Are you maximising the potential of your people?

Many organisations roll out the cliché that 'our people are our greatest asset', but how many of them really maximise the potential of those assets? 

In today’s business world, success depends on harnessing human potential. With research showing that highly engaged employees typically generate 43% more revenue it’s little wonder that improving engagement is a top priority for organisations.

A vital lever for achieving this, and one that is often under utilised, is by tapping into the power of employee voice. 

As employees, we need to feel recognised, like our voices are heard, and that they can make a difference. To do that we need to feel safe, so we need cultures founded on trust and transparency. But too often that trust is missing, so we keep mum, afraid to put our heads over the parapet for fear of encountering a ricocheting bullet. 

The power of employee voice

Successful organisations know how important it is to tap into the voice of their employees, contributing to innovation, productivity and output improvements, so they ensure there are effective mechanisms to communicate up, down and across – and ensure people feel safe to use them.

Those that don't create cultures of trust and openness not only invite employees to disengage, they waste valuable resources seeking competitive advantage elsewhere while ignoring the reservoir of untapped ideas at their feet. 

Harnessing employee voice

What that means for us, as leaders of organisations and teams, is that we have a responsibility to cultivate a culture of cross-communication, where employees feel like they can share their thoughts, ideas and worries, and know that they are heard.

To do that we need to lead by example, of course, ensuring we offer our voice whenever and wherever it's needed, and create the forum for others to do the same. And we need to encourage colleagues to find and use their voices at work. For some of us, speaking up is easier than others.

Discover more

On January 17th we’re running a breakfast workshop focused on helping people to find their voice and put it to work. Come and join us, or forward this to a colleague. It’ll give you a taste of what we do to support organisations such as Clear Channel, ITV and Coca-Cola, and you’ll leave with ideas and inspiration to create change in your corner of the world.

Put people first

In our rapidly evolving cultures, where emergent technologies are constantly shifting the needle, there are very few anchors that remain the same for very long. And with so many variables we can’t control, it’s essential we double down on those things we can.

By putting people first, by really listening, we can gain a competitive advantage that will differentiate us from the crowd, and enable us to better engage and retain employees, become more productive, and ultimately boost the bottom line.

Reserve your spot for the Breakfast of Change here.

Speak Up, Speak Out

It's doubtful many of us wake up saying “I hope my voice goes unheard today” but still we can find ourselves lost for words at times, kicking ourselves for staying silent when we should have spoken up. 

At one time or another we’ve all found ourselves stifling our own opinions, whether that’s because we lack confidence or because we’ve shared our thoughts before and been shot down by louder voices. But what's the cost?

Why should I speak up?

Hanging back and observing as everyone else speaks and shares ideas will make us feel like we have nothing useful to contribute, ebbing away at our self-confidence.

Instead of playing an active role in defining our own work life, we end up at the mercy of other people’s decisions, making us feel like a victim.

Whether we’re negotiating a raise, in a meeting with senior management, or simply sharing our ideas with the team, making our voice heard is one of the most critical parts of project confidence.

No matter what our role is, at some point in time we need to speak up, especially if we want to get ahead in our careers - it’s the single biggest thing that will get us noticed by senior management.

It will also do wonders for our motivation and productivity. There is a direct line between how much I feel my voice matters and how happy and engaged I feel – when we share our thoughts and ideas it’s that much easier to see how our contribution impacts the collective team effort.

Overcoming the challenge

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes life in the shadows feels more appealing than living out loud. Sometimes we prefer to play small for fear of rocking the boat. And that’s fine, if our goal to make ourselves invisible. But to occupy the space that the universe intended for us, we have a responsibility to speak up.

At our next Breakfast of Change we’ll be exploring how to uncover your voice, build your confidence and use it to affect change. So if you want to allow your ideas to be heard and your talent to shine, make sure you join us – tickets are available here.

The Advantage of Uncertainty

Have you ever felt trapped in a meeting that's going nowhere, each party doggedly holding on to their own opinion? It's something we experience in many of the teams we work with. It can be exhausting and frustrating…and if it's not addressed it will hold organisations back. 

One of the reasons it is so hard to disagree productively is because we become so attached to our ideas. We start to believe that we own them and so by extension, they own us.

The way that we reach people is by finding common ground. It's by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion. To do that, we have to listen, and we have to open ourselves, really open ourselves up to the possibility that we might be wrong. What Julia Dhar describes as “the humility of uncertainty.”

Psychologist M Scott Peck said “True listening means setting aside of oneself” - which means setting aside your opinion. We need to assume that we have something to learn, rather than assume that we have the answer. Steven Covey puts it this way: “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

If we can learn to truly listen, the suspicions that we hold about people who espouse beliefs that we don’t share start to evaporate. Because we can imagine ourselves stepping into those shoes. And as we're stepping into those, we're embracing the humility of uncertainty. The possibility of being wrong. 

