Month: November 2017

“People are your greatest asset”

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We hear this phrase echoing around the corridors of Canary Wharf and Downtown Manhattan, but are we really unleashing the potential of all the great people in our organisation? Well, in our experience, we find that companies often recruit talented, high performing individuals, but then fail to empower these individuals to affect change.

So what are the levers that organisations must activate if they are to enable their people to unleash their full potential?

1. Speaking up – We spend a lot of time thinking about this at Hot Spots Movement, as well as working on this capability with clients, andText Box what we’ve found is that speaking up is far more likely and powerful in organisations which create an environment of psychological safety. What do we mean by psychological safety? This is an environment in which people’s views are valued, no matter their seniority or function, where people can challenge the status quo and are free to build on each other’s ideas. In addition to creating psychological safety, we find it’s crucial that organisations act on the insights given. People will only speak up if they feel they are being listened to, and that their views are being acted upon.

2. Collaboration – Here, we are looking at tapping into collective people power. Research shows that innovative and impactful ideas tend to come from cross-enterprise collaboration, rather than one team from a research lab or company department working on an issue in isolation.[1] Additionally, new workplace technologies have allowed organisations to bring people together in a many-to-many communication model, inspiring innovation as well as giving employees greater agency when it comes to decision-making.

3. Innovation and Productivity – Organisations often find themselves tasked with doing more with less, and have to constantly reinvent themselves in the face of disruption. As such, innovation is no longer a department or function, but instead a mentality that must pervade the entire organisation. Interestingly, our experience from running innovation projects with clients indicates an innate desire and capacity to innovate which is latent within many employees. What these employees are lacking, however, is the time to do so, or the incentives to ensure they make time for innovation.

4. Organisational Structure and Values – Research shows that strong values and purpose are effective in unleashing the people power of current employees, as well as becoming an increasingly important role in the attraction of new talent.[2] The challenge that organisations face here is to ensure that the rhetoric matches reality. That is to say, if you have a set of values in your office lobby, you need to ensure that they are being reflected in the processes and practices that underpin the everyday behaviour of your employees, and be sure that employees are rewarded for living those values.

We’re undertaking ongoing research into this topic through the Unleashing People Power Survey. This 10-minute survey allows you to pulse-check  how your organisation is performing on each of the above four levers, as well as how this compares to the benchmarking of 60+ multinationals. Perhaps take a moment today to complete it, and send it to your colleagues too – the more responses, the more insightful the data.

If you’re interested in taking the Unleashing People Power Survey or would like to learn more about how to unleash the energy of your people, please contact Harriet Molyneaux

[1] Wuchty, S., Jones, B. and Uzzi, B. 2007. The Increasing Dominance of Teams in Production of Knowledge, Science 316, no. 5827: 1036–1039

[2] Nally, D. (2015). Five reasons diversity and inclusion matter to every business and every employee. PwC CEO Insights.

Helping your employees get in shape can help your bottom line do the same

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Are your employees doing enough exercise?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), roughly 35% of people fall short of the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical exercise.

Now I know that I don’t always reach that magical figure and my number one reason is – no time. If, like myself, you work full time, you can expect to spend around 50% of your waking day at work. When you throw in things such as duties at home and having a social life, you can easily run out of time to fit in some exercise or even just have the pleasure of walking to work. This has consequences.

Here in the UK we lose 131 million working days due to ill-health each year, which is roughly translated as around £100 billion(1). This sickening figure could easily be reduced according to those in academia. Multiple studies have shown that increases in exercise (both during and after work), can lead to a reduction in sick days, less presenteeism and an overall reduction in the cost of sickness absence for organisations.

And there are good examples that this is true from outside of academia as well. As Phil Smith, Chairman of Cisco, highlighted in a recent FT article, a significant portion of Cisco’s private healthcare budget is spent treating musculoskeletal conditions, caused primarily by sedentary work. This, many argue, can be reduced simply by employees exercising more, rather than spending their time sitting at their desks.

But it’s not just on absenteeism and healthcare budgets where you’ll see impressive gains, it’s also about how your employees perform when they’re at work where you’ll see a difference.

The benefits of exercise are well-documented – it puts your staff in a better mood and reduces their likelihood of suffering from depression. But importantly for many employers it also improves productivity, memory and can even lead to be better job satisfaction, which again improves overall performance. On the opposite side of the coin, common challenges such as workplace stress, burnout, employee turnover and presenteeism, were all found to be reduced when employees were given the option to exercise more whilst at work.

The final benefit can be found in how whole teams perform. A recent study out of Loughborough University(2) found that employees taking part in team-sports, such as football, netball, volleyball and rugby reported an improvement in team cohesion and also their overall performance.

