HPC has been nominated for two prestigious awards at this year’s Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) Learning Awards for its work with ESB, the largest generator and supplier of electricity in Ireland.


The LPI Learning Awards are the learning sector’s annual celebration of outstanding achievement, best practice and excellence in corporate learning and performance. HPC has been shortlisted as finalists in the ‘People Development Programme of the Year (Private Sector)’ and ‘Learning Impact’ categories.


According to the LPI, “the shortlisted finalists have been selected due to their demonstration of innovation, exceptional performance and contribution to the learning profession.”


Amidst the challenges posed by climate change, Brexit and energy security, ESB developed its ‘Brighter Future Strategy’ that sets a path to a low-carbon future while ensuring business growth and the financial strength to invest at scale. Both awards are recognition of ‘Leaders for a Brighter Future (LBF)’, a development programme designed by HPC in conjunction with ESB that is linked to the rollout and success of this strategy.


David Storrs, Managing Director at HPC, recognises the power of the nominations:


“This is a tremendous recognition of the partnership we have established with the team at ESB, the strength of ESB’s commitment to L&D and the positive impact our work has had across the organisation.”


People Development Programme of the Year (Private Sector) Award


This award is for the design and implementation of a proactive, large-scale People Development Programme. The LPI judging panel looks for “clear differentiation, evidence of innovation, effective needs analysis and verification, learner and sponsor support, client satisfaction and a sustained organisational impact on the overall performance of the staff within the enterprise.”


Following a highly successful programme to the top 200 leaders in ESB, HPC partnered with ESB to bring the Brighter Future Strategy to life for 575 middle managers. The focus of the programme was the enablement of a high-performance culture that supports innovation and collaboration. The outcome was measurable behavioural change and increased engagement between teams.


Patricia Nolan, Learning & Development Delivery Manager at ESB notes the scale and the sustained impact of this programme:


“Working in collaboration with HPC, the programme was successfully designed and delivered to support 575 of our managers to lead and demonstrate the behaviours aligned to build high performance with their teams and enable the delivery of our company strategy into the future.”


Learning Impact Award


Finalists for this award had to provide the judging panel with strong evidence of “how the learning evaluation strategy measured the positive impact to the business goals of the enterprise.”


ESB’s LBF programme was focused on raising confidence and performance, empowering people leaders to deliver ESB’s Brighter Future Strategy. Specifically, participants were tasked with clarifying performance expectations and enabling the behaviours that drive collaboration and higher performance.


ESB required robust evidence of programme impact along with sustainable individual and organisational change. HPC’s unique approach to evaluation, supported by their ability to demonstrate the impact and value of learning, delivered this.


Noreen Gleeson, Learning & Development Specialist at ESB explains the impact that HPC’s approach has had within their organisation:


“We worked closely with HPC on our approach to evaluate the outcome of this programme that was based on survey outputs and data analytics. This evaluation approach has given us clear evidence of improvements in manager skillsets and we can see the sustainable changes in behaviour and increased engagement with their team.”


Looking forward to the awards


HPC and ESB will attend the Awards Ceremony in London on 17th February 2022 and David Storrs sums up their relationship:


“We’ve worked with ESB for many years, and we have a strong partnership. Understanding and being immersed in their business strategy has enabled us to design, implement and evaluate L&D solutions that have paved the way for long-term change within ESB.”


The LPI’s CEO, Edmund Monk, notes that “the total number of submissions has beaten all previous years – a sure sign that the global L&D industry continues to prevail against recent challenges. I find it extremely gratifying to discover how each individual or organisation has uniquely approached workplace learning, and how they have all found new ways to drive performance within business.”


The stature and prestige of The Learning Awards is well recognised in the industry and HPC look forward to being in the company of all finalists, who are leading the way for L&D.



About The Learning and Performance Institute


Established in 1995, the LPI (Learning and Performance Institute) is a self-governing professional body for global workplace learning professionals and organisations.


A global ceremony for the learning sector, the Learning Awards recognise outstanding examples of high standards, best practice, innovation and excellence in Learning and Development across the globe. The Awards are independently judged and this year received hundreds of entries from more than 80 countries.


About HPC


HPC has been providing 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. We work with senior leadership teams, emerging leaders, frontline managers and graduates to build capability, provoke new ways of thinking and support an improved employee experience.


About ESB


Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was established in 1927 as a statutory corporation in the Republic of Ireland under the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927.


As a strong, diversified, vertically integrated utility, ESB operates right across the electricity market: from generation, through transmission and distribution to supply. In addition, ESB extracts further value at certain points along this chain: supplying gas, using our networks to carry fibre for telecommunications, developing electric vehicle public charging infrastructure and more.

HPC Client Director, Fiona Claridge shares some views in advance of HPC’s sponsorship of the Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) Masterclass, // Leading Learning in a Changed World – Wednesday 1st December 2021.


New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink and Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic – author, entrepreneur and Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and Columbia University will lead the IITD Masterclass with two keynote presentations. Fiona Claridge will join Elaine McGleenan (Director, Learning and Organisational Development at KPMG) and Aidan Lawrence (Learning and Organisation Development Director at Hewlett-Packard) to discuss the main themes of the masterclass.


In preparation for some of these themes, we caught up with Fiona for her views on the following three questions:


How has the last 20 months impacted the world of work?


