Two Questions that I’m keen to Answer in 2018

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4a5e4-6a019affbb02b7970b019affc09e79970d-piLast week my colleague Emma and I gave an interview on the theme of ‘motivating tomorrow’s workforce’. It reminded me that there are several important questions about the relationship between tomorrow’s talent and organisations, which we haven’t yet fully addressed – and that the answers may be simpler than we think.

  1. Are our organisations ready to embrace an adult-to-adult relationship between organisations and talent?
  2. How will it change the role of HR professionals?

Are we ready for the adult-to-adult relationship between organisations and talent?

In my view, one of the key elements of this changing relationship is that it’s no longer the sole responsibility of the company to understand what kind of working arrangement will attract talent and enable people to perform at their very best. This is good news, for two reasons. Firstly, because we can expect our talent to be increasingly comfortable bringing their ‘wholes selves’ to work, meaning working arrangements will need to become highly individualised. Secondly, with longer working lives becoming a reality, the strong link between ‘age and stage’ is weakening, making age a much less reliable indicator of expectations and aspirations.

In this new reality of multi-faceted diversity, it would seem unrealistic to expect HR to propose work arrangements that work for every individual. And why should we? I’m of the belief that adults know what’s right for them and are fundamentally keen to do the right thing by the organisations. As we start considering the relationship an adult-to-adult one, there’s no reason they wouldn’t deliver on these expectations.

Adult-Adult RelationshipWhat does this mean for HR? It means we need to change our organisations’ narratives to make clear that empowerment is a two-way deal. It is a constructive relationship between adults, not one where one party suggests specific rules for how people can work flexibly, which may or may not work, for the people involved, both individually, and as a team of workers. We should invite our people to design their own arrangements for flexible working and expect them to be thoughtful about how this will work for the organisation and for their colleagues (as individuals’ flexible working arrangements can take a toll on their fellow work team members), and likewise their own career journeys (moving between fast track, slow lane, plateau, sideways, etc.).

To build this narrative, and not least to get senior management to live by it, HR must be a credible source of strategic direction, and be proactive. This requires changing deeply engrained views of roles and responsibility. It also requires mutual trust, which needs to be preceded not only by the new narrative, but also by training, guidance and coaching.

My final question to the HR community is how do we train ourselves for this role? I’d suggest we start by ensuring we profoundly understand what the future of work will look like – (and assume that predicting the exact pace of change is near impossible so ‘sooner rather than later’ is a safe assumption regarding the timeline). We need to be a force of proposition and prepare our organisations for this change – it could well be the biggest one so far this millennium!

“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 harriet@hotspotsmovement.com.

[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

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…

Can we ever reach gender parity in organisations?

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haniahLast week, I attended a workshop at my toddler’s nursery school and I was disheartened to see that there was only one father in a room full of mothers – most of whom had left their work early in order to attend. And I wondered, where is the change that was to come with the millennial men? Doesn’t all the research indicate that they want to become much more involved fathers? What is stopping them?

I have been researching the topic of gender parity for over a few years now, and it is extremely off-putting to see lack of progress we have made on this issue. Many large organisations are now on their second or third wave of diversity and inclusion programmes. However, a good number of them are still struggling to identify obvious improvements in the metrics they hoped to see changes in.

I feel we cannot move the needle on this issue unless we collectively stop viewing mothers as being primarily responsible for childcare. According to the 2016 Women in the Workplace Study, at every stage in their careers, women perform more childcare than men. The study also found a link between the quantity of childcare women do and their leadership ambition: the more work women do at home, the less interested they are in leadership positions. The main reason for this disconnect is that the combination of work and childcare responsibilities is difficult to reconcile with the dominant model in the business world, which demands total availability as well as greater geographical mobility.

Motherhood has long been a dominant explanation for the small proportion of women in corporate boardrooms. Some of the most compelling evidence of the motherhood penalty comes from experiments conducted by sociologists; Shelley Correll, Stephen Bernard, and In Paik. In the experiment, they asked college students to rate a pair of job applicants after examining their résumés and the notes from screening interviews. After establishing that the application materials presented the candidates as equally qualified, the researchers altered them to indicate that one applicant was a parent. When being considered for the same job, mothers were significantly less likely to be recommended for hire and, when they were, they were offered on average $11,000 less in starting salary, than childless women. Fathers were not penalised at all. The participants revealed that they assumed the mothers to be inherently less competent and less committed.

