireland and hire more than 1,500 university graduates each year. In the report, we highlight six key takeaways and provide four key recommendations to organisations to improve early career programmes that take into account future talent strategy goals.

 

 

The survey reveals that close to half of all organisations (44%) see retention as the most critical challenge facing their Early Careers Programmes. This is the primary challenge facing employers for several reasons, including competition from larger organisations; salary expectations; a lack of career paths; a desire for graduates to travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and an unwillingness for some graduates to move internationally to progress professionally.

 

Commenting on the results of the survey, Siobhan Kelly, Director of Human Capital Solutions, Aon Ireland, said: “Early Careers individuals, when properly supported and nurtured, can serve as the building blocks of a next generational workforce. Our experience, knowledge and data tell us that while pay continues to be a key differentiator in retaining early careers talent, it is no longer enough.

 

To stand out from competitors in the context of full employment and ever-increasing uncertainty, employers need to first gain a clear understanding of why people are joining their organisation. This includes spending time on understanding and being clear on your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). A strong EVP is a key driver of candidate attraction and employee engagement, which in turn drives retention.”

 

Importance and Purpose of Early Careers Programmes – Amidst a dynamic market for talent, it is clear that Early Career Programmes are increasingly being viewed as vital to an organisation. When asked how important these programmes are to an organisation’s talent strategy, 30% of respondents rated it as highly important, with a further 50% rating it as important – a total of 80%.

 

Need for Change – Despite the challenges faced by organisations in hiring and retaining early career talent, the report also reveals that most organisations have yet to embrace the need for change over the coming two years. While 18 percent of organisations are seriously considering change, more than 50 percent of leaders have said they are equivocal about the need to change.

 

HPC’s Head of Talent Consulting, Kevin Hannigan said: “This report offers key insights into the types of challenges facing employers looking to nurture early careers talent within their organisation. With retention the top issue for employers today, it’s clear that business and HR leaders need to re-assess how they present their organisation and ensure that early career talent has a consistent experience at all stages of their Early Career Programmes. With development offerings, programme structure and salary all known to be important to early career professionals, transparency around these elements will help to ensure that candidates do not rethink their decision at offer stage, or even after joining, all of which would impact retention.

 

“As the world of work changes, it has never been more important for companies to reassess their Early Career Programmes. Given the challenges that organisations are facing in retaining early careers talent and the critical importance of these programmes to their organisation’s talent strategy, it’s surprising that half of the organisations surveyed are equivocal about the need to change. By ensuring their offering is fit for purpose, employers can help first-time employees to thrive in this new world of work and forge their careers in an environment dominated by hybrid working.”

 

HPC & AON Contributors

 

Kevin Hannigan – HPC

Kevin Hannigan leads the Learning and Talent Consulting offering and is also a Client Director at HPC. He works with clients to develop, deliver and evaluate bespoke solutions that drive performance across their business.

 

He is a highly skilled consultant and facilitator with a wealth of experience in designing the systems and processes that support effective learning, measurement and talent development.

 

Before joining HPC in 2013, Kevin was head of learning and development for Matheson, Ireland’s largest law firm and for C&C Ireland.

 

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn >>>

 

Follow HPC on LinkedIn >>>

 

 

Siobhan Kelly – Aon

Siobhan Kelly is the Managing Director of Human Capital Solutions, Aon Ireland.

 

Aon plc (NYSE: AON) exists to shape decisions for the better — to protect and enrich the lives of people around the world. Our colleagues provide our clients in over 120 countries with advice and solutions that give them the clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business.

 

Connect with Siobhan on LinkedIn >>>

 

Follow AON on LinkedIn >>>

Evolving with the times: learning and development for a world of flux. This was the focus of a Sunday Times Article on 6 November 2022, ahead of HPC’s sponsorship of the IITD Annual Conference.

 

According to a Fortune/Deloitte survey conducted earlier this year, inflation ranked number one as the most significant concern set to disrupt business strategies in the coming year. Employee skills shortages take second place in the survey, an issue that the Learning and Development (L&D) sector is striving to resolve and will be a prominent focus of the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD) annual conference.

