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 >>>

When it comes to the world of work, we’ve been doing the same old same old for a long time. And it’s served us well.

 

But the pandemic has shown there is a different, perhaps better way of doing things; one where employees are just as productive, but are dare we say it, a little happier, with a better work/life balance.

 

Justin Kinnear, Head of Research at HPC says that while many employers have favoured an overall return to the office, a little more thought needs to go into a post pandemic way of working.

 

 

Working from home has often been seen as a thing that only managers and select employees do, until the last two years.  Previously it has been an issue of trust – if the manager couldn’t see you, they couldn’t be sure what you were doing.

 

Recently I spoke to a person who leads a significant manufacturing site. Normally everyone is onsite, but at the start of the pandemic he had to instruct all non-production staff to work from home. He said, ‘if I can’t see them and I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t trust them’. Since then, he’s discovered they’re working harder, and he’s had to accept the issue was with him. But even with this revelation, there’s still a worry we’re going to ditch all the benefits gained by working from home the first chance we get and relocate to the office. There’s a latent concern we’ll be back to the long commute and re-chained to a cubicle. Employers can put their foot down and demand that workers return, or subtly make it so that those who are physically closest to the workplace get the best opportunities, valued feedback or mentoring – creating a so-called proximity bias. But that would be a mistake.

 

Avoiding the bias

 

In order to avoid that, we need to redefine the role of the manager. First, let’s look at whether any of the changes to the manager’s role during the pandemic have been locked in. Managers are often inclined to manage in an ad hoc way and the danger is, when the manager’s role is not documented many managers have the flexibility to go with whatever way the mood takes them.

 

I think the first step is to formalise the revised role of the manager. Try to identify the processes and procedures that have worked best for managing people. They also need to find a more formal and equitable way to distribute opportunities or to mentor team members, and to share their feedback with the entire team in a way that goes beyond just seizing the opportunity to have a quick chat with ‘John’ in the corridor after a meeting. Managers need to find a more deliberate way of managing their people.

 

In the beginning of the pandemic it was about survival – companies parked the performance part because they wanted to mind their people. But late last year they were saying, ‘I suppose we’d better pick it up again’ – the reviews and appraisals. But how do they make sure they don’t just do it for the people they can see in person. We need to go back to the magic of lists – keeping track of check-in conversations with team members, to whom I gave feedback – codifying the interactions so nobody is overlooked and denied the manager’s time and attention.

 

On the flip side, there’s a fear from employees that maybe the person that does return fully to the office is perceived as more committed by making the commute to and from the office; that they are playing the game of work. Managers need to counterbalance that for those who can’t or won’t come in every day. If an employee finds out the same five people are in the office five days a week, that’s a worry. As a manager, if you say we work remotely but you as the leader come in five days a week, you’re saying one thing and doing another. People are much more guided by your actions than your words.

 

Likewise senior leaders likely have excellent working arrangements: a nice office, access to systems and facilities and equipment, and a manageable working week. The pandemic levelled the playing field; everyone was grappling with Zoom or Teams on a laptop from a small box room. Understandably, the office might be calling those senior people back. It’s very different to the person sitting in the cubicle. This is a blind spot for some leaders and needs to be considered carefully.

 

What’s my neighbour doing?

 

A very small minority of organisations have made an effort to signal what they think the world of work will look like from here but are trying to avoid being too prescriptive. Instead, many have adopted a perspective that is flexible and emergent, and are trying new working arrangements and processes for a period of time to see how it goes. Identifying what could work requires being inclusive, with a big focus on talking to employees to understand their experience and solicit their ideas. Where companies have put a line in the sand, they have done it with a very thin, moveable line. It’s very hard for companies to insist on ‘everyone back’ when people are still ill or close contacts. Most are not declaring any decisive position yet. We’re still on the journey and most organisations agree that the next evolution of work will feature some workers in the office and some at home.

