Culture

Thinking About Thought Diversity

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naderBy Nader Sleiman, Analyst

As our awareness of diverse identities and shifting cultural perspectives has grown, so has the expectation that organisations will adopt inclusive measures to ensure that this diversity is represented and empowered at all levels. Gender diversity, for instance, has developed into the inclusion of non-binary and trans individuals through such measures as training to reduce inherent biases in interviews, particularly unconscious gender and racial biases. Similarly, when addressing minority representation, the Equal Opportunity Act provided a framework for inclusive recruitment, such as removing pictures from CVs and accounting for diversity in selection. However, one form of diversity that has, so far, been side-lined is thought diversity.

What is thought diversity?

Natural differences in abilities are somewhat reflected in skills and competencies, but there is more to human beings than just what they know and what they can do. Thought diversity is all about how people think and work. Differences in work pace, development needs, feedback approaches, and rhythm of work all fall under thought diversity. Neurodiversity, which refers to the different ways the brain processes and interprets information, also falls within this area. Recognising thought diversity means accepting that every individual has their own approach to work because of who they are. It means allowing unique contributions from those who possess different points of view, which encourages people to understand and react to information in a fresh light.

How can we be more inclusive?

Without a talent vision that encompasses people’s differences, recruitment biases could hinder the attraction and selection of desired talent. Even internally, such talent could face opportunity limitations that would challenge their career growth. Because of their unique approach to work, employees who bring thought diversity could be perceived as a hindrance to organisational operations rather than added-value perspectives and working styles. Addressing these issues, therefore, is at the core of creating an inclusive environment that accommodates for the needs of this niche diversity group. Simple alterations can go far in this aim. What follows is a far from holistic list of possible suggestions, but it does provide initial steps to consider when aiming to recruit, select and develop thought-diverse-talent.

  1. Recruiting diversity: By understanding thought diversity and its significance, a diversity goal can be set with measurable KPIs. First, including thought diversity means that recruitment should involve a renewed focus on transferable skills. Your ideal candidate may come from a different industry and company size but possess the skills you need to get the job done. Such candidates can offer insights that you would not receive from someone who has worked in the same industry, company, and environment as your organisation. It is key to ask: ‘Does the candidate’s experience grant them the skills needed for the job?’

 

  1. Selecting thought diversity: The past decade has witnessed a monumental growth in how technology helps organisations attract talent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has offered skill-based assessments that cross-compare profiles to roles based on identified skills. Gaming and virtual reality (VR) have provided industry giants with an unexpected recruitment tool that allows employers to gain additional insights into how candidates respond in different environments. However, organisations are not expected to spend a fortune on advanced technology to find the best fit for your roles; instead, organisations can focus on building a signature selection technique that is unique to their needs, values, and diversity goals. Using the thought diversity goal as a stepping stone, organisations can build their selection technique based on how they define their diversity needs and how far they are willing to invest in and recruit diversity candidates.

 

  1. Personalised Growth: The key to retaining thought-diverse individuals is not providing specific employees with privileges that others cannot enjoy; the key is providing a ‘menu’ of options for everyone to choose from. Flexible working arrangements, part-time work, job sharing, contractual and periodical work could all fall under the umbrella of such measures. From those measures, employees can build their own customised work and learning experience. Therefore, continuous learning can be achieved by engaging employees in deciding how they end up doing their jobs. It enables them to make individual development decisions and control their pace of work in ways that they would be unable to, otherwise. In that sense, organisations need to nurture those diverse candidates by providing this form of autonomy to co-create the culture and optimise the value that they bring. With the right leadership, the right policies, and the right people, organisations can harness the power of diversity in all its forms.

If you wish to learn more about how diversity and inclusion can be introduced into your talent strategy, please reach out to me. Your thoughts are always appreciated, so leave me a comment and let me know what you would like to see at your own organisation regarding thought diversity.

Your job is designed to stress you out

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By Tom Goulding, Analyst

TomIt has been widely reported that stress is the “health epidemic of the 21st Century”. The latest statistics for the UK suggest that 12.8 million workdays were lost in 2018/19 to work-related stress, depression, and anxiety.1 The most commonly-cited reason was workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility. Evidence strongly suggests that stress impacts employee health2, job satisfaction3, turnover4, as well as productivity and profits.5

The resulting costs of a stressed workforce are significant, and employers have taken note. The Organisational Health and Wellbeing industry that seeks to reduce workplace stress was worth an estimated £526 million in the UK last year.6 However, the effectiveness of programmes in improving wellbeing is questionable. One study examined over 30,000 U.S. warehouse workers, finding those in wellbeing programmes reported no difference in absenteeism, healthcare spending, or job performance.7 Another study implies corporate wellbeing programmes are overwhelmingly taken up by healthy employees, and may even alienate those dealing with existing issues, meaning that programmes can screen out the employees that need help the most.8