 

The conference, which takes place on November 16th at Croke Park, Dublin, is the IITD’s first in-person conference since 2019.

 

Businesses need to do more than survive; they must thrive. To do this, companies must adapt continuously and often rapidly due to the ever-changing customer needs and demands.

 

Meeting the demands of rapid change puts immense pressure on organisations and talent. They need to have agile recruitment strategies and must retain, develop, and deploy talent.

 

 

At the heart of L&D is the development of employee skills and identifying which skills will be needed in the future, giving leaders the tools to ensure business success and continuity.

 

In response to these uncertain times, the IITD’s focus this year is on progressing and developing despite the obvious hurdles. Their theme is Reimagining Learning in the New World of Work: CURIOSITY, CHAOS & CONNECTION.

 

The skills debate will be just one of the issues raised by the conference, which will also examine how L&D professionals can innovate, lead, and transform the work landscape around uncertainty. It will also look at the potential challenges facing the business sector.

 

The IITD will host over 300 delegates from all Irish business sectors and include talks by Professor David Collings and Dr John McMackin. There will be two keynote speakers. Marianne Roux will speak on the importance of leading people with purpose, while author Simon Brown will focus on the role of curiosity in navigating some of today’s tensions and pressures.

 

Two panel discussions will feature Brid Horan, chancellor at DCU, independent chair and non-executive Director, and Brian Murphy, senior director, employee skilling, Microsoft.

 

Later, Brid Horan, Brian Murphy, and Claire Doody, founder and principal consultant of Work in Motion, will further develop the topics raised in the programme. Claire Doody will also discuss the significant challenges and opportunities facing L&D, especially in a world changing at an accelerated pace. Lily Collison will speak about the book she co-authored with Kara Buckley, Pure Grit, which focuses on the potential within people who live with a disability.

 

People add value to business through skills, decisions, relationships, and behaviour. This value can be hugely positive if the correct approach is taken. L&D needs to be able to capture, measure and communicate the importance of value in a way that is easily understood and absorbed. Done successfully, it will enable organisations to share good, bad, and indifferent practices which will help companies progress.

 

Leadership, innovation, talent, learning, and management quality are vital, but these human elements of business are difficult to measure. These intangible qualities are more than essential, they are the essence of any organisation, yet people have yet to be able to quantify the value of human input.

 

Stuart Woollard, the co-founder of The Maturity Institute and conference panellist, says that trying to place a financial worth on humans is problematic, but how, then, do you put a value on it?

 

 

Sinéad Heneghan, Chief Executive of the IITD, says that in ambiguous times, it is vital to ensure that organisations become more human-centred. For this to be successful, companies need leaders and managers who are comfortable with the vulnerability that comes with uncertainty. Achieving this, she says, is not straightforward but leaders can help create environments to ease people’s apprehension.

 

“People are looking for certainty around working models, but we are in a state of flux, and leaders cannot give that clarity, however, we can still support people. Organisations are becoming more agile in their thinking. While this doesn’t give certainty, it does show a commitment to people’s values and an awareness of the factors which influence decision making. Greater understanding by companies mitigates uncertainty to a certain extent.”

 

Kevin Hannigan, head of talent consulting at HPC, this year’s IITD conference sponsor, says that as a profession, the L&D community has taken advantage of the hurdles in the last couple of years by going online. However, he says that being together in the same room creates a level of connection which fosters conversations and provides a space for people to share information and ideas.

 

“The conference allows us to come together and take stock. There is so much happening; we have new buzzwords, new theories, changing technologies, and new thought processes. We are the people in the organisation who need to have the ability to be able to stop and pause and ask the right questions. As professionals, we equally need to take stock of where we are in understanding how the future is unfolding for us.”

 

“We are the ones who will preach continuous development, but equally, we need to ensure that we are developing. Sometimes that is just around coming together, stopping, pausing, and understanding what is happening. In a chaotic world dominated by individuals loudly claiming to have answers and telling us what the future will bring, perhaps we need to celebrate the people asking questions and those intent on understanding the world a little more.”