 

Some people are keen to return fully to the office, longing to be around other people, missing the social aspect, and struggling to get work done at home. Anecdotally, most workers seem very happy with their pandemic adaption, working at home and coming as needed to collaborate via video or phone meetings.

 

Let’s innovate

 

To innovate means different things in different organisations. For one, it might mean making better use of the technologies they have. For others, it could be taking the learnings from what has happened over the last two years and building on that. Perhaps innovation also means doing less: can they find a way to trim back the things that aren’t serving them anymore?

 

It’s important to note, wellness and wellbeing are at risk if we rush back to old work models, so what is good for the business and good for the person are both important to keep in mind. In her book ‘Uncharted”, Margaret Heffernan notes that at times like these Leaders should focus less on identifying the answers and focus more on better questions. Often the answers are within your organisation, so ask your employees for their input.

 

Humans dislike change but we’re very good at it and we now have proof that we can flex. It all comes back to trust and it’s woven into the history of work. It’s time to wave goodbye to the old way of doing things and find the optimal balance instead. Let’s sit down as adults and find what works for organisations and their workers.

 

 

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 >>>

 

 

During our recent sponsorship of gradireland’s Breakfast Masterclass, HPC’s Head of Talent Consulting, Kevin Hannigan addressed the topic of ‘Aligning your graduate programme with your organisational culture’. Editor of gradIreland, Ruairi Kavanagh’s article below provides a synopsis of the event’s presentation and panel discussion.

 

The latest gradireland Breakfast Masterclass took place on Thursday 10th February. It was a virtual event, hopefully the next one will be a return to live, and it explored the broad theme of organisational culture and graduate recruitment.

 

Aligning your Graduate Programme with your Organisational Culture, in partnership with HPC, saw a keynote presentation and panel discussion on the importance of culture and what key questions and issues companies need to address when either refining an existing graduate programme or establishing one from scratch.

 

You’ve successfully attracted top-quality graduates into your organisation through your on-campus activities, work at graduate fairs, social media campaigns and a brilliant selection process. Your graduates will start work with you full of energy and expectation for what their graduate programme will bring them, eager to build a career with you. But now the hard work starts. How will you build a development programme for your graduates that builds their capability and reflects your organisational culture? How will you make sure that at the end of the programme that your graduates remain eager to build a career with you and that you don’t suffer widespread attrition?

 

Keynote Presentation

 

The keynote presentation was made by Kevin Hannigan, Head of Talent Consulting at HPC. HPC has been providing people development solutions for over 40 years, partnering with clients to create a high-performance culture that has a positive impact on business growth and personal development. They are focused on empowering people to empower performance.

 

Kevin began by explaining his thinking on expectations alignment, the value of experience, exposure and education and strategy when it comes to creating a graduate programme that delivers culturally, not just operationally.

 

Pillars of Culture

 

He broke culture down into four pillars; values, the way we engage with each other, what we believe to be true and the stories we tell. In order for graduates to make the best start in an organisation, the presentation outlined the broad structure which HPC’s research shows makes for the most effective environment for graduates. This is most commonly based around teamwork, working in operational, multi-disciplinary teams doing valuable and challenging work on real projects. Companies need to think about what will work for their organisational objectives, and graduate strategy. For some organisations, Kevin explained, there will be large scale projects that graduates should be a part of, but there can also be smaller projects which graduates themselves can take charge of. But he cautioned, they must be projects with real value, graduates can spot a fake project easily and if they are exposed to that it will likely cause them to disengage from the organisation and from the objectives that you are trying to achieve.

 

Kevin then touched on the interesting, and often overlooked, topic of feedback and how it can be best delivered to graduate employees. He says there is a misconception that today’s graduates can be poor recipients of feedback, and a further misconception that they are particularly needy when it comes to requiring feedback. Kevin explained that there is no indication, based on research, that today’s graduates have a higher need for feedback than previous generations. He added that when it comes to feedback, there was so much effort put into evaluating performance that there is not often enough consideration into how to deliver that feedback, and that is something that organisations should invest resources into. Managers needs to be skilled in delivering feedback and be able to relate it to your values.