This is a big question with such a broad response. We have experienced a level of change in a space of months that otherwise may have taken years, propelling us forward in terms of new concepts and approaches. I think of the phrase “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.


We digitalised overnight and changed our ways of working without lengthy discussions. Everything just happened and we all got on with it. Does that mean it was all done correctly? Probably not. In many instances we reacted to the situation we were in: remote working. We didn’t change how we organised work or what we expected from employees; it was an invasion of people’s homes!


We now have a huge opportunity as HR and L&D Professionals, and we must become much more deliberate in our approach. The last 20 months has earned us a seat at the ‘top table’ like never before and we need to take opportunity of the gains we’ve made to lead our organisations and answer fundamental questions such as: Where is our organisation going?; What capabilities are needed to get there?; “How do we push our boundaries?” and “Why are doing what we are doing?”


What do these changes mean for leaders and leadership?


Thankfully core fundamentals around leadership were already high on many agendas pre-Covid. There was a focus on terms like vulnerability, agility, stamina, human-centric, coaching and purpose-led. What the last 20 months has meant for leaders is that they need to live the ‘case study’ and learn how to implement the behaviours identified as successful within their organisation, in the real world. There was no practice run it had to be done in the here and now. The values and mission of the organisation were no longer just words on the wall; leaders had to demonstrate them in a genuine way.


How do we encourage leaders to prioritise new behaviours and new ways of working?


I attended a very interesting client event recently where senior stakeholders encouraged leaders to rollout their own team’s flexible hybrid working approach. Autonomy at its best. These leaders approached the task with an amazing amount of agility and openness as they explored a number of angles to create their new approach. Our role was to help these leaders to fully explore every other angle possible to get their hybrid working approach completely right – creative thinking to push boundaries and explore all possibilities that they may not have considered for their teams.


I firmly believe that all leaders need to be given a facilitated forum to learn from each other (successes and mistakes), share knowledge, explore new ways of thinking and continue to instil the levels of trust they’ve built up in their teams. As well as this, they need to keep reiterating the importance of focusing on collective team results and keep clearly communicating purpose.



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.

HPC’s Blended Learning Report Examines and provides insights into how the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected Learning and Development Teams and the work they do.

HPC’s Kevin Hannigan reflects on how small nudges can drive large-scale behavioural change and help produce metrics that convince senior management that L&D’s work is producing effective results.


Most L&D professionals would probably agree that it can be hard to define and illustrate the true value they bring to their organisation. While other business functions like Marketing, Manufacturing or Sales can report solid metrics and easily identifiable KPIs, people-development is more nuanced.


This creates two distinct problems for L&D professionals. Firstly, how do we convince senior management that we are creating value in the organisation so that they allocate the necessary resources to L&D? Secondly, if we can’t measure impact, how do we know which, if any, of our approaches is delivering results


Over the past few years, we have worked with our clients to pioneer new approaches to demonstrating impact. As well as supporting the business case for greater investment in L&D, this data driven approach has also allowed us to identify specific tools that accelerate the transfer of learning and drive behavioural change.


The tool that we will discuss in this article is based on Nudge Theory. Our experience is that combining Nudge Theory with our approach to design and learning transfer has increased behavioural change for our clients.


What is Nudge Theory?


Popularised by the 2008 book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’, by Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge theory proposes that the most effective ways to influence the behaviour and decision-making of groups or individuals are through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions. In this way, nudging contrasts with other ways to influence behaviour such as education, legislation or enforcement. Thaler and Sunstein put it best in their book as follows:


“To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”


Nudging in L&D


So, what might a nudge look like in L&D? Based on Thaler and Sunstein’s idea, it really could be any tool that suggests a way of behaving or performing or any way that reinforces learning.  It could be a reminder or a conversation with someone. Think of nudges as an ecosystem of reminders to help people make better choices post-training.


Nudging in Practice


Over the past two years, we have been working closely with our clients to help them assess the impact of specific leadership development programmes. For the purposes of this article, we have selected two programmes with a similar audience profile and similar organisational contexts. Both programmes were different in scope and subject matter, but at their core, both were focused on recalibrating leadership in their respective organisations. From team engagement and the deployment of coaching, to creating an accountability culture and embedding values in everyday conversations, these programmes were carefully designed to create an environment where people could perform to their potential.


A critical difference in programme design was the use of nudges. In one programme, participants received a series of nudges between programme modules and in the 3 months following the programme. These nudges were a series of prompts that reconnected participants with key concepts from the programme and prompted them to act. The second programme did not use nudges.


Findings and Insights


The results spoke volumes and showed that the practical application of behavioural science can play a crucial role in modern L&D.


On both programmes, we assessed behaviour 12 weeks after the workshops had completed and compared the results with a pre-programme benchmark.


The programme without nudges demonstrated an average shift of 68% across seven behaviours i.e. more than two thirds of participants had changed their behaviour following the completion of the programme. For the programme with nudges, the corresponding figure was an average of 90% across seven similar behaviours i.e. 9 in 10 participants had shifted their behaviour.


When we asked people about the impact of the nudges, more than 80% of participants indicated that the nudges had reminded them of key concepts from the programme and had prompted them to try new things.