So, it’s clear then that you can improve your bottom line by helping your employees improve their own wellbeing. Relatively easy steps like the messaging given out and the example set by leaders is a great way to encourage employees to be more active – and when they start to see some changes, so will you.

As a challenge to you all then, this week ask yourself: Am I truly encouraging my team to take opportunities for movement and exercise during the day? Am I taking the stairs or hosting walking meetings rather than just sitting in a meeting room? Am I leading by example or could I be doing more?


  1. Department of Work and Pensions (DoWP). (2014). Long term sickness absence. UK Government: London.
  2. Brinkley A., McDermott, H. and Munir, F., 2017. What benefits does team sport hold for the workplace? A systematic review. Journal of Sports Sciences

What can the Hollywood sexual harassment scandals tell you about your company culture?

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Anna Gurun PhotoThe wave of stories of pervasive sexual harassment and assault in recent weeks, from Hollywood to Parliament, have made me think about the role of culture in normalising such behaviour. We are currently researching Shifting Cultures for our upcoming Masterclass, and part of that research has centred on how cultures are formed. Are organisations aware of how much of their culture is shaped by the mindset of the dominant group?

We all have social identities, established through self-reflection from interactions with others. The sociologist Charles Horton Cooley referred to this as the ‘looking glass self’.[1] As we grow up and are socialised, we see the way people talk and act with us, which then feeds into our self-perception. This includes stereotypes that people already have about our group identity. As a middle-class, white woman from an educated background, for example, I will have received subtle cues about how I’m expected to behave, and what I’m expected to achieve.

Yet arguably, not everyone is aware of the extent to which they have benefited from their collective identity. In his discussion on modern masculinity, the artist Grayson Perry identified a group he termed ‘Default Man’.[2] White, middle-class, heterosexual, usually middle-aged, they are, as Perry notes, a tribe that does not think of itself as a tribe. Instead they often see themselves as individuals. Yet collectively they profoundly shape our culture.

Take the workplace. There are fewer S&P 1500 companies led by women than S&P companies led by men named John.[3] It is clear that this impacts organisational culture, yet it is unlikely that as an individual ‘John’ feels his progress acts a role-model for other men like him, or that he is part of a community with similar experiences that shape his behaviour and mindset. Does John feel that he got where he was all by himself, with no societal support at all? Research has identified an ‘out-group’ homogeneity effect,where people believe in the uniformity of those not like them: ‘they are alike: we are diverse’.[4] The power imbalance still prevalent in society means that the male in-group often either consciously or unconsciously defines the broader culture.

This is true for the more toxic elements discussed in recent weeks, but also for parts of culture that we are not even aware of. There is a parable that describes two young fish swimming along, who happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” How much of what we take for granted in terms of qualities of an effective leader, or criteria for progression within an organisation is subjectively biased in favour of the dominant group?

Recently, there has been a rise in the number of organisations realising that building an inclusive culture means engaging the majority group. Deloitte, for example, ended its women’s networks and affinity groups, instead involving men in the conversation and making them accountable for D&I goals.[5] The fact that is has taken this long, highlights the extent to which men have traditionally been viewed as the default that doesn’t need to change, rather than an identity group like any other. If workplace culture is going to shift this needs to continue, as companies reckon with how much of their culture is formed by one group and the ramifications of this.



[1] Rousseau, N. (2002) Self, Symbols and Society, Rowman and Littlefield.

[2] Perry, G. (8 October 2014) The Rise and Fall of Default Man, New Statesman

[3] FoW Power and Leadership Report 2016

[4] Ostrom, T.M and Sedikides, C. (1992) Out-Group Homogenity Effects in Naural and Minimal Groups, Psychological Bulletin 112(3). 536-553.

[5] Wittenberg-Cox, A. (3 August 2017) Deloitte’s Radical Attempt to Reframe Diversity, Harvard Bussiness Review

The Banker of the Future

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Just over a year ago, we set out on an ambitious task: identifying the banker of the future. We had read endless articles about what we didn’t want from banking talent in the future in light of the financial crisis, but felt there was a conspicuous absence of dialogue around what we did want and need from banking talent in the years ahead.

Our Banker of the Future project brought together some of the industry’s most innovative and forward-thinking organisations to share their perspectives, challenges and opportunities. We  combined the latest academic and business thinking with practical case studies of what was actually happening within organisations to craft an aspirational, yet achievable view of the Banker of the Future.

What did we find?