One school of thought suggests that the issue is down to women’s own preferences – that women value career less than men or that mothers do not want high-profile, challenging work. However, research indicates that women are certainly not lacking in ambition. In fact, they begin their careers with ambitions that are just as high as their male peers. Furthermore, the 2013 Life and Leadership After HBS study, which surveyed more than 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates, suggests that when women leave their jobs after becoming mothers, only a small number do so because they want to devote their attention to motherhood; the majority leave reluctantly, because they find themselves in unfulfilling roles with few prospects for advancement.

What is the way forward? Millennial men finally behaving in accordance to what they have been saying, and organisations actively enabling and not penalising them to embrace fatherhood.


McKinsey & Company and LEanIn.org. (2016, September). Women in the Workplace Study. Retrieved from https://womenintheworkplace.com

Life and Leadership after HBS. (2013). Retrieved from


Correll, S., Benard, S., & Paik, I. (2007). Getting a Job: Is there a motherhood penalty. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 112, No. 5

An LGBT-Inclusive Diversity Statement

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Last August, I had an illuminating conversation with an equal rights activist working in the hub of Toronto, Ontario. During this conversation, I spoke about the LGBT workforce and what could be done to ameliorate company cultures, making them more inclusive of the LGBT community. The activist turned to me and said “Have you heard of TD bank? They have phenomenal initiatives prioritising LGBT inclusivity at work. All of my LGBT friends who work at TD bank are filled with praise when it comes to inclusivity there.” Interesting; I was captivated. What made this company so appealing?

Inspired by TD Bank’s efforts of promoting LGBT inclusion, I began to consider effective strategies for inclusion, for organisations seeking to attract diverse candidates. I decided that it would be interesting to examine whether or not different approaches to diversity statements could influence how inclusive a company feels to prospective LGBT employees. In my research, I observed two ways in which diversity statements can be constructed:

  1. Through a focus on differences (you provide a unique and diverse contribution to the company)
  2. Through a focus on similarities (we value you equally to any other employee, everyone is valuable in the same way).

Interestingly, the results of the study (including over 200 participants) indicated that a value in differences approach was far more favourable than one with a value in similarities, for LGBT respondents. This is because, a value in similarities approach deemphasizes the group identity (being LGBT) for the individual, conveying intolerance of group member differences (Levy et al., 2005). In turn, valuing differences can reduce anticipated scrutiny and stereotyping. The language used in the value in differences approach emphasizes notions of valuing differences and mutual respect. In doing so, it acts as a cue to refute threatening identity contingencies associated with sexual orientation, developed through numeric underrepresentation, social hierarchies and stereotypes.

As such, in addition to mentioning LGBT members in a company’s diversity statement – which is practiced at TD Bank and many other companies – the approach taken in the statement itself, also plays a significant role in whether or not prospective employees feel comfortable joining a company. In fact, my research showed that highlighting a value for differences, improves prospective LGBT employees’ perception of trust, comfort, belonging and ability to express their sexual orientation in the workplace.

When people feel comfortable and can express themselves authentically at work, they perform better, have increased engagement and increased productivity. Having a diverse and inclusive culture at work can also promote better employee satisfaction, talent management, corporate reputation and collaboration. As such, fostering a culture of inclusivity, should be a top priority for companies today.

All of the outcomes mentioned above have serious practical implications for a company’s success. Specifically, an increase in LGBT employee members coming out, for example, is crucial as currently over half of LGBT employees choose not to even disclose their sexual orientation at work. In turn, research has shown that coming out to colleagues decreases distraction, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and stress at work. As ‘coming out’ is often held back because of perceived negative social identity contingencies, diversity statements catered towards reducing such negative social identity contingencies are crucial.

The research outlined above illustrates one approach companies can take to promote an inclusive company culture to prospective employees. By articulating inclusive cues, such as through the approach taken in a diversity statement, companies can best prepare themselves for the future by attracting and retaining the best talent from the LGBT community, and other minority groups.

If you would like to share your own thoughts or questions about company culture and inclusivity, contact Raphael Korine, a member of our research team, here.