Nudge Theory in your L&D programme


So, how might you start incorporating Nudge Theory into your programme design? We believe there are three initial steps you can take:


  1. Identify the critical behaviours you want to change – focus on what you want participants to do and how they will do this.
  2. Consider a basic nudge framework – nudges should be straightforward, accessible and timely. Consider how to get to learners in a simple way that prompts them to try something different.
  3. Experiment and track – ultimately, you need to try different approaches and track results. This will allow you to build your case internally for increased resources or specialist help.


We know that programmes on their own are rarely enough. To drive measurable change and organisational performance, we need a strategic approach to learning transfer. Using nudges as part of your learning architecture may just be the additional tool you need to demonstrate value to your senior stakeholders.



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.

HPC’s Justin Kinnear reflects on the importance of culture – its place in organisations, culture’s response to Covid and the part it has to play in the return to work.


First and foremost, culture is all about groups. The pandemic has totally shaken up our sense of groups, with some people losing connection with some groups entirely, and others deepening their connection with other groups. Without groups there is no culture. It’s not something that means anything on an individual level.


I like Edgar Schein’s explanation, which I will paraphrase. He describes culture as the way groups have learned to successfully solve problems over time, such that they are willing to teach these solutions to new members of the culture. Think of how office staff show a new colleague how to make the fiddly coffee machine work by deviating slightly from the instructions. This notion of culture being a teachable way that we solve problems means that when the problems are dramatically and suddenly different (the pandemic) we need to suddenly change how we solve them. Covid has already caused us, in small ways, to change our culture. How we connect, how we meet, how we collaborate and solve problems ‘virtually’ – these are all small examples of how our culture (Deal and Kennedy’s “the way we do things around here”) is changing already.


Culture is soft (unquantifiable) and lasting, meaning we don’t really like to change too much too soon. So, as we focus on the return to work / hybrid working possibility, part of our psyche is likely wondering if we can return to solving familiar problems using familiar solutions i.e. can we go back to the good old days? It’s likely that Covid has changed things far more dramatically than we imagine, and therefore some of the changed approaches to solving problems will remain as part of the newly evolved culture, even when back in the office. Leaders that reassure people that new and better ways of solving problems will be part of the new culture send a powerful message that gains will be locked in and not lost once we return to the office.


Culture is also about who we define ourselves as, whether as IBMers with long service to the organisation, as Googlers or whatever group we see as our tribe. We identify with many groupings – at a team, unit, organisational or national level. This facet of culture allows us to decide who is ‘of our culture’ and who is not. This can be helpful to create togetherness and pride in the collective effort, but it can also be limiting, excluding and divisive. Our sense of what we are part of is changing, and we see ourselves now as being part of so much more than a handful of exclusive groups or tribes. Whether we choose to or not, others will also tend to bracket us into neat categorisations, and this can also be unhelpful as they hold onto outdated ideas about who we are and what we contribute. The pandemic has shaken our sense of culture as an identifier, since we can’t be in the office, wear our “work attire”, or do all the things that set us apart from others.


Culture has historically been seen as something that is defined and role-modelled by leaders. In the past we have narrowly defined leaders as those in hierarchical positions of influence, and those peers that we tend to look up to and respect. Covid has made it harder for those leaders to reach us, and much more effort has been required to keep channels open and keep communication flowing. But it’s easy to see why, fatigue aside, leaders need to keep communicating in a pandemic. If you don’t inform them, someone else will, and they may not have the organisation’s or the employee’s best interests at heart. If you want to shape culture, keep leading by regularly communicating. Let people know you’re there, that you care, and that you’re willing to spare some time to keep them in the loop.


There are two final facets to culture that are worth mentioning when it comes to the pandemic.


Culture often shows up through the imagery and architecture of a business, the stories that are told about heroes and successes, the rituals and customs that everyone “knows” about. These things confer status, prestige, and difference and during the pandemic have lost much of their value. When we can’t see them, we don’t consider them. Employees value these facets of belonging to a culture so the leader’s challenge is to acknowledge them when they are far away, show people how they will come back in some form, and to bridge the gap if they will not be part of the future by suggesting something different and more appropriate.


The final aspect of culture to note is the importance of culture as it sustains the lifespan of a team or organisation. As we learn how to solve problems over time and lock in those learnings, we teach them and those who learn will go on to teach others. This learning and sharing approach creates and supports longevity of practice and allows a team or business to keep doing what it’s doing for an extended time. We know Covid has changed the problems, and this means new ways of solving, some of which we have yet to teach and share with colleagues. This can shake the stability of a team or business, as much appears to be suddenly unstable. Leaders have a role to play in setting out a vision of what the culture will evolve into, almost the picture of where we are now and where we hope to be in X months or years. Helping people to accept that the culture is changing, and to explain and explore why, allows people to experiment and put a tentative foot forward into the new way of doing things. We all want to know where we’re going, and that’s a vital input from the leader. Leaders may not know exactly what the end stage looks like, but they can set a path forward to cover the next year or so and allow people to start looking forward through the windscreen instead of gazing back nervously into the rear view mirror. The leader that shows that a team has a future, that we’ll need to evolve to get there, and that we know the plan for the first couple of kilometres will get their team moving forward more quickly than a leader who is waiting for all the detail to become clear before saying anything.


Culture is how we have learned to solve problems in groups. New problems need new solutions, which drives new culture. Leaders, in the broadest sense, help, encourage, support, and reinforce those attempts to find new and better solutions.


We might not be fully back in the office yet. We might be navigating the challenges of implementing a hybrid working strategy. But we can all help, support, encourage and reinforce our teams as they look for new solutions to entirely new problems during this prolonged pandemic stage.