Three key messages emerged from our research:

  1. Reconnecting with purpose

The banking industry has been through significant change in recent years – both as a result of the global financial crisis, and in light of a changing competitive landscape with the rise of FinTech companies. As a result, many banks – including members of the programme – are revisiting their purpose to ensure that it was an accurate reflection of the value they add, and a compelling proposition for potential and current employees. However, our research revealed that the core challenge for the banking industry was not reinventing its purpose as such, but reconnecting with it. Despite the many transformations taking place in the industry, BoF members concluded that the essence of banking remains the same: enabling economic growth; facilitating the exchange of value between parties; and simply making day-to-day life possible for individuals within a society.

  1. Projecting the skills, capabilities and mindsets that will be required within banks in the future

The nature of work in banking will continue to shift in the years ahead, with future jobs likely to be focused on ‘uniquely human skills’ such as creativity, empathy and innovation. In many regions, increasing r

egulatory requirements on investment banking activities will push established banks into ‘capital light’ areas such as high touch advisory services that require complex collaboration between multiple stakeholders. As such, banks will need people who are skilled at delivering complex, non-routine work, and adept at combining ideas and expertise with others in order to arrive at new solutions.

  1. Crafting the Culture

Culture has been under the spotlight in banks since the financial crisis and a persistent challenge has been around creating a common culture that pervades the entire organisation. In the final phase of our research we uncovered three tenets of culture that are essential if organisations are to activate their purpose on a daily basis, and if they are to unleash the full potential of their future workforce. Within this, we explored what needs to happen for individuals to unleash their diverse perspectives, what the new deal between organisations and talent will look like, and how banks must co-create the future with their employees.

We concluded this research programme with great optimism for what banks will be able to achieve in the years ahead if they are armed with the insights they need about the future of work in their industry. We were inspired by how much activity is already taking place in the most forward-thinking organisations.

Find out more about our Banker of the Future research by contacting Emma Birchall, Head of Insight and Forecasting.


Could listening to music make you more successful?

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Music is hailed a triumph of human creativity and is almost inescapable. It has been around for hundreds of years and still to this day, greets us around every corner in almost any establishment or environment you can think of. It teaches us our ABCs, about love, loss and countless other life lessons. In fact, many people claim to not be able to live without it. I am one of those people – I love music – it starts and ends most of my days and is an essential part of my daily commutes. More often than not, you will find me plugged in and channelling my inner Beyoncé.

As it happens, I find myself listening to a lot more music when I need to pick myself up during times of stress or when I’m having a particularly bad day. There’s a good chance you do, too – music has a renowned ability to promote peace and introspection, and its transformative effects on the human psyche are widely studied. Psychologists, sociologists and even ancient philosophers have long hypothesised that music can change lives, and today, there is much scientific research to support this and prove that music affects our brains both cognitively and neurologically.

Some of the most notable and studied effects of music on us include increased confidence, productivity, accuracy and creativity, as well as reduced levels of illness, stress and reduced openness to distraction. Music, as an inward symbol of peace, has also been associated with relieving patients of depression and acting as a consolation tool for the grieving. In all, it seems music can make us feel better in an undeniably, positive way.

When we feel better, we do better. The sentiment of being successful may differ per person and situation, but definitively, it is to achieve a desired aim. Published research shows that participants who listened to music before taking measures to achieve their goals, e.g. before an interview, or before a driving test, had significantly higher success rates than their counterparts. Whether or not they felt like they could achieve their goals easily, they benefitted from extra confidence, calmness or a better mood, furthering the idea that music acts as a form of psychological armour.

The most effective or engaging music is that which imposes emphatic statements and transpires confidence, empowerment and motivation. This impact on us is complex and comes about with certain lyrics, tempos, bass beats and keys. When we hear a song, particularly a favourite, it prompts a response from all four lobes of our brains, touching on our creativity, development, and pleasure, intertwining with our emotional centres. It is this intricate neurological interaction which generates a deep and unique response in us, creating real feelings which we want to act upon. It is something very few artforms can rival.

Interestingly, as a product of music’s emotional influence on us, our social interactions also change. As shown in further research, the increased confidence and creativity, as well as lessened anxiety from listening to music, leads to higher self-esteem, better interactions with peers and more proficiency in expressing yourself. In today’s workforce and anticipated in the future of work, there is a growing emphasis on interpersonal skills and engagement. This would suggest that listening to confidence-boosting music, for example, could aid you in better handling social situations and in the long term, make you more successful.

Different music inspires different people but altogether, I’d say the theory stands tall – that listening to music has the power to unlock success through eliciting bursts of certain feelings on demand. This can be in and out of the workplace – a thought-provoking study by TotalJobs (In collaboration with Dr Anneli Haake, 2016) found that 79% of employees who listened to music whilst working, had better rates of productivity.

Perhaps with Spotify revealing their highest ever subscription levels earlier this year, we may be living in a harmoniously successful utopia before we know it…