 

“There is no single answer or solution to problems, things are changing so fast, and we must constantly readjust and re-evaluate. We cannot wait until some point in the future to say we will have the opportunity to look back. As a community, we need to be continually readjusting to see how we are approaching problems, how we are approaching challenges, adapt as we go along and be able to learn from each other.”

 

HPC & IITD Contributors

 

Sinéad Heneghan – IITD

As CEO of the IITD, Sinéad leads the Institute’s strategic development work and oversees research and engagement with members. This informs the ongoing development of the member offer and continuous professional development opportunities for practitioners.

 

She has vast experience with Individuals, Corporates, Further and Higher Education Providers and State Agencies and has represented the industry in an influencing and Advocacy role for many years.

 

She holds an MBA from DCU, MSc in Leadership & Change Management, a BA in Local and Community Development from Maynooth University and a Certificate in Training & Development.

 

Connect with Sinead on LinkedIn >>>

 

Connect with IITD on LinkedIn >>>

 

Kevin Hannigan – HPC

Kevin Hannigan leads the Learning and Talent Consulting offering and is also a Client Director at HPC. He works with clients to develop, deliver and evaluate bespoke solutions that drive performance across their business.

 

He is a highly skilled consultant and facilitator with a wealth of experience in designing the systems and processes that support effective learning, measurement and talent development.

 

Before joining HPC in 2013, Kevin was head of learning and development for Matheson, Ireland’s largest law firm and for C&C Ireland.

 

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn >>>

 

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

The importance of team culture and dynamics and why they should be at the heart of any leader’s outlook on employee wellbeing.

 

Meeting free days, click send later, walking meetings and a host of other thought-provoking ideas that support team culture and promote wellness were up for discussion among L&D leaders, who attended a recent HPC virtual roundtable discussion as part of the HPC Talks series.

 

Even before COVID-19, wellbeing was becoming a greater priority for many organisations knowing that it has a profound effect on both individual and organisational performance. While the pandemic may have catalysed the focus on workplace wellbeing, it is leaders who are paving the way to ensure that it becomes an integral pillar within their organisational culture. Embedding practices and initiatives into the overall business strategy and ensuring they are played out daily, will have the greatest impact on employee wellbeing.

 

The session was led by HPC’s Fiona Claridge and Fergal O’Connor, who invited valued opinions from guest contributor, Sarah Healy, Global Director for L&D at Mastercard. Adding strength to her L&D role, Sarah is an MSc level Psychological Coach and a Team Culture and Dynamics specialist. Fergal is a senior facilitator within HPC’s leadership development team, working with organisations to instil behavioural change. He is also an ultra-marathon runner and therefore is no stranger to the idea of promoting wellness.

 

Within the session, L&D leaders were eager to facilitate debate around topics such as leveraging social connections to support overall wellbeing; habits that employers can demonstrate to employees to lead by example; and fostering better team dynamics.

 

Fine tuning the focus

 

Until recently, gym membership or a yoga class at lunchtime was as far as employee wellbeing programmes went for many companies. But as many leaders are now realising, it’s about much more than that and wellbeing is supported at senior level across many organisations. In order to retain employees, and to ensure they are happy in their jobs, you need to make them feel safe, included, needed. So how can leaders tap into and achieve that?

 

“We end up spending 90,000 hours of our life in work and the experience we have with our teams makes up the majority of our work experience,” Sarah pointed out. Therefore, leaders must ensure that the team dynamic is strong enough to support the individuals within that team.

 

“Does the team have clarity of purpose? Are leaders giving autonomy or micromanaging? Is psychological safety considered? This means how safe the team feels – are they safe to contribute, to admit mistakes or challenge something?” Sarah said. In allowing this, it will increase productivity, creativity and create less stress, which in a way will have a more positive impact than that one-hour yoga class.

 

 

Striking the right habits

 

One of the most effective ways a leader can address wellbeing is through their personal habits. If an employer is seen to be working at 6am or 10pm, employees may feel they should follow suit – particularly young employees who are trying to create a good impression.