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.




Slowing Down to Speed up – As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, sales teams cannot conduct business-as-usual. HPC’s Paul Irvine presents this as an opportunity for sales and business development teams.


While Covid has undoubtedly created new challenges, a nugget of opportunity is presenting itself to business development professionals amidst this change and upheaval. And with the right mix of client understanding alongside proven tools, you can master the hybrid approach, seize this opportunity, and maximise outcomes in highly competitive markets.


Life has changed for business development professionals in both micro and macro contexts. While the macro changes have been profound, at a micro level, the pandemic has created the space to maintain focus, stay close to customers, and cultivate relationships.


As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, sales teams cannot conduct business-as-usual. And this is where the opportunity lies. To navigate the next 12 months, clients need suppliers and business relationships they can depend on. They want to emerge from this period of uncertainty with a select group of trusted advisors and suppliers who understand their business and can flex their offering to meet the new reality that they and their organisations are facing.


Now is the time to galvanise that connection nurtured with clients and bring the business relationship to the next level, but only if you understand your client.


Through our work with business development teams in several industries, we know this opportunity exists and we believe that by addressing three key issues, sales professionals can develop their own strategy to grasp this opportunity.


1 – Understand where your client is right now


Know your client’ has always been a traditional mantra within business development, but truly knowing your client and their challenges has never been more important. Life has changed irrevocably for many clients. The pandemic has upended markets, challenged supply chains and impacted their customers.


Understanding their priorities for the coming year, the challenges they face and the potential opportunities that exist for them is key to your success. You cannot just assume that things will return to the way they were pre-pandemic.


2 – Understand the opportunities that exist


By working hard to understand the nature of Covid-induced change in industry, and the full impact on clients, you are already stacking the odds in your favour. Taking the time to slow down and understand the problems that your client faces is an act of respect to your client and an investment in your own success.


Your clients will already be starting to identify problems and they will need great partners to help them solve these problems. There may also be problems and opportunities that they have yet to consider. Your role as a Business Development professional is to leverage your insight gathered across multiple clients to identify what these unforeseen opportunities may be. Taking the time to consider these and sharing your thoughts with your client is an act of trust and faith in the relationship that will pay off over time.


3           Apply this Insight Alongside Proven Sales Tools


With a clear understanding of both how working life has changed for your client and how you can help them adjust to it, the next steps can be taken. Shift your attention to applying this insight in practical, day-to-day terms.


Effective Preparation is the foundation of any successful business development professional. With the insight you have gleaned from the first two steps above, consider how this impacts on your preparation for meetings and pitches. What questions are you asking? What insights are you sharing? Are you genuinely taking the time to understand your client or diving in, looking for the business?


Embrace Hybrid: Developing business in a hybrid world brings its own challenges but also opportunities. In some ways, it has never been easier to speak to people and hybrid can also speed up the business development process as you reserve face to face tie for what really matters.


Mindset and Positive thinking are the foundation on which to build your approach. Taking the time to understand your clients and the challenges they face requires faith in your process and the discipline to stick with it. By following this approach, you will build confidence in the knowledge that you fully understand the impact of Covid on your client and how life has changed for them. Use all your experience and knowledge to present a confident, clear proposition to your client.


Every economic forecast is predicting overall growth for the economy and there are opportunities to develop your business in the coming months. But only for those brave enough to slow down before they speed up.



Paul is HPC’s lead facilitator on sales and business development programmes. His extensive industry knowledge of the corporate world of sales and relationship management enables him to develop highly effective, bespoke solutions for HPC’s clients.


Prior to joining HPC, Paul worked for 15 years in sales, consultancy, portfolio management and new business development roles within the financial services industry


He specialises in the design, delivery, project management and evaluation of bespoke sales development programmes, working with a range of client companies across multiple sectors and distribution channels in UK, Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia.




Part Two: Who is responsible for the shift to hybrid working?


As organisations share their ‘return to office’ plans with employees, HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear asks “Who is responsible for making this hybrid arrangement work?”


In our last article on the Future of Work post Covid-19 – Part One, we explored how many organisations were anticipating the future and beginning the shift to some form of hybrid working. A true hybrid work model will combine staff working from home and staff working from an office and the number of days committed to both may vary depending on individual roles and responsibilities.


With summer 2021 upon us, many organisations are now signalling their hybrid working plans to their employees. Anecdotally, most organisations expect to start welcoming staff back into office environments from September 2021. Of course, many employees have already returned, while some never left their posts at all during the pandemic. As organisations share their RTO (return to office) plans with employees, the question remains: “Who is responsible for making this hybrid arrangement work?”


Not everyone is shifting to hybrid working


It’s tempting to think that hybrid working appeals to everyone who formerly commuted to an office job, but that’s not the case. Some employees, and perhaps more telling, some employers, have made it clear they intend to ‘go back to how things were’ as quickly as possible. Recent press coverage of some prominent professional and financial services firms suggests that they don’t see hybrid working as a viable approach for their staff. Time will tell, as it appears that among employers globally, they are in the minority view. We may also see that staff, particularly those with in-demand skillsets are able to determine their working arrangements regardless of the views of the firm.