It's that humility that makes us better decision-makers, and enables conversations, teams and organisations to move forwards.

This article is adapted from a TED video by Julia Dhar. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

A Search for Meaning

Work takes up a lot of our time — it’s little surprise then that more and more of us are on a quest to find work with a purpose, a job that fulfils us.

For employers, this means that salaries no longer reign supreme. In fact, studies have shown time and again that it’s meaningful work, not salary, which is the core driver of employee engagement, across virtually every major industry and global region.

In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink explains the source of this need to find fulfilment comes from a profound human need to direct our lives, do something valuable in the world, learn, and create new things.

But, what makes a job meaningful?

What counts as meaningful work will vary from person to person, but whether we’re CEOs, team leaders, or admin assistants there’s purpose to be found in every job.

At its core meaningful work is all about how we relate to the work we do. It’s about how worthwhile we think those hours we spend at work are, the sense of accomplishment we get from collaborating with others, and the opportunity we get to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

This sense of meaningfulness radiates into how we feel about our organisation and our teams — it gives us the drive to go that extra mile because the company’s success becomes deeply allied to our own. 

Give me something to believe in

As leaders, we have a pivotal role to play in enabling and bring about the feeling of meaningfulness in our employees and their work. So, what can we do to give our people a sense of fulfilment in what they’re doing?

A good starting point is to make sure we regularly help people to connect the contributions they are making to the collective goals and purposes of the team or business. By regularly reminding our employees that their work is meaningful and necessary to the team and our company we create a sense of relevance and significance.

Let’s face it, most of us lead frantic lives and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, leading us to question at times ‘what’s this all for?’

By helping our people understand the impact of their job — the difference they make — we can drive engagement and performance, connecting the dots between the why and what they do every day.

A Fresh Approach to Training

In 2015 alone, $356 billion was spent by businesses on training. But how much of that had the desired business impact? Studies have shown that only 10% of training is actually effective - not a great ROI by anyone’s reckoning.

This isn’t all that surprising. We’ve all been on training courses, eager to develop our skills, and we've come away feeling energized and ready to try out our newly acquired skills or techniques. But then we hit a stumbling block. Old habits die hard, and the flow of the river we swim in is difficult to change. After a couple of days or weeks our memory of the experience fades, our enthusiasm for change fizzles out and we end up back where we started.

Why is this so? 

The problem with many courses is they are designed for delivery at scale – they tend to be sheep dip, one-size-fits-all. So rather than allowing us to tackle the specific challenges we want to focus on, they skirt over a range of issues, providing a model here, an activity there, without ever really getting to the core of the challenges we face.

Too often they’re also one-hit wonders - a half-day workshop, for example, with no time to consider how to integrate changes into our day-to-day lives – not great for habit-formation, the very thing they meant to help with.

The Practice

That’s why we’ve decided to do something a little different. We’re developing a new workshop, called The Practice. If you work with people, we think this is finally the course that will allow you to go deeper into your own professional practice.

Instead of having a structured model of training, our workshop will focus on leaning into your individual difficulty, in whatever form that comes. It’s an organic and personal experience tailored to meet your specific needs and circumstances. 

We’ll create the programme live during the workshop, and so while we tackle problems together, it’s the things that matter to most to you that we will work on. We believe this is the new paradigm of professional training — a bespoke programme tailored to fit your needs and challenges.

The Details

It will take place from 21-22 November 2018 at Kings College, Cambridge. You can find out more here, or register your interest here and we'll be in touch to discuss your needs.

The two sides to trust

In our last posts we’ve discussed how vital transparency and trust are to an organisation’s success. In the lead up to our next Breakfast of Changeevent this Thursday, this week we focus on the third, equally important ‘T’, without which the other two are impossible to achieve — truth.

As leaders, the value we place on truth determines the culture of our organisations, permeating into how safe employees feel, how willing they are to be open and engage their true selves in a shared mission, and how successful our teams and organisations become.

Nowhere to hide

Paradoxically, in a supposed ‘post-truth’ era, amid a sea of spin and ‘fake’ news, being transparent has never been more important. We live in a time of ubiquitous connectivity, where social media and global activism - Wikileaks and whistleblowers - increasingly make hiding the truth, sweeping issues under the carpet, no longer a possibility. Just ask Volkswagen, or Patisserie Valerie.

The impact of not being truthful, in terms of both reputation and the bottom line, is enormous.

Most of us are willing to tolerate mistakes or accept when things go wrong - we recognise that we’re only human. But when leaders fail to engage in honest communication, when a disconnect emerges between word and action, this becomes a question of integrity — and the foundation of trust is shattered.