The corporate approach to wellbeing evidently needs to be re-examined. W. Edwards Deming argued that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”, and it seems clear that many organisations are currently designed to produce stressed workers. It seems tautological to say that people are stressed because work is stressful, but it is an important point to make. While theory and evidence both suggest some level of stress is beneficial for performance, too much stress is undoubtedly harmful, as shown in the graph below. If most people are more stressed than is optimal, this is because their roles are more stressful than is optimal.

tom blog

Wellbeing initiatives often focus on individuals, aiming to improve their resilience or boost the sense of satisfaction employees get from their work. While there is a growing ‘job crafting’ movement9 in the Human Resources world, the power to redesign roles generally belongs to organisations rather than employees. Individual resilience is just one half of the picture. The focus on individuals is particularly convenient for employers, as it precludes any scrutiny into how they are contributing to the problem. This oversight likely underlies the previously discussed ineffectiveness of many wellbeing initiatives.

Furthermore, shifting responsibility from the least powerful part of the system (individuals) to the most powerful (the organisation) magnifies the potential impact of interventions. To take an example that has likely impacted your own life, consider plastic straws. You can choose to personally avoid plastic straws, but it would be impossible for an individual to match the impact of Tesco’s recent decision10 to remove one billion pieces of single-use plastic from their stores by end of 2020, or many retailers’ decision to remove plastic straws altogether.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach but, ultimately, a large portion of the responsibility must lie with the organisation to listen to their people and act to make changes to the system. Some situations can be remedied by increased flexibility of working hours or location, while others require more clearly-defined boundaries between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’. Some companies would benefit from having wellbeing sessions during the workday, while others would generate yet more stress as employees try to find the time to fit these in among their schedules. Offering free gym classes or fresh fruit and calling it a day simply are not enough, and often miss the mark entirely. Organisations must develop a signature approach to wellbeing that is tailored specifically for their people and environment.

Of course, it is still up to employees to engage with wellbeing initiatives once they are deployed, but deployment of genuinely effective initiatives is only possible once organisations accept their responsibility and start making systematic changes to address their specific issues.

If you’re interested in developing a clear picture of where to begin within your own organisation, or want to discuss your own experience with health and wellbeing initiatives, please feel free to get in touch with me.


  1. Health and Safety Executive. (2019). Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain; https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behaviour;
  3. Ismail et al. (2015). The Relationship between Stress and Job Satisfaction: Evidence from a Malaysian Peacekeeping Mission.
  4. Lu Y, Hu X, Huang X, et al. (2017). The relationship between job satisfaction, work stress, work–family conflict, and turnover intention among physicians in Guangdong, China: a cross-sectional study.
  5. Denning, Stephanie. (2018). How Stress Is The Business World’s Silent Killer; https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephaniedenning/2018/05/04/what-is-the-cost-of-stress-how-stress-is-the-business-worlds-silent-killer/#706b6546e061
  6. IbisWorld. (2019). Corporate Wellness Services in the UK – Market Research Report; https://www.ibisworld.com/united-kingdom/market-research-reports/corporate-wellness-services-industry/
  7. Song, Baicker. (2019). Effect of a Workplace Wellness Program on Employee Health and Economic Outcomes: A Randomized Clinical Trial
  8. Jones, Molitor, Reif. (2018). What Do Workplace Wellness Programs Do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study.
  9. Lee, Louise. (2016). Should Employees Design Their Own Jobs? https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/should-employees-design-their-own-jobs
  10. Tesco news bulletin. (2019); https://www.tescoplc.com/news/2019/tesco-to-remove-one-billion-pieces-of-plastic-from-products-by-the-end-of-2020/?category=packaging

3 Unexpected Insights on Dynamic Workforce Planning

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By Ellen Kwan, Analyst

3 Unexpected Insights on Dynamic Workforce Planning

At the end of last year, Future of Work Research Consortium delegates came together for HSM’s Dynamic Workforce Planning Masterclass, which was full of insights, activities and cross-industry collaboration. Through conversations and live polling with consortium members, we have gained some new perspectives on Dynamic Workforce Planning. As it is often the case, learning was a two-way street at the Masterclass – we have also walked away with unexpected perspectives on Dynamic Workforce Planning.

Upskill and Reskill for Social Mobility

“Automation presents an interesting counterintuition in shifting people whose skills are in decline into higher paying jobs.”

While the advent of the digital revolution presents an opportunity to overcome challenges in social mobility, the same opportunities could instead be barriers to those without existing digital skills.