The emerging shape of a hybrid working arrangement


What seems clear now is that most people will aim for a work arrangement where 2 to 3 days can be worked remotely, and the remainder worked at the company office. Based on our recent work with clients, our experience is that more than 75% of staff express a preference for this arrangement.  While some may elect to work more or less days at the office, the biggest determinant is likely to be the requirements of the team you work in and if you are a people leader, the team that you lead. We expect some meetings and learning activity to continue virtually, while other meetings and collaborative activity will resume in the face-to-face format either in the office or at other physical venues.


What’s not clear yet is the amount of overlapped attendance, that is, whether we expect that on certain days everyone in a team will be simultaneously present in the office. Deliberations continue about this, and it makes sense for organisations to be flexible for the first few months to figure out what works best. Many organisations are experimenting with the use of personas to determine what a hybrid working model may look like for different staff across the organisation. What is becoming clear is that a model will take some time to emerge. Deciding up-front on an attendance policy and rigidly imposing it from day one is surely a recipe for failure and acrimony. Experiment in partnership with your team, take an agile approach and let the best solution emerge from experience.


So, who is responsible?


If hybrid working is to be successful, then who is responsible for ensuring this? Our view is that it will take the collective will of the organisation and like any cultural change, will require the efforts and purposeful intent of leaders, the HR team, the individual, and line managers.


Senior Leaders


The degree of genuine commitment to hybrid working will be signalled through the words and actions of the organisation’s most senior leaders. It won’t matter what the policy or emails about hybrid working say if the leaders are saying and doing something different. Senior leaders must lead from the top and lead from the start. Based on our experience, one of the biggest issues that senior leaders will face is the need to consciously include those working at a different location in decision making and ensure that their contributions and impact are not diminished by virtue of where they work.


The HR Community


HR and the management community should be aligned about hybrid working. HR must help managers to establish new working arrangements, encouraging flexibility while at the same time making sure the business can meet its objectives. Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, suggests in her research ‘How to Do Hybrid Right’ that HR needs to help managers and staff consider their roles based on the dimensions of:


(1) jobs and tasks

(2) employee preferences

(3) projects and workflows

(4) inclusion and fairness


HR should work with managers to help them understand and map the impact of each of these dimensions on the work of their team and what it might mean for hybrid working.


Equally, there is an opportunity for HR to work in a very agile way over the coming 6-9 months. Based on our conversations with clients, there is an expectation that the model of hybrid working that emerges in mid 2022 will be very different from that in Autumn 2021. HR have an opportunity to experiment and iterate with managers over the next year to develop ways of working that support the organisation and the people within it.


HR will also need to watch out for pockets of resistance in parts of the business to hybrid working. Turning a blind eye to company policy and allowing managers to create micro-regimes where they don’t support hybrid working is to be avoided. If an organisation commits publicly to hybrid working, then the HR community owes it to the entire business to play their part in supporting and enabling hybrid working throughout the organisation.


The Individual Employee


Trust has been a huge part of why the shift to mass remote working was so successful during the pandemic. Managers needed to trust employees because they had no choice. Employees needed to deliver on their commitments in exchange for that managerial trust but also in exchange for autonomy over the working day and how they used their time to get work done. As we move to the new hybrid working arrangements, it will be a little strange for managers to take comfort from being able to see people at work, while also needing to trust when they can’t see them while working at home. This will require great adaptability from managers and will also require employees to, once again, prove their dependability and trustworthiness by getting the important things done as promised. Flexibility, better wellbeing, increased family time, less time spent commuting and all the other benefits of remote working remain available if employees continue to deliver their side of the bargain. Essentially, employees have a big say in the ongoing success of hybrid working by showing that productivity, responsiveness, and participation are as strong from home as they are from the office.


Line Managers


Thinking about the question we began with, “Who is responsible for making this hybrid arrangement work?”, the most critical person of all is the line manager. How will we know if hybrid working is indeed working? We will only know if the line manager knows, and that requires the line manager to be on top of everything. The good news is that this should not require much more than what the line manager has been doing since the pandemic began.


First, line managers must continue to trust their team members and now build up that trust when they have the chance to meet each person in the office. Avoiding the signal “I trust you more when I can see you” is a good start. Trust is about promises honoured and work completed, not how anxious I feel when you are out of my eye-line.


Second, line managers need to plan for the hybrid work environment. They should know who is in the office on which days, and who is working remotely. They should keep track of with whom they have discussed performance, to whom they have provided recognition or feedback and so on. This reduces the possibility of proximity bias where those near the manager get higher quality interaction, while those far away feel forgotten about.


Third, line managers will do well to focus on the execution of work. Are people completing the actions they committed to complete? Are promises being honoured as expected? Managers who drive performance and execution the same way, whether people are in the office or at home, will create a culture of performance and accountability. It should not matter where work is done, but if managers only know about work they can see in the office, this creates a problem. Encouraging everyone to do what they say they are going to do, including the manager, creates reliability and trust irrespective of where people are doing the work. Checking in regularly on actions and progress keeps everyone focused on execution and promises.


Line managers will also need to attend to the well-being of the team. Teams have been through a great deal of upheaval, and many are exhausted by the pandemic experience. As we move into the hybrid working stage, managers will need to work with their team to rebuild trust. Remember that some people have joined teams during the pandemic and have never met colleagues in person. Others have left or retired, so teams will need to “relaunch”, as Harvard’s Tsedal Neeley puts it. Team members need to know that they can count on one another as they tip toe into this new stage of working together. Time invested in rebuilding relationships, re-energising and relaunching the team, will be time well spent indeed.