 

It’s also very important that employers translate their values into what graduates actually experience in the course of their work, what they should do and what they should not do. We also need to discuss the graduates personal set of values. Likely, explained Kevin, if they have joined your organisation, they already like your values and objectives. However, by having a conversation with them you can best harness this alignment and make sure it is strong and resilient. On foot of that, the stories that reflect your organisation’s culture will also be heard outside of your company, as organically, your values will be something which graduates are proud of and eager to share, Kevin explained.

 

Don’t obsess about the competition

 

Graduates also need to be coached in the methods of working effectively as part of a team, something which Kevin believes is critical to success. He added that it is important that organisations consider only elements that will work for them, and to avoid over analysing the competition and feeling the need to add other culture elements that may not be right for your organisation. It’s about doing the things that are right for your business, identifying the elements that will achieve for your organisation. Key skills and key capabilities that are developed on graduate programmes should reflect the objectives of your organisation.

 

The presentation also touched on the concept of ‘power skills’, which are also referred to, perhaps inaccurately, as soft skills. As Kevin says, in a world where technology will lead, the skills that will make your business stand out and power it forward will be uniquely human. Collaboration, trust and agility are vital in developing a growth mindset.

 

These are just some of the insights contained in Kevin’s presentation, which you can download in full while watching the replay which includes the panel discussion at the following link.

 

Panel Discussion

 

Following Kevin’s presentation, we moved to a panel discussion to discuss the themes raised, and the experiences of various organisations. We were delighted to welcome the following panelists to the discussion:

 

Siobhain Scanlon, Early Careers Manager at Musgrave

Cathy Watts, Graduate Attraction & Development Manager at Kingspan Group

Kevin Henry, Learning & Talent Manager at Permanent TSB

 

The following 40 minutes saw the panel address a wide range of questions submitted by attendees to the Masterclass. These included questions on management and leadership potential amongst graduates, how a graduate is expected to fit into a culture in some organisations as opposed to being a distinct addition to the cultural mix and what to look out for in terms of friction between existing structures in your organisation and your graduate programme. The panel also discussed some key questions that companies should ask themselves about why they are establishing a graduate programme in the first place, and what the objectives are. Thanks to all our panelists, attendees and particularly HPC for making the event so enjoyable and insightful for all concerned.

 

 

 

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.

 

kevin.hannigan@wearehpc.com

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn >>>

Connect with HPC on LinkedIn >>>

 

Ruairi Kavanagh – gradireland

 

Ruairi is the Managing Editor at gradireland and was the moderator of the Breakfast Masterclass. He is a writer, editor and journalist with over 25 years of experience across print, press, online and advisory.

 

ruairi.kavanagh@gradireland.com

www.gradireland.com

Connect with Ruairi on LinkedIn >>>

Connect with gradireland on LinkedIn >>>

 

 

In celebration and support of International Women’s Day 2022, a number of colleagues and contacts crossed their arms to show solidarity in support of this year’s theme of #BreakTheBias.

 

 

Individuals and organisations are ever more committed to ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging’ (DEIB). While positive change is taking place, there are still a lot of gaps as some women still experience gender bias, stereotypes, and discrimination in the workplace.

 

Recognising and breaking bias is high on many agendas. With this in mind, companies are having honest conversations about how they fully integrate DEIB into their company’s mission and purpose, while driving out implicit bias at a systemic level. As we enter a post-Covid era of work in which employees have more power, flexibility is the norm, and well-being is more important than ever, the opportunities to advance workplace gender equity are greater than ever.

 

The organisers of the 2022 International Women’s Day ask us to:

 

Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

 

Every day this week, our contributors share their insights and observations into breaking the bias and what the theme means to them.

 

 

Lillian Forsyth – Lead with Equity

 

How can we move beyond unconscious bias training to eliminating the systemic biases and barriers for women in the workplace?