 

A good habit some leaders have is around using ‘click send later’ if they have written an email to employees after 5pm. Getting an email from the boss, no matter how good a relationship you have with them, often creates a stress response. Sarah says that hitting ‘click send later’ creates a culture of care and wellbeing and lets the employee know they don’t have to respond till the next morning.

 

Sarah suggests, “Talk to your team about what works for them – standing/walking/video free meetings, taking regular breaks or quirky new things. You need to role model self-care, and if you’re not switching off in the evening, people follow your actions not your words.”

 

No meeting days were also discussed but leaders should be careful when considering what constitutes stress reduction. Sometimes no meeting days can cause more stress if the team needs to work together on a deliverable.

 

It’s about building the skills within leaders to help them create a good dynamic for the group of people that report directly to them and then customising this to what works best for their team. Highlight the importance of the leader’s role in both their own wellbeing and that of their team. Creating a leadership circle to explore ideas, gain buy-in and ensure accountability can ensure that wellbeing initiatives and behaviours gain momentum.

 

The importance of culture

 

Employee wellbeing has expanded beyond physical wellbeing that includes exercise, sleep, overall lifestyle, and nutrition. The focus is now on building a holistic culture of wellbeing at the heart of the organisation, which is critical to relationship building, developing workplace resilience and high performing teams.

 

Future Workplace has identified seven pillars of employee wellbeing to guide leaders as they prioritise their wellbeing strategies. These seven pillars include physical, emotional, financial, social, career, community, and purpose. At the heart of this is the growing need for flexibility in where, when, and how employees work.

 

Within this wider organisational culture, leaders should ensure that team dynamics are aligned and that the team is operating in an environment where there’s clarity, autonomy and safety.

 

The Role of the Leader

 

“All the initiatives in the world won’t make a difference if an individual’s manager doesn’t show care about employee wellbeing. Saying they care is common, but this is very different from showing care through daily actions and behaviours,” Sarah stressed.

 

The employee/manager relationship is a critical driver of an impactful employee experience, which unlocks potential, performance, and impact. It is the bedrock for instilling belonging, wellbeing, inclusion, trust, culture, and contribution. Gallup research states that managers are responsible for at least 70% of the variance in their employees’ engagement. Sometimes leaders don’t realise they’re having that big an impact on employees.

 

Find out regularly what your team’s needs are. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to check in on work commitments, but also to reach out to check in on how they are doing personally. This makes employees feel like they’re being cared for and valued.

 

Sarah discussed a fascinating sleep study carried out by WHOOP that looked at the impact a leader’s lack of sleep had on their team meeting the next day. The research was done with teams that were high performing – employees felt safe with that leader – but when the leader was sleep deprived, the psychological safety scores dropped. Just think about negative impact that lack of sleep is having on the wellbeing of teams where the leader doesn’t know about psychological safety in the first place.

 

IBEC’s research states that 74% of HR professionals expect an increased focus on management skills in managing employee mental wellbeing over the next 2 to 3 years. Sarah echoed this when she said that “when leaders know how to create and foster high performing team cultures based on individual needs and culture, that’s when you’ll have the biggest impact on wellbeing.”

 

The importance of social connections

 

The group recognised that social connections are hugely important, and team building events off site are vital. Also discussed was new research around how you can bring a group of people together to solve wellbeing challenges as a collective through ‘relational pauses.’ Before jumping into a group project, spend 5-10 minutes every 3-4 weeks briefly checking in with your team – how you are finding the work you’re doing? Are meetings productive? Are there enough break times? Are we actively listening to each other? What impact are we having? What should we do more of? The group then takes on a collective role of addressing individual problems in a caring and collaborative way.

 

“In one of my favourite studies, researchers measured individual perception of climbing a mountain when alone or with one other person. When alone, the mountain felt higher and more challenging. In terms of wellbeing at work, we need to make it collective focus vs an individual one. it’s about framing it as ‘we’re all in it together’ and “lets come up with the solutions together,” Sarah says.

 

It’s also about asking people what they want, what will be meaningful for them. There is no one size fits all when trying to diagnose what wellbeing is; it is different for different demographics and ages. It’s also important to build on opportunities for people to meet and collaborate cross departmentally as well as in their own team.