Finally, when line managers don’t report productivity or performance upwards, they inadvertently create doubt and misgivings that hybrid working does not deliver. Once again, we only know things are working when we can see the data that shows us so. Keep track of the data that will help those around and above you to see that hybrid working is delivering for the business and for the team. Sticking a finger in the air and taking a feeling about how things are going is not sufficient. Gather the data on performance and productivity. Is work progressing? Are the team succeeding? Do we have challenges and issues, and can we forge a plan to address them? Data helps. Strong data convinces. Make data your friend and most importantly share it with those who need to know what it says.


We all have a part to play


We all have a part to play in making hybrid working a success. It represents another adjustment, another demand to adapt and learn, and it presents us with a chance to strengthen relationships and trust. To lock in the gains of more than a year of remote working and blend them with the benefits of office life, we should take our time to identify the best ways to work as a team from here. We don’t need all the answers up-front, but we do need to be willing to experiment at first. Leaders have a vital role in showing the way. Managers have a vital role too, encouraging good performance habits and tracking how the team is performing so we can say, unequivocally, that hybrid working is working well for the business.



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.




Part One: The myths, corporate commitment and government perspectives


HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear explores the myths, corporate commitment and government perspectives surrounding the future of work.


Nobody knows exactly when the pandemic might end, nor can say with certainty what a typical working week will look like when this is all over. Will our organisation’s culture remain intact, or will we need to rebuild it? Are our people still loyal, engaged, and motivated? Will the demands from clients be the same as before or will we need to remodel our offerings, structures, and processes?


There are so many questions and very few answers, but it’s our duty as leaders to prepare, to plan, and to paint a picture of the future that will give our people hope and direction. So, what can we deduce about the future of work post COVID-19?


Shattering myths about remote working


The notion that remote working can’t be trusted, that people are “shirking from home”, and that things work only when I can watch over my people, has been well and truly shredded. People are working from their homes, in often challenging conditions, and getting things done. Many have managed to keep going with their work despite no assistance from their manager or employer. Has this produced a productivity surge? Anecdotally, workers report longer working days, improved balance between work and personal time, and feeling more productive. A significant number of economic reports suggest that total factor productivity, however, has fallen. This is particularly true for some countries and some industry sectors. The verdict on productivity is a mixed picture, but what is clear is that working from home is effective and will be part of the world of work from this point on.


However, remote working does not suit everyone. Remote working managed badly may reduce fairness. A mix of workers at home and others in the office creates power and access dynamics that favour those that are in closest physical proximity to the boss. Four people sitting in a meeting room with the boss, joined by four people dialling in from home, is not an equal dynamic. Restoring and managing fairness when we have unequal proximity will be an early and immediate challenge we will need to address.


How organisations see the future of work


Right now, the key question many organisations are focused on is how many days a person should come into the office each week. This triggers subsequent questions about physical space, car parking, food service, cleaning schedules, layout of space and the future of open plan, and many other practical considerations. Leaders are pondering what share of people should be in the office on a given day, whether we come in for routine work such as email and procedural tasks, or whether we should only come into the office when we need to meet as a team. Nobody has worked all this out yet because it’s not possible to know all the factors involved. Any decisions must take into account the risks of favouritism, access bias, and everything else that flows from merely being co-located with the boss and other key decision-makers. As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind” and so it may feel for those encouraged to stay put at home.


Where does this leave professional development and learning?


Most organisations have shifted to virtual learning since early 2020. While useful to maintain skill development and help staff to keep connected with one another, it is limited by its nature. You can’t simply switch a two-day management development event into a two-day Zoom session. Most things that shifted online have been shortened, narrowed in focus, and designed to do a best-effort job under the circumstances. Virtual events are ideal for some topics, needs and groups; face-to-face learning events are much more effective for other topics, needs and groups. Face-to-face events, whether for learning and development, for business meetings, or for group problem solving will be gradually reintroduced. The positive reaction to human reconnection could trigger a reflex to bring everyone back in the office, so leaders must anticipate this emotional response and be ready to restate their commitment to decisions on who needs to be in the office every day and who can just as effectively work from home.


Corporate commitment to new ways of working


While many companies are still exploring how they intend to implement a form of hybrid working, others are pressing ahead with a commitment to a new way of working. ESB, Ireland’s largest Electricity provider, has embraced “smart working” where flexibility and autonomy are encouraged in order to find the best arrangement that suits the customer, the business and the employee. Smart working encourages employees to think ‘virtual first’ for meetings thereby saving time on commuting and reducing carbon emissions. Employees are also encouraged to balance the number of online meetings with planned time together.


Creating a high-performance culture underpinned by a positive employee experience is all part of ESB’s ‘Brighter Future’ strategy to lead Ireland’s transition to a secure, affordable, low-carbon future powered by clean electricity.


“We know from the research we have carried out that most of our employees don’t want to return to the office full time after the pandemic, yet there are others who are really struggling at home. We are working to accommodate both groups so that everyone feels a sense of belonging, and everyone is empowered and motivated to deliver for our customers,” says Sarah Claxton, Head of Organisational Development at ESB


“For the most part, people in the future will come to the office to collaborate, to build social networks and engage in learning and development. They won’t commute for the sake of sitting in front of a screen or having a meeting with their team,” she adds.