As noted by the Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation 2018-19 report, “being born privileged in Britain means that you are likely to remain privileged. Being born disadvantaged, however, means that you may have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure that your children are not stuck in the same trap”[1].  The UK’s social mobility has been reported to have remained “virtually stagnant” since 2014. This phenomenon can, in part, be attributed to the “virtuous cycle of work training and pay rises” available to high-skilled workers. While almost a third of employees in managerial and professional occupations took part in training over the past three months, only 18% in routine and manual jobs had the same opportunity. According to Dr. Lunchinskaya from the Institute for Employment Research, these findings show a vicious cycle of learning “whereby those with low or no qualifications are much less likely to access education and training after leaving school than those with high qualification.”[2] As a result, the low-skilled are unable to upskill to meet the needs of the digital future, continuously preserving low-skilled employees at lower paid roles.

Automation presents organisations and governments with the opportunity to shape how their workforce and social landscape looks. When CEOs were asked to list the most important measures of success in 2019, the number one measure was “impact on society, including income inequality and diversity.”[3] Rather than upskilling or reskilling employees to similar roles which would be future-proofed, organisations could play a key role in displaced employees’ social mobility by identifying roles with the most skill and task adjacencies that offer higher pay. Therefore, as automation and digitisation become an increasingly prevalent phenomenon across different types of work, organisations can either become active shapers of the social landscape, or lose part of their workforce to the increasing digital divide.

Reframe the Language of the Future

“The way we speak about the future can bring joy to encourage people to embrace those ideas of the future.”

What immediately comes to mind when you hear terms like “automation”, “Artificial Intelligence”, or “human-machine collaboration”? With thoughts of Skynet and Elon Musk’s warnings on humankind’s future enslavement to machines, it comes as no surprise that over 65% of Americans fear automation[4].

Consider Daniel Kahneman’s research on thinking fast and slow. While thinking fast (system 1 thinking) relies on first impressions and ‘gut-reactions’ to make decisions, thinking slow (system 2) relies on reflection and logical analysis. Our tendency to make gut-reactions first can be attributed to the fact that when we have capacity for rational information processing, we have little authority to use that information for making decisions. In the deeper part of our brain where system 1 thinking takes place (the Vagus nerve), we have no rational processing capacity, but more authority in using system 1 to make decisions[5]. Therefore, when employees are told that technological change is coming, system 1 could already be operating before employees can consider benefits of the change. Instead, fast thinking relies on heuristics and mental biases to create conclusions about the technological change – fear and anxiety.

An example of a mental bias that fast thinking falls victim to is availability heuristic. The availability heuristic leads people to assume that information that is readily available is valid. A study in 2010 found that people who watch violent media gave higher estimates of crime in the real world than those not exposed to violent media[6]. In the context of automation and digitisation, the barrage of media reports on job losses from automation, film adaptations of robotic overlords taking over humanity, and stories or anecdotes about others whose jobs have been displaced can cause employees to overestimate the threat of automation.

While thinking fast can lead us to conclusions of doom and gloom around automation in the future of work, organisations and leaders can work to shift emotions of fear into excitement. Research has found that certain fearful situations can activate the reward centre in the brain[7] under specific conditions. Klucken (2009) recommends creating situations for predictable fear, rather than unanticipated fear. When we can anticipate the fearful situation, humans are able to activate the limbic system, allowing us to feel alert and excited without concern over actual threats.

In summary, when framing language of the future, leaders should ensure that their message fulfils the following three requirements:

  1. Widespread and readily available in a number of different formats for employees (e.g. videos, learning journeys, blog posts)
  2. Positive and focused on potential gains for employees
  3. Transparent about next steps and implications on employees’ roles

Renaissance of Work

“Let’s start calling the future of work ‘The Renaissance of Work.’”

As technological ingenuity has grown exponentially prevalent in the workplace, we now need to put a human focus back into work. With technology’s growing potential, leaders are now starting to see the role that humans can play alongside technology. From creating new jobs to manage and regulate technology (e.g. AI ethics engineers) to shifting focus from technical skills to uniquely human skills (e.g. creativity), the human focus is beginning to catch up to the digital boom.

Moving beyond human-machine collaboration, organisations will need to employ social ingenuity to truly thrive in the future of work. Demographic and societal changes, such as longer working lives and shifting family dynamics, requires organisations to reinvent the way we think about work and its role in identity and life. Organisations must begin thinking about what it means to put humans at the centre, understanding what the future landscape of work may look like, and identifying avenues to enable humans to thrive, rather than to be held a victim of the future landscape.

An example of social ingenuity needed now is the concept of retirement. Traditionally, people are recruited into an entry-level position after completing their full-time education. Throughout their careers, they climb up the promotional ladder, making occasional jumps across organisations. This eventually stops as people reach their late 50s or early 60s, as they prepare for retirement. However, as longevity increases, so does people’s desire to lengthen their working lives. While governments play a key role in mandating official retirement age, organisations play an active part in how retirement can be implemented. Too often, employees are offered a binary choice between full-time work or retirement. By doing so, organisations fail to tap into the crystalline intelligence typically held in experienced employees, which refers to the tacit knowledge of how to perform tasks. The renaissance of work calls for a mindset shift in how retirement is perceived, whether it continues to remain as a binary choice, or a flexible combination of work embedded within retirement. If the future of retirement does call for flexibility, what would it look like? These are questions that organisations should begin considering to leverage the skills and potential offered by retiring employees.