 

Hybrid is here to stay, the discussion group felt, therefore when asking people to come to an office, it’s about making it meaningful, offering a sense of belonging, and there is a responsibility on leadership to create that sense of meaning. If staying remote, leaders must be cognisant of onboarding new employees and how to do that successfully in a remote setting.

 

Getting creative

 

Fergal asked the question “how can traditional institutes apply principles of creativity?” One L&D Director said that from an innovation standpoint it’s good to break the long-standing thought processes – to view problems in a different way, even in very rigid settings. By doing so in a social group, it invites diversity of thought and sharing ideas and resources.

 

Another company uses Mount Everest as a metaphor for building the company and working towards ‘Camp 2’, having taken five years to complete ‘Camp 1’. The metaphor of the climb has underpinned everything they have done. Some people aren’t into climbing but they were given the opportunity to align or not. “Clear leadership creates higher purpose, and it means you are on the trek together, which also ties into the social piece,” Sarah acknowledged.

 

Takeaways

 

The roundtable discussion ended with several key takeaways including the importance of team engagement, particularly when remote working and to improve the overall dynamics within that team through good leadership. Positive habits, understanding employee needs, role modelling, internal initiatives and personal gestures – all done consistently over time foster positive wellbeing and contribute to superior team performance.

 

As one participant pointed out, “we are wired for meaning, and as leaders we should be tying the workday into our larger meaning and purpose.”

 

 

This discussion was part of our HPC Talks series – a small quarterly forum to discuss topics and issues relevant to the world of L&D. If you would like to be kept informed of future events, please contact fiona.claridge@wearehpc.com

 

 

HPC Talks Contributors

 

Sarah Healy – Mastercard

 

Sarah is a global leader in Learning & Organisational Capability, specialising in Leadership Development & Talent Management. Prior to her recent appointment as Global Director of L&D at Mastercard, she worked in Facebook, Optus, Australia and Deloitte.

 

She is an MSc level Psychological Coach and a Team Culture and Dynamics specialist. Leveraging neuroscience for team performance and impact, she supports individuals and teams to build and prioritise workplace wellbeing. She is also a Positive Psychology Practitioner (MAPP) and has implemented highly effective resilience, psychological safety, and strengths-based interventions within corporate teams. She is currently completing a second MSc in Performance Psychology with a research focus on “Building Psychological Resilience & Mental Toughness to Enhance Performance”.

 

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn >>>

 

Fergal O’Connor – HPC

 

Fergal is an experienced facilitator and executive coach and has been a member of HPC’s leadership and management development team since 2006.Fergal’s work with HPC focuses on the development of a high-performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback. He has an energetic, engaging style that combines appropriate levels of challenge and support.

 

Fergal has over 17 years’ experience working in middle and senior management positions in American multinational corporations and Irish indigenous companies such as: Dell Computers, Seagate Technologies, Western Digital Corp. and Fitzgerald Packaging Ltd. During this time, he had responsibility for developing his people through effective and regular performance reviews and coaching.

 

In 2004, Fergal moved into training and coaching and uses his commercial skills and experience to complement the programmes he delivers. He delivers management training programmes, facilitates team effectiveness sessions and provides a range of specialist people development solutions to a wide range of HPC clients across Ireland and beyond.

 

Connect with Fergal on LinkedIn >>>

 

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

 

Fiona Claridge – HPC

 

Fiona’s role as Client Director within HPC is to partner with organisations to shape bespoke people development solutions that achieve impactful results. She works in partnership with clients across a diverse range of industry sectors and offers a deep understanding of how ever-changing business needs impact how HPC’s work adds value at a strategic level.

 

HPC has been designing and delivering people development solutions for 40 years, partnering with clients to create a high-performance culture that has a positive impact on business growth and personal development.

 

Connect with Fiona on LinkedIn >>>

 

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

Ahead of a fast-changing future, leaders need to bring their teams back together – with purpose, energy and through fostering a sense of belonging.

 

Through his work of helping organisations achieve this, HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear explores some of the ways in which leaders can personally reconnect with their team and how they are engaging HPC to instil wider team connectivity.