Similar approaches have been signalled by Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Spotify as a new way of working post-COVID.


Government perspectives on work after COVID-19


Most governments see the changes in working practices during 2020 as being generally positive. Reduced pollution, reduced traffic, more time for family and leisure, and better individual health and wellbeing have all accrued as fewer of us commute to work. Naturally, governments would like to see some level of working at home remain once the pandemic has ended.


The Irish Government has set out a plan for the future state of work in its National Remote Work Strategy. In its introduction, Leo Varadkar TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, highlights that, “when the pandemic is over…things will never be the same again.” He points out what, “while some people will work full-time from the office or from home, most of us will be blended workers, working sometimes from the office and other times from home, a hub or on the go.”


However, there is a recognition that boundaries need to exist between home and work life and that a code of practice will need developed for the ‘right to disconnect.’


He adds, “we want to retain the creativity and innovation that flourishes from people meeting each other and do not want people to become isolated.” This is equally important when it comes to structuring the balance of learning and development initiatives.


Who is responsible for the shift to hybrid working?


It’s one thing to have a policy about how we will work after the pandemic, it’s another thing altogether to make it a reality. In Part Two, we will explore how hybrid work can become a reality, and most importantly, who will be ultimately responsible for making it happen.


Read more of our ‘Anticipating the Future of Work post Covid-19’ series here: Part Two: Who is responsible for the shift to hybrid working?



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.




HPC Executive and Team Coach, Barry O’Sullivan explores some of the factors that impact team effectiveness and how team coaching can play a role in ‘re-launching’ a team and powering its future growth and success.


After working with many teams and identifying the 6 Conditions for Team Effectiveness, Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman of Harvard University framed the 60-30-10 rule. This simple rule of thumb became a guide to where leaders might place their time and energy to develop high performing teams.


It’s a simple idea. Place the majority, or 60% of your energy on the pre-work, where it will have most impact. Spend 30% of time and energy on building a solid foundation and spend the balance of 10% on coaching the team in real time, simply paying attention to the factors that impact team effectiveness.


But what if you already have a team in situ? What happens when a leader realises that the team is not performing at its best? What happens when stakeholders, such as the board or key clients, demand more? Sometimes teams get stuck, lose their direction and motivation. What can you do with this team?


As team coaches, we have vast experience of working with teams to enhance their performance and deliver on their organisational mandate. We partner with senior teams over an extended period, to shine a light on the factors that impact team effectiveness. Rather than just coaching one member of the team, the team becomes our client. We aim to increase the capacity of the team to coach itself.


How do we do this?


We work closely with the team to understand what’s happening in real time and how the team is functioning as a collective. While diagnostic instruments can play a role in understanding the factors impacting team effectiveness, our greatest skill is in identifying what is being said and what is not being said. By playing this back to the team, questioning and through constructive challenge, we can begin to tackle the key drivers of an effective team. Key questions such as:


– Is the team a real team? Are they a stable group of individuals capable of working with each other brilliantly?


– What’s the team’s compelling purpose? Does everyone on the team understand how critical they are to the delivery of the common purpose? What is it that the team can do better than the members can do as individuals? In our experience working with senior teams, it is this issue that surfaces most commonly as a blockage for teams.


– Have you got the right people, with the right task and teamwork skills to deliver?


– How can you establish a solid structure, the best work practices and behaviour norms to help achieve team goals? While many teams will have tools such as team charters in place, they may not observed in practice. Unhelpful behavioural norms can quickly undermine a team’s effectiveness. What happens within the senior team is observed by colleagues outside the team, leading to a further erosion of impact.


– Finally, leadership can ask if they are providing a supportive organisational context that provides the necessary resources to the team and its members.




Through team coaching, we work with the team to pay attention to what happens in real time. We actively work with the team to reduce the barriers to their effectiveness. While interventions, tools and diagnostics all play a part, the added value we provide is the real partnership we form with the team to understand itself and the conditions that impact on its success.


While you can’t “launch” an existing team, it is possible to “re-launch” a team with team coaching. In our experience, time spent bringing the team together and engaging with their purpose, process and dynamics is time well invested. It raises their capability and builds their credibility throughout the organisation. Supporting the team in the re-launch process and giving it the attention it needs is invaluable. Re-laying the foundations for effectiveness by improving the conditions in the team will pay dividends long into the future.



Barry is a member of HPC’s Executive & Team Coaching Panel. He has worked as a senior executive for over 20 years in financial services, sales management and operations to director level.


Barry has worked as a Coach since 2010. His experience includes coaching senior leadership in Financial Services, IT, Professional Services, Retail, Wealth Management and Utilities.


Through team coaching, he has enabled senior leaders and their teams to achieve a sustained step change in collective performance and growth.



HPC’s approach to team coaching is based around our core strengths in discovery, diagnosis, design and delivery. But also, our deep commitment to helping your team transform the way they think and act, which leads to a significant and sustained impact on business results.


We have researched, structured and implemented our leadership team coaching solution around a number of leading psychological schools of thought and our experiences of working directly with senior teams. While team coaching is still an emerging field in academia and L&D, our approach is already delivering pivotal results.


Download our Team Coaching Brochure for more information or get in touch with our team for a more in-depth discussion at info@wearehpc.com

We asked some of our coaches for their observations on the importance of coaching for individuals and teams as they enter a hybrid working environment and how well companies capture and communicate the impact of coaching.