By redefining the concept of retirement, organisations can utilise the full potential of their workforce. In turn, employees can also craft the retirement lifestyle that best suits them according to their financial, emotional, and social needs.

As we reach the Renaissance of Work, leaders must put humans back at the forefront of work. Taking a human-focused lens moves beyond thinking about skills or jobs, but considers how to leverage changing human needs to craft a mutually beneficial future of work.

 

If you would like to find out more about Dynamic Workforce Planning, or how you can join Prof. Lynda Gratton’s Future of Work Research Consortium, get in touch with Anna.


[1] State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain

[2] Social Mobility Commission report warns of ‘virtuous’ and ‘vicious’ cycle of adult learning

[3] Introduction: Leading the social enterprise – Reinvent with a human focus

[4] How Americans see automation and the workplace in 7 charts

[5] Kahneman, Daniel, 1934- author. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

[6] Riddle, Karen (2010). “Always on My Mind: Exploring How Frequent, Recent, and Vivid Television Portrayals Are Used in the Formation of Social Reality Judgments”. Media Psychology. 13 (2): 155–179.

[7] Klucken, T. et al 2009. “Contingency Learning in Human Fear Conditioning Involves the Ventral Striatum.” Human Brain Mapping 30:3636–3644

The Unintended Consequences of Agile Working

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IzzyWebsiteThe advancements in technology, paired with globalisation have promoted a trend towards agile working, with workers free to work at a time and location which suits them. In the changing world of work, there is a growing trend for employees to work flexibly and not be required to be tied to their desks in traditional working patterns, with 70% of people globally working remotely at least once a week [1]. There are multiple organisational benefits to agile working, including increased productivity, autonomy and the promotion of work-life balance for employees.

Recently, Microsoft Japan implemented a 4 day working week to much success. Offering its 2,300 employees a variety of agile working styles, Microsoft Japan launched a pilot programme aiming to increase productivity and morale, with a goal to realise the same results with 20% fewer weekly hours[2]. The results appeared to be highly positive: a 40% rise in productivity, happier workers and a decline in days taken off. However, there are often unintended consequences of agile working which organisations should consider in their approach. The introduction of the shorter week came with the introduction of ‘strict new rules’, with managers being ‘heavy handed’ in their implementation, including employees being fined for taking too long on work-related matters.

Taking these dynamics into consideration, the pressure to output the same amount, or the resulting 40% rise in productivity in Microsoft’s case, in a shorter amount of time could have a detrimental effect upon employees wellbeing and long term efficiency.

Organisations such as Tiggertrap and the Los Angeles Times have also suffered unintended consequences when introducing an unlimited vacation policy. On the face of it, this seems like a positive idea which promotes high levels of rejuvenation, empowerment and autonomy. However, in practice often these policies push people to always be ‘on’ and connected, with a Glassdoor survey showing that 61% of workers admit to working despite being on vacation[3].

In many cases, one of the main disadvantages associated with unlimited vacation policies is that often employees end up taking less time off. Tiggertrap scrapped their unlimited vacation policy after results found that employees had reduced their average number of holiday taken from 28 days to 15. Factors such as unspoken expectations and nobody wanting to be the person who takes the most time off, contribute to spiralling behaviour in which employees take even less holiday than before. Adding to this, the advancement in technology has enabled new ways of working, but has also promoted the growth of an ‘always on’ culture, in which there are potential stresses of constantly being connected to work and never truly switching off.

So, after this reflection of the disadvantages of a more agile approach to working arrangements, why should organisations still consider this strategy as their most future-proofed option?

In the changing world of work, organisations need to adapt their traditional approaches to ways of working in order to attract and retain the best talent. By offering a wider menu of options of working hours, organisations should be able to attract a broader range of people and maintain a stronger talent pipeline. In confronting the unintended consequences, it is crucial that organisations develop policies that will not just allow employees to work flexibly or have time off, but encourage them to do so. If the aim of the policy is to enhance a less frenzied working environment, with reduced burnout and higher productivity, organisations need to tackle the culture in which these policies sit and support individual behaviour that does not promote employees to be ‘always on’ and constantly connected. To approach this, organisations could benefit from considering a more tailored approach, aiming to promote a culture which empowers their employees ‘to communicate when they need time to disconnect’, rather than rolling out a one-size-fits-all policy[4].