 

We’ve made some gains in representation in the past decade, but we’re still a long way from equity. The last two years have been a major equity setback for women in the workplace. A few stats to get you thinking:

 

According to a 2020 Women in Management global study done by Catalyst, the higher up you look in organisations, the fewer women you see.[1]

 

The 2021 Lean in Women in the Workplace study found that the places where women drop off the most in comparison to men are 1) in the initial transition to manager, 2) the transition from manager to senior manager.[2]

 

Yet, Gallup’s 2016 Women in America study showed that 45% of women aspire to CEO or other executive roles.[3]

 

So, what’s going on? If women want to be in higher levels of leadership, but that’s not happening consistently, there must be systemic barriers getting in their way.

 

What can employers do to start breaking down systemic biases?

 

Here are some ideas:

 

Provide leadership and executive development programs specifically targeted toward women transitioning to manager and senior manager levels. There is a different skill set that is required for anyone to thrive in a senior leadership role. This includes things like strategic relationship building, raising the visibility of your accomplishments, blocking out weekly time for strategic thinking, and exposure to different business units. Some of these skills are culturally discouraged for women, so we shy away from them. Employers can support women by providing opportunities to develop these skills.

 

Provide deliberate career pathing for women. A 2019 study of more than 3,000 professionals by Working Mother Research Institute and the National Association for Female Executives, suggests men and women receive very different career-building cues. In this study, men were three times as likely as women to have been encouraged to consider a P&L role. Employers can ensure that regular career conversations are happening equitably by providing managers with templates, resources and having a central location for career pathing data.

 

Provide flexible work options. Women are still more likely to be primary caregivers for children or others in their home. Providing options for less than 40 hours/week jobs, job sharing, or fully remote management and leadership roles will make it easier for women to prioritise family while still being able to contribute to your organisation at a high level.

 

[1] https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-management/ (Executives: 23%, Senior managers: 29%, Managers: 37%, Professionals: 42%, Support staff: 47%)

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace

[3] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238070/women-america-work-life-lived-insights-business-leaders.aspx

 

Tom Armstrong HPC Executive Coach

 

How can we move beyond unconscious bias training to eliminate the systemic biases and barriers for women in the workplace?

It’s a start to become aware that we have bias. But to bring about change and to make a difference requires more than just raising awareness.

 

Breaking through bias requires practicing an UNBIASED pathway:

 

Understand the experiences of others – get into the shoes of those who are at the wrong end of experiencing bias

 

Remember the Neuroscience – the brain is malleable and capable of positive change

 

Think about our own beliefs, conscious and unconscious, and our Behaviours – what are our behaviours saying?

 

Increase our interactions with those who we may demonstrate or practice bias against – Include them and get to know them better

 

Take positive Action to change to behaviours that are the opposite to our bias – act another way – against the bias

 

Show how to break the bias through action and speak out where we witness it

 

At moments that matter, ask yourself, is this Equitable and embracing Difference?

 

Awareness is a start – behaviour is a result.  Be U N B I A S E D

 

 

Has working from home made it harder for women to progress?

 

Last year (2021), while working from home was at its peak, I carried out some collaborative research on the impact of remote working.

 

One significant finding was that men indicated they were having a more negative (or less positive) experience than women, across every heading of remote working that we examined.

The themes explored were wide ranging and covered sense of connection, work-life boundaries, productivity, motivation and more. Whatever the elements behind this finding, it suggests that (on average) women have managed and felt better about remote working than their male counterparts. This may predict that as hybrid working develops, women will spend less time at the office. An unfortunate and perhaps unintended consequence of this could be a concentration of power at the physical office, with those least in the office missing out on opportunities to progress and less participation in critical decision making. We don’t know the answer to the progress question yet, but we do know that it’s important to guard against the slow creep of exclusion.

 

Yvonne Farrell HPC Senior Facilitator

 

A diverse workforce brings varied perspectives that contribute to an organisation’s prosperity. We know that at a top level, only one in five C-suite leaders is a woman and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of colour, according to a study from LeanIn.org and McKinsey.