Daire Coffey

HPC Executive Coach 


Q: Why is coaching important as we enter a hybrid working environment? 


As we edge closer to returning to the office, we will encounter a new working environment where a new set of challenges and opportunities awaits us. Covid has changed our relationship with work and the workplace and so a lot more is required of our leaders to step up to this challenge and adopt a more flexible and supportive leadership style. The adoption of a hybrid working model in many sectors will lead to an increased focus on people leaders and people leadership. This will be exacerbated by increased opportunities for mobility as the global economy recovers.


Based on my conversations with leaders, I see three areas of focus for them:


Personal: What behaviours and mindset do I need to adopt to best navigate the new model of work? How can I develop a more focused and positive mindset? What resources do I need to support me personally on this journey? How do I sustain my performance over the long term?


Team: How can I best adapt my leadership style to support and empower my team individually to stay engaged and productive? How do I best foster a healthy level of collaboration and trust? In light of an increasingly global recruitment market, how can I retain my top talent and keep them motivated?


Organisation: What do others now need from me and my team? How will create a sense of agility that will allow us to respond to the next crisis? What opportunities does Covid create for us as an organisation?


Coaching becomes really important in this environment in that it offers a personalised approach to support and empower leaders to hone the skills they need. Coaching:


– Offers a trusted sounding board to ignite fresh thinking around new challenges and opportunities.


– Supports and empowers individuals based on their individual circumstances – the CEO , the line manager, the new employee working from their bedroom and who has barely seen their desk since they started – all with different multigenerational and personal circumstances.


– Gives space to explore goals and develop practical strategies to build their overall impact, enhance collaboration with their team/stakeholders and ensure wellbeing of themselves and people remains front and centre.


– Provides a meaningful incentive to develop and retain top talent in a highly competitive global market. We know that the growing millennial workforce particularly value this.


There is no doubt that those who invest in a personalised authentic and motivating development experience will enhance their own capabilities and their capacity to hold onto their talent, strengthen individual, team and company performance and deliver an improved bottom line. Coaching offers the perfect solution to do just that.


Jenny McConnell

HPC Senior Facilitator, Executive & Team Coach


Q: What new challenges and opportunities can coaching help to unlock in leaders and teams as we enter this next phase of work? 


Coaching helps leaders and teams to identify the new questions they need to ask of themselves, their customers and key stakeholders. For example, “What Covid losses do we want to recoup or remain as lost? What are our ‘Covid keepers’ – the changes that we want to retain and strengthen?” As the answers emerge, leaders and teams often find themselves in that uncomfortable space between what has been versus what must become. This transition demands a complex personal and organisational systemic shift. When you feel the searing heat of a ‘burning platform’ underfoot, change becomes the only viable option. Coaching plays a critical role in unlocking the shape, pace and impact of that change.


Deirdre Foley

HPC Senior Facilitator, Executive & Team Coach


Q: In what ways can coaching empower a team to overcome the challenges of working in a hybrid environment? What are the primary challenges teams should anticipate and prepare for?


In the past year, teams have had to quickly adjust and flex how they work, collaborate and communicate with each other. They’ve developed a wealth of experience in new ways of working. Where they may once have felt that it was impossible to collaborate effectively unless they were all physically sitting together, they have now developed ways of interacting and collaborating via a range of virtual tools from MS Teams, Zoom and in house tools and resources. This experience provides a rich learning opportunity for team coaching to empower them, as we move to a hybrid working environment, where a mix of onsite and remote working will soon start to become the norm.


The move to a hybrid environment is certain to present more unique challenges as teams negotiate what the ‘new normal’ will look like for them. What will the new norms of behaviour be? What are the positives from the past year that the team will benefit from bringing forward into a hybrid model? Are there old ways of working, prior to Covid, that the team would benefit from re-instating? By working with a team coach, each team can reflect and consider the best approach for their particular team. While each organisation may have over-riding policies, the organisation will benefit from team coaching where teams are empowered and accountable for how their team can perform to their best potential. A team coach will ensure that all voices on the team are heard and each team considers the challenges they will face and how to overcome and prepare for them.


Louise Molloy

HPC Executive Coach 


Q: How well do companies capture and communicate the impact of coaching?


When your people commit to coaching, as a company, what are you hoping will be different and how do you capture the benefit? Often the focus goes on the delivery of support for our people. Return on investment can often be quantitative, linked to staff engagement; promotions; improved performance. Creating the conditions so that coaching impact is ‘pushed’ back to you rather than ‘pulled out of people’, is a strategy I’ve seen work really well.


What would that look like? Greater collaboration, better listening, more explicit reflection on how groups and teams work together and might work together better. Increased advocacy and more constructive feedback. All standard coaching outputs – but what about sharing our successes? What about telling these stories, it’s the stories that connect, not the numbers. When you or your board hears that sales and compliance are suddenly proactively collaborating on processes before they land – rather than retrospectively tweaked for compliance, that’s cultural gold!


We coach for purpose and balance between the individual, the team and the organisation. So, to really take delivery of the benefit of coaching, we need the individual to surface what’s different and then share this with the team and the organisation. No numeric assessment will ever catch a micro moment…but micro moments are what create (or break) trust and cultures. And coaching catches those moments, one conversation at a time.






Ready to discuss how a partnership with HPC can advance your business?