[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/30/70-percent-of-people-globally-work-remotely-at-least-once-a-week-iwg-study.html

2 Kelly, J. (2019). Microsoft Japan Launched A Four-Day Workweek To Much Success: Is This The Key To Attracting Talent In The Tight U.S. Job Market?. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2019/11/05/microsoft-japan-launched-a-four-day-week-work-to-much-success-is-this-the-answer-to-attract-talent-in-the-tight-us-job-market/#4863cf6759ff  [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].

3 Unlimited Vacation Time Policy (2016), Hot Spots Movement. Available at: http://hotspotscdn.blob.core.windows.net/files/1247/unlimited-vacation-time-case-study-160915.pdf [Accessed 21st. Nov. 2019]

4 Future of HR Report (2016), Hot Spots Movement, Available at http://hotspotscdn.blob.core.windows.net/files/1267/future-of-hr-report-final.pdf

The Power of Purpose in Finance

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0Historically, Trust in finance was viewed as fundamental and underpinned the banking industry from its outset – in fact, the word ‘credit’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘trust’.

In more recent times however, the 2008 financial crisis prompted a swathe of mistrust to sweep the financial sector; bonuses had grown bigger and bigger as transparency dwindled and significant regulatory steps had to be taken in an attempt to rebuild faith in the sector.

The poet Robert Frost summed up the sentiment towards financial services institutions; “A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back again when it begins to rain.”1 This is echoed in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer which, despite showing a gradual increase in trust over the past five years, highlights Financial Services as the least trusted of the industry sectors2.

There are a number of factors contributing to this view, one of which being the widely reported sums of bankers’ bonuses. Such reports are instrumental in the view that there is no greater Purpose in financial services than profit.

However, this all-consuming focus on profit hasn’t always been the driver of financial institutions. A British economist has highlighted that, “For nearly all of its 2,000-year history, the corporation has combined a public purpose with its commercial activities. It is only over the last 60 years that the idea that profit is the only purpose of business has emerged.”This quest for ever increasing financial gains is not a Purpose which inspires trust, nor does it sit well with the regulators.

Time to make a change?

Banking culture is under increased scrutiny by the FCA, whose approach now has a greater focus on culture and governance – as is highlighted in our recent white paper at HSM, which uncovers this in more detail. ‘Purpose’ has been highlighted as one of the four key drivers of culture and behaviour which firms can identify and proactively influence.4 In his outgoing speech as Chief Executive of the FCA, Andrew Bailey emphasised the importance of culture in driving more ethical behaviour: “culture is about encouraging and incentivising good things, not just stopping bad things from happening.”5

Action needs to be taken by many firms in light of these new conditions, to consider and clarify the wider Purpose and to enable the associated values and behaviours to permeate the sector. There is an opportunity to use this moment to more broadly transform the social impact of financial institutions and not merely allow these considerations to become a tick-box exercise. 

Adopting a more Purposeful approach

A clear Purpose not only highlights the aims and direction of a firm, but also earns greater understanding and trust from the public. A number of financial institutions have considered their Purpose and taken a more holistic view of their aims and responsibilities for customers, employees and society. They are driving real mindset shifts in their approach to everyday tasks, building a customer centric approach where employees at all levels embody the traits and behaviours of the shared goals, ultimately helping to achieve the progression and betterment of society. 

However, we can’t just forget the financial targets; firms need to flourish to be able to achieve their goals. However, financial gain should no longer be the sole objective. Indeed, impact of Purpose is profound and a clear link can be drawn between it and performance, with firms demonstrating a deeply ingrained Purpose correlating strongly with ten-year shareholder returns.6 

Financial Institutions have the ability to play a significant part in the inclusion, growth and enrichment of society; but this has to be reflected in their Purpose. It may just be that the power of Purpose could be the catalyst for rebuilding trust, better businesses and a more sustainable society.

I’d love to hear more about your experiences of the power of Purpose. If you would like to have a discussion, please get in touch with me at oliver@hotspotsmovement.com


 1. Oxford Reference

2.2019 Edelman Trust Barometer

3. OUP Blog, Colin Mayer

4.FCA Transforming Culture in Financial Services, FCA Approach to Supervision

5. Transforming culture in financial services conference, Andrew Bailey

6.Purpose with the Power to Transform your Organisation, BCG

Organisational Wellbeing: Questions for Personal Reflection

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naderOn the occasion of Mental Health Awareness Day, 10th October, I thought it prudent to shed light on one of the key contributors to mental health: the workplace.

On average, we spend at least a quarter of our weekly hours at work. Our work environment, irrespective of whether we enjoy it or not, inevitably becomes a second home that, at times, demands more responsibilities from us than our first home. Unfortunately, seldom do we actually discuss mental health in general, let alone in the workplace.

To address organisational wellbeing, I’m sharing my own approach to ensuring that I remain mentally healthy. If you have any additional points, do feel free to share in the comments.