The two sides to truth

We need to consider both sides of the truth equation: truth is not just about what we tell others, it’s also about what others feel they can tell us.

Volkswagen is a great case in point. Former CEO Martin Winterkorn was a demanding boss who abhorred failure. Executives described his management style as authoritarian and aimed at fostering a climate of fear. This prevented them from speaking the truth, and when its technology failed to meet required emissions standards, rather than fix the issue, they covered it up.

If we want to really evolve and grow, we must be willing to hear truth from our people. And the best way to do that? Lead by example.

But it’s often easier said than done - businesses and leaders far and wide continue to struggle to develop a culture of truth, for all kinds of reasons.

The final few tickets are still available for the breakfast on Thursday, where we will be exploring what holds us back, and how to build our reputation while being true to ourselves, our teams and our organisations.

The foundation of success

A common thread runs through every successful relationship, team and organisation across the globe. If cultivated that thread will drive performance, productivity and success. If it’s neglected it will inhibit, fracture and fragment.

That thread is trust.
Trust is the glue in every relationship, and the significance of trust in business cannot be ignored. It’s fundamental to how we build relationships, break down barriers, cultivate collaboration, strengthen teams and drive engagement in the never-ending process of change.
When we build an organisation founded on trust, people are willing to step forward and offer their best. They come together around a shared purpose, take risks that foster innovation, and communicate openly and honestly. When trust is missing, employees jockey for position, play it safe, talk about – and not to – one another.

No wonder then that 45% of employees cite a lack of trust in leadership as the biggest issue impacting their work performance.
So how do we build trust?
Transparency – being open and honest – is the foundation of trust, but it’s not always the first path we choose – sometimes it’s easier to avoid the situation, fearing a negative reaction, or we prevaricate, believing we need to ‘play the game’.

So we cover-up our feelings, we fail to speak our truth – and in so doing we compromise trust. People are more astute than we think – they get the sense that we’re not being fully open with them, and as soon as this thought takes hold they start to withdraw and disengage. Instead of nurturing confidence we erode it, taking with it their commitment to work and the organisation.

We’d love you to join us for our next Breakfast of Change event where we will be exploring how we can build long-lasting trust through increased transparency.

A lesson in leadership from Muhammed Ali

In 1975 the late, great Muhammad Ali delivered the shortest poem in the English language – “Me, We”.

What can we take from this? One interpretation of Ali’s poem is that we as individuals are nothing without our connection to others.

As leaders, this couplet offers us an important lesson. For decades people have written about leadership, and although they’ve talked about it using different words and lexicons, in the end, the simple truth is that they’re all, more or less, saying the same thing.

Just as Ali’s powerful words convey, leadership is about people. It is about how we relate to others – the quality and texture of relationships we cultivate.  

According to research by Gallup, businesses that connected with customers on an emotional level out-performed their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth. And it’s not just for customers that emotional connection is vital.

We live in an age of individual empowerment, where careers are flexible and loyalties fluid. Organisational success, whether measured in terms of productivity or commercial growth, is increasingly determined by a business’s ability to realise the full potential of the individuals within it.

As leaders and managers, we can tap into that potential only when we can build authentic human connections with our people. When we do, we nurture a feeling of community and unity among our teams and within our businesses.

Often in life, it’s easy to become focused on tasks instead of people. If left unchecked, this “results first, team second” mentality can lead to low morale and even lower performances. However, by leading from the ground up and serving your team you create a group of high-performing individuals - the concept Ken Blanchard refers to as Servant Leadership.

If we fail to build emotional bridges with our employees, if we fail to trust and empower them, they will disconnect - from their jobs, from us, and from the business. They won’t have the motivation to go the extra mile, and no motivation to stay when other opportunities come knocking.

But when employees feel a high degree of connection with their managers and leaders they will more engaged, more productive in their work and much less likely to leave.

Simple steps to forge meaningful connections 

  1. Put our people first. This sounds easy enough, but until we put making people important our attention will inevitably be won over by the endless emails, phone calls and tasks we have piled up. Without proactively engaging, without the intention to make employees feel valuable, we can’t expect engagement and loyalty.

  2. Refine our ability to engage with others. As leaders it’s easy to get carried away with the endless tasks – the nitty gritty of leading. It is equally vital, perhaps even more so, that we reach out to others, engage them in conversation. By definition, our work as leaders is done through others. And while it is easy to lose sight of this and focus on the outputs, the tasks that need to be completed, it the quality of our connections with our teams that will make doing these tasks easier.

  3. Listen. Listening to others makes them feel like they matter. Phone calls, emails, or five-minutes by the coffee pot, wherever it may be, take time to listen to understand people’s concerns, needs or opinions. And really listen.