 

For more than two years, teams of all kinds have experienced change. For some, change meant having to work apart for prolonged periods, while for others it meant having to dramatically change work practices to avoid becoming sick. No team was untouched by the pandemic.

 

Having to suddenly work apart was initially perceived as a challenge, but for many it quickly became an opportunity. Suddenly, parents could be at home for breakfast or dinner with their families. Many people were now able to take daily exercise or reconnect with a hobby or friend. It is also worth noting that for many people, their experience of prolonged remote working was non-voluntary.

 

Silent and subtle damage

 

The longer that working apart remained the norm, the more we realised that it was doing some silent and subtle damage to the fabric of teams. While personal productivity for some was still high and holding, others were suffering from a lack of human connection. While this might be waved away as extraverted neediness, the genuine feelings of isolation, existential boredom, and stagnation were real for a great many workers.

 

At the team level, while technology has helped to keep us talking and connected, real connections between teams and beyond our teams have weakened dramatically. We know these connections are valuable because they keep us informed about the bigger picture and fuel serendipitous opportunities. We also know they are not replicable via video.

 

If we genuinely mean to embrace hybrid working – where some team members work mostly in the office while others work mostly at home – we can’t ignore the need to rebuild lost interpersonal connections and create new connections. The success of our industries depends on it.

 

 

 

Personal impact

 

The extended nature of the pandemic has given us time to develop a picture of how remote working, in particular, has affected team members in a range of settings. Work by Andrea Alexander and her colleagues at McKinsey noted that remote working had raised levels of burnout and anxiety, which was directly threatening long-term individual productivity. They also indicated that elevated anxiety was negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. Research by William Becker, Professor of Management at the Pamplin College of Business, highlights that many people working remotely have experienced loneliness and a lack of belonging. They suggest that organisations need to make a concerted effort to rebuild a sense of belonging and connection.

 

For many leaders, a fall in COVID cases in early 2022 felt like a chance to draw breath after a torrid and demanding period. Stepping back from countless check-in calls with individual staff, some leaders allowed a gap to open up in what was a very predictable drumbeat of conversation with their team members. For some team members, the sudden decreased availability of the leader felt like “ghosting”. This only served to add to the anxiety and feeling of disconnection triggered by prolonged remote working. In some teams, the only source of information about what was happening in the wider organisation was their manager. So, to suddenly feel this connection weaken added to an already elevated anxiety.

 

 

Connecting in person

 

Business Anthropologist Simon Roberts stresses the essential importance of connecting in person in a world of hybrid work. He suggests that while remote work confers many benefits, some things simply work better when we come together. In particular, he notes that the history of critical innovations features many examples of chance human encounters, a point echoed by Dr Christian Busch in his book “The Law of Serendipity”. Leaders have a pivotal responsibility to rebuild connections, relationships, and trust by bringing their team members together in person now and then. They also play a huge role in creating and supporting chance encounters between teams and strangers that often lead to valuable opportunities and discoveries.

 

 

How a leader can bring a team back together

 

If you’re a leader, your words and actions will shape the post-pandemic culture of your team. Start thinking about opportunities to bring your team together in person and consider some of these actions.

 

Share your vision and the next few steps. Everyone in the team knows the disruption caused by the pandemic. They all want and need to know what the new plan is, where you will lead them, and why that’s the destination. That vision might be some years away, so you should also share the first few steps that the team should take for the next 3-6 months. That will provide a balance between distant/intangible and near/tangible. It’s worth admitting that the vision and the steps to achieve it will almost certainly be adapted to accommodate issues and challenges that are encountered along the way.

 

Revisit psychological safety with your team. Working apart for a prolonged period has weakened relationships, trust, and our ability to ‘read’ each other when we interact in person. Rebuilding psychological safety will make it possible to get things out into the open, to hear one another, admit weaknesses and failings, and see that the leader needs everyone to play their part in making the team a success.