 

At all levels, organisations are trying to overcome this disparity. Many say that diversity is the number one priority on their company agenda, gender diversity being at the core of this. But it seems that there is a big disconnect between the good intentions of leaders and true progress on closing the gender gap.

 

So, what do organisations need to ask themselves as they try to cement an inclusive and diverse process of attracting, supporting and retaining women within their business?

 

Attracting female talent – What image does your organisation portray? What behaviours do you display? Does it attract or detract women? Examine your recruitment campaign ‘habits’ and ‘bias’. Challenge your traditional routes to candidate markets. Do you reach out to females early, in schools and colleges, to encourage them to consider a career with you? Revise the language in your job adverts and the images in your recruitment campaigns – are they gender balanced? Ask yourself, are women in non-traditional roles seen and celebrated? Are your interview panels gender balanced?

 

Support and Retention – Ask yourself what you are doing to nurture your pipeline of female talent. More importantly, understand their needs and desires by asking them. What does it mean for women to feel empowered, included, and acknowledged in this organisation? Are women encouraged and supported to go for promotion? Do you have flexible working policies that support women and their families?

 

Attracting and retaining female talent requires strategy and action. And the most important question to ask yourself is: Do women look to work for you, and more importantly, want to stay working for you?

 

Adam Burke – IDA Ireland

 

IDA’s most important asset is its people and, in a constantly evolving global economy, the organisation does its utmost to support career development, well-being, diversity, inclusion and belonging. Their company culture, leadership and people management are the bedrock on which they have built a fully integrated well-being and diversity approach.

 

Under its Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Action Plan, IDA has taken a number of steps including membership of the 30% Club, the OUTstanding professional network, the IBEC Diversity Forum, and the Open Doors Initiative. IDA’s HR Team has included D&I in the induction programme for all new joiners, and there are D&I focused questions in the annual employee survey. New policies include those in the areas of home working, open location roles and increased levels of flexitime working – all designed to provide greater flexibility and a better work life balance for IDA team members.

 

We asked Adam:

 

How can we move beyond unconscious bias training to eliminate the systemic biases and barriers for women in the workplace?

 

“Mark Fenton of MASF Consulting coined the phrase “Catch it, Call it, Change it.” We are all navigating the evolution of language and we may not always get it right; an internal language framework enables Team Members to call out safely without vilifying colleagues. Empower everyone to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns or even mistakes. As Amy Edmondson says, “psychological safety is not at odds with having tough conversations – it is what allows us to have tough conversations”.”

 

Fiona Claridge – HPC Client Director

 

Why is recognising bias important?

We can miss an opportunity to connect, share, learn, grow. Being aware of bias will help us to stop, lean in to a situation we might not otherwise have done and when that happens the outcome may surprise you, in all the right ways.

 

How have you witnessed companies breaking the bias?

It gives me such joy when I hear about companies who promote women, whilst out on maternity leave. I am hearing of this occurring more and more and commend any company who does so. They stick in my mind and I will make sure to make others aware of these great practices by promoting them to others.

 

Why is it particularly important to rebuild post-pandemic workplaces without bias?

Post-pandemic, there are huge opportunities to reinvent our work practices and processes – how we hire, assess for development and evaluate success. So much has changed and we are unconsciously re-evaluating the “why’s” across our business. Workplaces without bias will benefit from diversity of thought, new innovations and experimentation – the key to future business success.

 

How has remote work & the COVID19 pandemic changed your approach to advancing women in your workplace?

I now look at it in a much more holistic way. Before I was solely focused on what happens during “working hours”. I have had the absolute realisation that this is only a fraction of the time that needs to be focused on in terms of supporting women in their careers. So much of our success in work is dependent on what is happening outside of work.

 

About our Contributors

 

About Lillian

 

Lillian is an experienced coach and workshop facilitator in the areas of communications, leadership, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She has held communications, operations and human resources leadership roles with both for-profit and non-profit organisations.