  1. Am I treated the way I want to be treated?

More often than not, organisational bullying is not discussed. In many ways, organisational bullying is similar to our general definition of bullying, which includes being harassed, being talked down to, and being laughed at. However, organisational bullying also manifests in other forms that are often disregarded. Being left out intentionally, being yelled at or called a name, or being embarrassed through sexual humour, is workplace bullying. We seem to often let go of whatever upsets us at work because of lesser expectations towards how we should be treated, perhaps because of the financial reliance on our jobs that prevents us from setting the bar any higher.

If you feel uncomfortable in your place of work, tell someone. It could be your manager, your co-workers, HR, or any authority that could play a role in resolving your problem. If you don’t feel safe speaking to anyone in the office, reach out to your network for support. Bottling up your problems means neglecting your mental wellbeing. Just talking about it – having a conversation with someone you trust – could make a significant difference in how you feel.

  1. Are my expectations realistic?

We all want to be healthy, wealthy, successful and loved. It’s the human condition. But you should also ask yourself: is everything that I’m doing making me happy? Which parts of my day bring me the most joy, and which parts don’t? How can I rearrange my priorities so that I can achieve my goals without affecting my mental state?

Give yourself time to rest, to breathe. We stress ourselves out with constant replies to emails and calls in what has become a seemingly 24/7 workweek because of how well-connected we are. Find a time to stop using your phone and allow yourself to indulge in a chocolate bar or the newest Netflix special if that makes you happy. Essentially, allow yourself those simple joys that we often lose sight of as we progress in our careers and neglect our wellbeing. And remember, in some way, a considerable portion of the stress we suffer from is caused by our own expectations.

  1. What’s the perspective I choose for myself today?

Have you ever had a terrible week? I’m not talking about a bad morning, but a bad week overall. By Friday, you walk into work and you’re so tired and done that you just want to go back home and crawl back into bed. I think most of us have been there at least once. What is the perspective from which you choose to see your day? I walked into the office this morning having gone through a tough series of unfortunate events within a few hours. As I described my morning to my manager, she smiled and said, “At least it can only get better from this point!” Create a constant mental, or physical, reminder that it can only get better from your worst workplace experiences and watch your day get better. You messed up a presentation? Your next presentation will be better because you learned at least one thing from this one. You said the wrong thing in a meeting? You will be careful with your words in the next meeting. This approach to restructuring our perception of our experiences needs practice, but we have to start somewhere.

This blog in no way attempts to overshadow serious mental health issues that affect more people in the population than we even recognise. It merely aims to give some perspective to those whose workplace experience may be bringing them down, which inevitably affects their performance and job satisfaction. I hope that reading this gave you a slightly new perspective in the very least, and I hope you utilise that perspective in achieving the shift towards mental serenity.

If you’d like to learn more about organisational health and wellbeing, stay tuned for Hot Spots Movement’s Masterclass in February 2020.


[1] Beheshti, Naz. (2019). Stigma About Mental Health Issues in the Workplace Exists: Here’s What Companies Can Do About It. Forbes.

[2] Myers, Chris (2017). How to Avoid Self-Induced Stress and Decision Fatigue in Business. Forbes.

What is ‘Good Work’?

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IzzyWebsiteAs work has changed, the relationship between organisations and their people has progressed. Work has moved away from the industrial revolution and the homogenisation of workers and evolved into an era of autonomy with a new emphasis on the wellbeing of the individual. In recent decades this shift has been characterised by the increased responsibility and awareness of organisations for the wellness of their people.

However, despite the increased focus on individual wellbeing in the workplace, there has been a decline in job satisfaction. In the 1980s ‘roughly 61% of pollsters were satisfied with their jobs’, by 2010 this figure had dropped to 43%[2]. Even amongst highly skilled professions such as medicine and law, studies reflected rising discontent.

Financial security is an obviously important element – we know from our work with organisations that people need to be paid fairly – however, after that, economic incentive is not a big driver of satisfaction. In his essay ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’, David Graeber explores the negative ramifications for people who feel that their job is worthless and lacks value. These are roles in which the person cannot justify the existence of their responsibilities, despite often being highly respected jobs and well paid. These people frequently feel that the tasks they perform do not contribute to a wider cause, creating a sense of disillusionment and ‘pointlessness’ to their role. Linked to this is the emotional connection between work and identity, with 55% of people gaining some sense of identity from their job[1]. This lack of meaning can be emotionally detrimental to employees, leaving workers feeling unfulfilled in the performance of tasks they believe do not make a difference[2].