 

Don’t stop caring, keep checking in. It might feel like things are back to some form of normality, but the likelihood is that everything has changed and won’t be “going back to normal”. Throughout the pandemic, most leaders outdid themselves with the care shown for their team members. Regular check-in calls, flexible arrangements, and a desire to support each person according to their circumstances were hallmark behaviours of a golden period in people management. There’s no good reason to stop now. Keep checking in, keep showing you care, and keep supporting people as individuals.

 

Make time to meet in person with individuals. We live in an era of crisis right now, with problems almost everywhere. It can be difficult to know how individuals are coping with all the uncertainty and negativity. You may get a good sense of how they are doing on the phone or Zoom, but your greatest opportunities will come in face-to-face meetings with each team member. Make time to talk, or more critically, to listen. Find out what they think, how they feel, what they are worried about, and how you can help. Humans can’t suffer in silence indefinitely, and one of your key responsibilities is to know who needs your help.

 

Provide certainty, honesty, and fairness. If you are satisfied with how team members are performing, then tell them so. If you’re not satisfied, do the same. In uncertain times you will stand out as a beacon of certainty if you are willing to be honest and direct with your team. If an individual is not doing well, chances are they already know it and are waiting for you to confirm it. Don’t sugar-coat important messages, don’t shield people from the truth, and don’t avoid tackling problems. Be direct, be honest, and be fair with every member of the team.

 

Build them back up. It has been a tough two years for everyone, and it’s not surprising that people feel tired, disengaged, and low on motivation. Don’t forget to use coaching as a tool to encourage others to seize control of their challenges and empower themselves into action. Talk to team members about their development aims. Do they want to learn something new, or try their hand in a new area?

 

Re-evaluate what each person is now motivated by. Is it different to what motivated them before the pandemic? For many people, this is indeed the case. Remember to recognise people for great results and also for a great effort. As people start to reconnect, things won’t always be perfect but don’t miss a chance to recognise a good effort to do the right thing in the right way. Of course, one of the best ways to re-energise is to take a break, take some time off from work, and get some rest. Many sources suggest longer working days over the past 2 years. So, encourage your staff to stop, switch off, and come back rested and rejuvenated. You may need to lead by example here.

 

Commit to continuously improving practices. Nobody knows the right way to lead after a pandemic. Nobody has the winning formula for how to balance working in the office with working from home. We’re all learning as we go, and this will likely be the case for many more months. Teams that have adapted well to the uncertain conditions have adopted a try/review/tune approach to their working practices. This model allows the team to trial an improvement for a fixed period, review it at an agreed date, and then make further adjustments for a new fixed period. A team that can continuously learn and improve in times like these will surely be well prepared for whatever comes next. Encourage experimentation, learning, and the appropriate embrace of failure as we strive to do better and better as a team.

 

 

Reconnection events

 

Organisations are bringing their teams back together in different circumstances. In some cases, entire teams have not met since the pandemic began. In other cases, teams have not met in person for almost 8 years. Some teams have new members who have never had the chance to build an initial relationship. Organisations and leaders are paving the way to recreate a working model that is inclusive and rewarding.

 

As well as this, HPC is witnessing an organisational need to create more focused reconnection events – to welcome their team members back, rebuild existing relationships and create connections with new colleagues. We are helping organisations to figure out the best use of this “together time”, which gives leaders a chance to reconnect with team members, set out the vision for the team and decide which messages are most vital for employees to hear. We’re also leading team effectiveness sessions with teams that want to examine the practices that have emerged during the pandemic, tune them for the challenges ahead, and recommit to one another about ways of working and new standards. Finally, we’re also helping organisations through coaching teams and individuals, as they reflect on their recent experiences through the pandemic and explore the future paths that they want to follow.

 

 

If you’d like to discuss how HPC could help as you transition and reenergise your team, we’d be happy to share our experience, insights and approach with you at any stage. Please contact fiona.claridge@wearehpc.com

 

 

Justin Kinnear is Head of Research at HPC. His passion for people development and his ability to inspire makes him a key member of HPC’s facilitation and coaching teams.

 

As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic.

 

His work with HPC focuses on the development of a high performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback.

 

justin.kinnear@wearehpc.com

Connect with Justin on LinkedIn >>>

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

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