 

Through her work she continually noticed a common theme: individual leaders and entire organisations struggling to engage, retain, and promote people from historically underrepresented backgrounds. This was the impetus for starting Lead with Equity, where her role is to help leaders to lead more effectively, inclusively, and equitably and to help organisations embed these skills into their leadership systems.

Connect with Lillian on LinkedIn >>>

 

About Tom

 

Tom is a member of HPC’s Executive Coaching Panel. In addition to his coaching qualifications, he has over 25 years’ experience working as a senior executive within various sectors.

 

Tom’s executive coaching experience has enabled him to coach in a wide variety of environments including executives in small, medium and large private sector companies, as well as private individuals and leaders in public organisations. He offers his clients a safe space to explore options and ideas, and to raise awareness, thereby facilitating personal and professional growth and development.

 

Learn more about Tom >>>

 

About Yvonne

 

Yvonne is a highly proficient HR Professional with a wealth of practical experience in all areas of people development. Her expertise in business and career coaching adds strength to her HPC facilitation work across all organisational levels.

 

Yvonne has over 25 years’ industry experience in the management and development of people and has held a variety of senior roles, including Head of People and Organisational Capability at Vodafone Ireland. Her extensive business experience enables Yvonne to excel in the design and delivery of effective programmes across HPC’s client base, with a particular interest in behaviour change and competency development in management and personal development.

 

Learn more about Yvonne >>>

 

About Adam

 

Adam is an HR & OD Project Executive at IDA Ireland. Through his experience of Learning & Development, he is passionate about supporting the growth of others – helping them improve their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing at home and in the workplace.

 

He has dedicated time to a Masters in Work & Organisational Psychology due to a huge interest in HR practices and also the degree in which companies can impact employees’ wellbeing.

Throughout this career, he has trained and developed thousands of learners; supported businesses in improving their customer’s experience by delivering live workshops and seminars; and delivered talks at industry conferences, webinars, and created bespoke content.

 

Connect with Adam on LinkedIn >>>

 

About Fiona

 

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 >>>

Creating a culture of belonging. What exactly does it mean? How is it defined? What stage are organisations at? What challenges lie ahead?

 

HPC recently held a virtual roundtable discussion with L&D leaders to facilitate debate around these key questions. Part of our ‘HPC Talks’ series, the session was led by HPC’s Fiona Claridge; Lillian Forsyth – Co-Founder & CEO of Lead with Equity; and Siobhan Sweeney – Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Leader at HubSpot.

 

Based on their knowledge and work in the areas of diversity, inclusion and belonging, HPC invited Lillian and Siobhan to facilitate the conversation and give advice. The attendee group was made up of L&D leaders from a range of sectors who are at differing points in their ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging’ (DEIB) journey.

 

We wanted to capture some of the themes of this discussion around how belonging is being driven and what is needed to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

 

What is Belonging?

 

Belonging is a word that has been swirling around the corporate world, especially in HR, L&D and Talent departments. It differs from diversity and inclusion in that just because someone is included in your organisation, certainly doesn’t mean they feel they belong. Belonging is when every individual is integrated into a culture where they feel welcome, connected, and celebrated.

 

In short, diversity is a fact (employee numbers), inclusion is a choice (you decide whether to include someone or not) but belonging is a feeling that can be enforced by a culture that can be purposefully created.

 

Through her work in this space, Lillian observes that, “Organisations have worked hard to increase the diversity of their teams and create inclusive cultures, yet there is still a way to go. Regardless of how diverse a workforce is, unless your people truly feel they belong, you’ll never realise the full potential of the talent you’ve worked so hard to attract.”

 

She explained that belonging is a powerful feeling; an additional force that is the product of a DEIB strategy. It’s a fundamental human need that translates across any language or culture, and a feeling that every human is wired to want.