Here at HSM we advise that organisations, and particularly leaders, talk about ‘Good Work’ and evaluate whether the roles the offer provide a sense of meaning to their employees, looking beyond the traditional financial incentives to drive job fulfilment. The concept of ‘Good work’ highlights the importance of a role providing meaning, autonomy, dignity and a sense of belongingness. Employees wish to feel their efforts are adding value and are meaningful, even to a small degree. Furthermore, ‘good work’ needs to extend a sense of control to employees, promoting a level of freedom and autonomy within a role. Evidence of this was shown in Amy Wrzesniewski’s and Jane Dutton’s 2001 study, which found that janitors at large hospitals who viewed their roles as being part of the healing process of patients, rather than as a series of cleaning tasks, had higher levels of job satisfaction[3].

The positive implication of a more engaged workforce is substantial, particularly when placed in the unsettled context of technological disruption and social change. With statistics highlighting that 70% of the workforce is disengaged, a proactive and creative approach is required to increase job satisfaction[1].

Interested in learning more about how you can influence ‘Good Work’ in your organisation? Get in touch with me at isabella@hotspotsmovement.com


[1] Future of Work Research Consortium, ‘Building Narratives on the Future of Work’ Report, 2018

[2] Wealthy, Successful and Miserable – C. Duhigg, The Future of Work, The New York Times Magazine

[3] Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work. A. Wrzesniewski and J. E. Dutton, 2001

Give and Take

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By Greg O’Meara, Project Management Intern

When we interact with others, we tend to adopt a certain style. We choose the style based on our intentions, values and motives. On one end of the spectrum are givers, for whom the question always is, “What can I do for you?” while at the other end sit the takers who conversely say, “What can you do for me?” At the same time, for most people when meeting someone new, the default is to match their counterpart, that is, giving on condition of receiving in return. These are styles because they can vary depending on the type of interaction you are engaged in – you may give more when mentoring a student, take more when negotiating your salary and engage in matching when a competitor looks for some knowledge or advice. Yet the evidence shows that we also have a dominant style, a way of interacting with others that we are more prone towards, especially once we have gotten to know someone, and that this style has far reaching consequences for the world of work, productivity and team performance.

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant’s research based on data consisting of surveys and interviews with 30,000 people has found that givers generally constitute the least productive members of an organisation as they are seen to take on so much extra workload that they lack the time and/or the energy to complete their own tasks. Takers on the other hand may rise up the ranks quickly, however, they soon gain a reputation for operating selfishly and struggle to advance further. By process of elimination we might presume it is then matchers who are the most productive in an organisation, but according to Grant’s research, givers in the right environment where giving is the norm are the highest contributing members of a team. Grant found that a high frequency of giving behaviour in the right environment contributes to higher profits, employee retention and customer satisfaction.

Simply put, maintaining a dominant giving culture can have a powerful effect on organisational performance. Grant offers three prescriptions to create a giving environment:

  1. Firstly, it is imperative to protect your givers from burnout as they are liable to take on more work than is sustainable.
  2. Secondly, leadership must foster a culture of help-seeking so that the productive powers of the givers are unleashed.
  3. The final point, and most important with regards to culture, is that the atmosphere of giving can be significantly damaged by the introduction of just one taker into the team as the negative impact of just one taker is two to three times the positive effect of a giver.

Grant’s research has huge implications for how organisations design their talent practices and processes and shift cultures. How is your organisation creating a giving culture?

I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts! Get in touch by emailing me at greg@hotspotsmovement.com.


https://www.adamgrant.net/

The Power of Unwritten Rules

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By Graham Oxley, Project Manager – Digital Engagement

grahamWhether at work or at home, we often hear about unwritten rules. These are the norms, behaviours or actions that people are expected to follow or do even though they are not written down anywhere in a formal rule book or culture document. We encounter these unwritten rules every day and get annoyed when people don’t follow them – think of every time you have muttered under your breath when the person in front of you doesn’t hold the door for you. But beyond merely being frustrating, in certain contexts, such as corporate culture and sports, unwritten rules have the power to create a vastly different reality to the intended rhetoric of written rules.  Often, we see that once a written rule is created, various factors go to work to change, reinforce or undermine it, until the unwritten rules that have been created hold more power than the written rule that they have emerged around.  

One place where unwritten rules are in abundance is sports, and this has been making the news recently. Firstly, there has been fierce debate in cricket this week around Ravi Ashwin, the Indian all-rounder playing for Kings XI Punjab, who performed a ‘Mankad’ dismissal on England batsman Jos Buttler in an Indian Premier League match against the Rajasthan Royals.[1] This is allowed in the official rulebook, but a large number of ex-players and pundits have condemned him for contravening ‘the Spirit of Cricket’, which is a set of unwritten rules that many cricketers subscribe to. On the same day, on the other side of the world in Miami, Nick Kyrgios, an Australian tennis player, served underhand in beating Dusan Lajovic.[2] The reaction towards this has been more balanced; Judy Murray labelled him a genius afterwards, but during the game a spectator ran onto the court to remonstrate with him for the tactics. These are two examples in just the last week, which show that unwritten rules are rife across the sports world; footballers put the ball out of play when the opposition has an injured player, rugby league players do not contest scrums and baseball has so many unwritten rules that people lose track.[3]