 

She firmly believes that “belonging gives all employees, regardless of background or difference, what they need to thrive at work.”

 

Some L&D leaders discussed the maturity of their organisational approach to belonging, while others are only starting their journey.

 

They commented:

 

“We don’t have an exact definition of belonging, but we do know what it is not. It’s about bringing your authentic self to work. We’re still defining our organisational stance on DE&I, then we will move to belonging.”

 

“I think it’s interesting that we’re all struggling with the definition of belonging and I think that’s because it’s going to look different in each organisation. For me, I think of belonging as the outcome – the product of what we do as D&I or L&D professionals. Diversity is what the organisation looks like. Inclusion and equity are the work, the strategies, the programmes we implement, and belonging is the result of those.”

 

“Our business has been involved in a large multinational takeover and many cultural differences exist. We were already considered as a diverse organisation but there is now more work to do on the DEIB front. We don’t have an official definition, but we are trying to put together a practical description. What we do know is that belonging is more about how you feel about being in an organisation, rather than a KPI.”

 

Alignment of DEIB Strategy

 

Siobhan’s previous roles in the area of DEIB at AIB, Open Doors and HubSpot have been largely focused on advising on alignment, driving internal initiatives and bringing all stakeholders together.

 

“It is important to take a holistic approach in aligning your organisation’s DEIB strategy with overall corporate priorities. Then creating awareness of these through employee integration will make it meaningful,” she says.

 

Some key takeaways from our discussion were:

 

– DEIB should fit naturally into your corporate culture. Priority should be given to internal awareness building of DI&B so that it is lived through the culture on a daily basis. This behaviour is the cornerstone of inclusive companies.

 

– One participant observed that even though companies say have a DEIB policy, there is no meaning behind it. They publish it on their website and in company handbooks, but if belonging is not immersed in the corporate culture, it’s not real; they are just words that won’t make a difference.

 

– Organisations that treat DEIB as a ‘tick box’ exercise could experience some backfire. In this digital age, if a company does not fully commit to a genuine approach, this can be easily exposed on online sites such as Glassdoor. This may put potential employees off the organisation, which will ultimately affect talent retention.

 

– Some companies are more mature in their approach and have dedicated structures in place to instil DEIB within their organisation. If you are only beginning this journey, there are plenty of resources and support available once you have a framework that works for your organisation.

 

– Lillian stated that “for early and mid-stage start-up organisations in particular, there’s an opportunity to infuse inclusion, equity and belonging into your organisational systems as you establish them for the first time or change them to accommodate your organisation’s growth.”

 

– For smaller organisations who don’t have a dedicated DEIB role, you could assign additional roles to internal team members. This should be properly defined in their official job description and current responsibilities exchanged to accommodate this.

 

– Siobhan advised, “If you are starting out on the DEIB journey, start small. Choose a number of key initiatives and how they can be embedded into the everyday culture of your company. Reviewing and learning from them for constant evolution is critical.”

 

Measurement and Evaluation

 

– As well as defining belonging, organisations need to plan how to measure it. Siobhan suggested that to measure belonging, organisations could use retention analysis as a key indicator of success.

 

– We discussed short surveys that ask employees specifically about different elements of inclusion and belonging that act as a baseline indicator of progression in this area. Organisations who want to do this on their own can find online resources to put a survey together.

 

– Shorter pulse surveys on the topic can be conducted on a regular basis and paired with other data from a retention analysis. Together, this data can give an organisation a good sense of whether their initiatives around DEIB are working or not.

 

Organisational Direction & Engagement

 

– Top management and leadership should be leading the way in DEIB. They should foster the leadership style approach and behaviours that cultivate a culture of belonging and be accountable in terms of metrics and KPIs.

 

– When diversity, inclusion and equity coexist within teams, and throughout the wider organisations, an individual will feel a sense of belonging. Belonging is the outcome of these being present within the corporate culture – where everyone truly feels empowered to speak up, make change, and shift the culture. It is the responsibility of those in leadership and of the dominant social culture to create these conditions.

 

– Siobhan suggests that “organisations should adopt a bottom-up approach by encouraging initiatives to be employee-led. They should invite employee feedback and take it seriously. If survey fatigue kicks in,  assign internal ambassadors to conduct formal ‘listening tours’ – to absorb feelings and ideas that come straight from the staff. In this way, employees will feel like they belong to something they value and that they have the power to bring about change when it’s needed.”

 

– A top-down and bottom-up approach allows the company to meet in the middle. Engagement between all important stakeholders – individuals, communities, and leaders – creates a space to ‘co-create’ a sense of belonging together.

 

The global Covid-19 pandemic

 

– The global events of 2020 and 2021 have increased the urgency for real change when it comes to DEIB. Leaders are recognising that hiring a diverse team is no longer enough; the pressure to integrate inclusion and belonging into every aspect of your organisation is higher than ever before.

 

– The impact of the pandemic, working from home and communicating virtually caused some people to re-evaluate themselves and ask if they actually belonged to their organisation. Some people have called out their organisation about their DEIB shortfalls or worse, left the company – and some organisations are struggling with that.

 

– Siobhan discussed HubSpot’s definition of DI&B and highlighted the importance of people having the ability to show up on a daily basis and be themselves. She explained that after the events of the pandemic, “80% of HubSpotters have opted for flexible/fully remote working, so we need to adapt and bring belonging to the virtual environment so that people can communicate, share thoughts, provide leadership and give feedback.”

 

– Due to Covid-19, inclusion has been more vital in supporting employee wellbeing, ensuring clear communication and helping employees stay connected to their teams.

 

– Post Covid-19 it is important that leaders ensure that inclusion does not just rely on visibility physically in the office in order to achieve progression. Inclusion needs to be all encompassing as some people are fully remote or working within a hybrid model.

 

In conclusion

 

The power of a DEIB strategy goes much further in cultures where people feel they belong because when they’re seen, heard and valued for who they really are – their own unique and authentic selves – they thrive, and so does the organisation around them.

 

 

 

People who feel a greater sense of belonging at work, will be more resilient and willing to challenge themselves and others to be better stewards of equity, diversity and inclusion.

 

Lillian explains, “studies show that organisations where individuals hold a high sense of belonging produce more engaged employees who are energised by their work, better connected to their team, and ultimately perform with better creativity, execution and productivity. Belonging and performance outcomes are therefore linked.”

 

Our roundtable discussion showed that no matter how big or small an organisation is, or what stage they are at on their DEIB journey, everyone has the ability to be visionary and creative about the way they approach belonging. Driven from the bottom-up and top-down, a holistic, authentic and genuine approach will be the power behind this important journey.

 

 

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

 

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 >>>

 

Lillian Forsyth – Lead with Equity

 

Lillian is an experienced coach and workshop facilitator in the areas of communications, leadership, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She has held communications, operations and human resources leadership roles with both for-profit and non-profit organisations.

 

Through her work she continually noticed a common theme: individual leaders and entire organisations struggling to engage, retain, and promote people from historically underrepresented backgrounds. This was the impetus for starting Lead with Equity, where her role is to help leaders to lead more effectively, inclusively, and equitably and to help organisations embed these skills into their leadership systems.

 

Connect with Lillian on LinkedIn >>>

 

Siobhan Sweeney – HubSpot

 

Prior to her current role as Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Leader at HubSpot, Siobhan held a number of roles within AIB, including the role of Diversity and Inclusion Lead. She was also Director of Diversity and Inclusion with the Open Doors Initiative.

 

Siobhan is passionate about diversity and inclusion and the positive impact it has on both organisational performance and people. Working collaboratively and pragmatically with stakeholders, teams and diverse talent, her career purpose is to drive D,I&B through cultural change, to ensure talent attraction, development and retention. HubSpot’s DIB data can be viewed here.

 

Connect with Siobhan on LinkedIn >>>

 

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.

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