The question that follows here is: how do unwritten rules relate to my business? Organisations operate as complex systems of (1) formal, interdependent processes – such as pay, performance and training; and (2) informal practices and behaviours operating under the radar, such as ad hoc flexibility in work schedules, or the prioritisation of presence over performance. The latter are the ‘unwritten rules of the game’ and they exert a strong influence over employee behaviours and have a significant impact on the success or failure of any new intervention implemented. Here is an example: your organisation may have set up a generous parental leave policy aimed at improving engagement amongst families. However, if the culture and leadership of your organisation signals, through non-verbal or verbal cues, that anyone who takes up their full parental leave will face a delay in getting a promotion or pay rise, the reality of that decision looks very different to what the written rhetoric intended.

Clarity on the unwritten rules of the game that are shaping behaviour is therefore key before launching any new initiative. This exercise allows businesses to understand how any intervention will influence and be influenced by other factors at play, giving an early indication of any unintended consequences that you need to consider and plan for.

So how do we find out the unwritten rules of the game? The answer lies in engaging your employees in an open dialogue. Taking the time to truly listen to your employees to understand their diverse motivators, enablers and triggers will pave the way forward. We have worked with a number of clients on this challenge; you can see a snapshot of who we have worked with here.

I would be happy to have a further discussion about how you can go about uncovering the unwritten rules of the game and ensuring that your organisations’ reality is truly representative of the rhetoric. Just drop me an email at graham@hotspotsmovement.com.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/47697369

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/47704618

[3] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-12/unwritten-rules-in-sport-are-fast-becoming-a-thing-of-the-past/10364436

Three Perspectives on the Future of High Performance

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CHIt’s been one month since our Future of High Performance Masterclass and we’re excited to soon be sharing our Report with members of the Future of Work Research Consortium, which will present the key findings from our extensive research on this theme.  The Masterclass was packed full of insights, activities and opportunities to network and share good practices.  We had three fantastic guest speakers on the day, so here are my key takeaways from their insightful contributions.

Dr. Randall S. Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, spoke to delegates about the power of collaboration in high performance teams.  My favourite takeaway from Randall’s presentation was about how research shows that the best teams are the most diverse – but so are the very worst teams.  He argued that the key was in the management of these teams.  When diverse teams are managed well, members have access to a variety of sources of information and have opportunities to learn from each other and grow.  However, when teams are managed poorly, it gives rise to task conflicts (disagreements around the content of the work), relationship conflicts (personal disagreements) and process conflicts (disagreements about the logistics of getting work done).  Creating common understandings of problems, encouraging information sharing and promoting psychological safety and belongingness are a couple of ways to begin managing conflict and supporting high performance teams.

Tom Ravenscroft, founder and CEO of Enabling Enterprise, identified three major myths about human skills which need to be formally debunked.  The first is that these skills are innate and that there are some “natural” team players.  The second myth is that these skills are picked up by osmosis and simply “rub off” on people, rather than needing to be taught.  The third is that these skills lie latent and that, in the “right situation”, people will show these skills.  Organisations need to abandon these assumptions in order to make real progress towards building the skills of the future.

Lynda Gratton, Hot Spots Movement’s founder and CEO, told delegates about her main impressions from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this year – you can read her full blog for MIT Sloan here.  Lynda stated that one hot topic was that work is undergoing a major transition, as technology demands that people upskill and reskill more rapidly than ever before.[1]  At our Masterclass, one of our delegates asked Lynda a fascinating question: how can CEOs continue to be creative when they are under increasing pressure to take immediate action to address this transition in work?  Our research indicates that CEOs need the support of HR to look beyond the short term and develop a narrative on the future of work.[2]  By developing a point of view on learning and making their involvement and investment in learning initiatives a priority, they can help their people to develop the skillsets necessary to transform and adapt.

So, some key questions to consider when thinking about high performance in the long term are:

  • Am I building the uniquely human skills I will need to succeed in the future of work?
  • Am I harnessing the power of diversity in my team?
  • Does my CEO have a clear narrative on what our organisation will look like in the future and what we need to do and learn in order to get there?

As our definition of high performance changes, building our skillsets and prioritising our interpersonal skills and development will help us to become more future-proofed.  Drop me an email if you’d like to have a conversation about high performance at callandra@hotspotsmovement.com.


[1] Lynda Gratton, ‘Five Insights From Davos on the Future of Work’, MIT Sloan Management Review Blog (2019).

[2] FoW, Building Narratives on the Future of Work Masterclass Report (2018).