Today, the traditional top-down leadership style of the past is no longer enough. Leadership is defined as much by as our ability to inspire and connect with the people we lead.

Or in Ali’s succinct words 'Me. We.'

Why transparency is the cornerstone of organisational success

In our social media age people are increasingly used to sharing their lives openly with the world. Transparency has become currency of connection. 
This currency is not limited to our personal interactions, however. Across industries, to trust an organisation consumers increasingly expect and demand transparency. And the same is true inside our organisations. Employees expect the same transparency as consumers. 
As leaders we are constantly on the lookout for breakthroughs to take our organisations and our teams to the next level. In the current highly-competitive climate, reviewing how we operate internally and consciously driving employee engagement can offer the kind of breakthrough that will enable us stay ahead of the curve. 

Transparency is critical to that breakthrough, playing a vital role inside our company walls.
Here’s why it’s so vital

Transparency is like the glue that holds a business together, through its inevitable peaks and troughs. It is crucial for fostering an effective culture of communication, honesty, teamwork and trust between colleagues. Without it, employees are less likely to voice their opinion and more likely to feel disconnected from the organization.

In fact, 35% of employees say they’d leave their company of they didn’t trust their manager. This makes sense too. Without transparency, employees don’t feel in the loop, making it hard to fully embrace their professional roles and see where they fit within the larger context of the organization.
This is why trust is such a key ingredient for employee engagement. If open communication gives workers a roadmap of the company’s aims, ambitions and strategies, trust gives them a roadmap of where they fit into this picture. Transparency is the key that unlocks this map. Without it we can’t foster this trust and unlock the extra effort employees will put in when they have a high level of engagement.
When an organisation has a high level of transparency, employees feel free to express themselves, leading to innovation and fresh ideas, which further invests them in business outcomes.
So instead of just a 9-5, employees at an organisation with a well-developed culture of transparency view their place of work as a relationship-based environment. This nurtures a feeling of belonging, where everyone understands their roles and how they can contribute towards the goals and success of the business.
But if we, as leaders, don’t develop that culture of openness and trust, it becomes that much harder to nurture a feeling of connectivity and generate alignment among employees. Hindering not only our work environment but the success of our organizations too!
But here’s the challenge
Transparency isn’t something you do, it’s a culture, one which needs purposeful and fastidious cultivation. Being transparent isn’t something that just happens when the time is right, but rather something we engage in consistently. Too often transparency is spelled out as an organisational value, but it doesn’t live and breathe in the corridors of power. As soon as a key decision is made which isn’t communicated, you no longer have a culture of transparency. 
But in the day-to-day grind of business, sustaining transparency is easier said than done. Join us for our next Breakfast of Change event to explore how to build (and rebuild) trust through transparency.

Something to believe in?

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Imagine we could all wake up every morning saying to ourselves, “I’m excited about going to work today, I understand the value I offer and how it supports the rest of my organisation”. This is the crux of employee engagement - understanding our role in an organisation and feeling able to contribute towards the goals.  

According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of employees rank employee engagement as very important to achieving overall organisational success. If this is the impact engagement can have on performance, then we should be doing more to keep employees focused.  

Give Me Something to Believe In  

One of the biggest parts of employee engagement is communicating the why  - helping people to understand the purpose of the organisation, and giving them a chance to get involved and make a meaningful difference.   

Some organisations truly understand the importance of placing why at the forefront. Take for instance IKEA whose mission is to “create a better everyday life for many people”. In everything from their marketing to their product range to the family focused culture, the resonance of creating a better everyday life for many flows.

Their mission is so tangible that it has led to the concept of the IKEA effect; the cognitive bias that means we place disproportionately high value on products that we have partially made. IKEA understand from their consumers to their employees that establishing a strong mission, communicating it clearly in word and deed and providing space for the contribution of others makes for a very strong business model.

What part do I play?

This makes us think - how can we do the same for our organisations? Well, we can revisit (or perhaps visit!) our organisation’s purpose, and ask ourselves what parts resonate with us? What does it mean to me as an individual, to us as a team? How might we adjust the language so that it contains the sentiment of the original and becomes something we can live everyday? What adjustments might we make about how we do things to live with stronger purpose?

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and then we’re left wondering ‘what’s this all for?’. Helping people to connect the dots between the why and what they do every day is vital to creating an engaging culture.

Britain's Heatwave: How Productive Are You?


The recent heatwave has been the longest we’ve had for five years. As we’ve experienced such scorching temperatures, how does the heat impact our productivity and wellbeing? An article from Personnel Today dives into the matter.  

Be cool

Working in a much cooler surrounding will help you to keep away from the extreme heat and focus your energy on where it matters rather than allowing it to get to you, which ultimately affects your productivity.   

In order to overcome the heat and optimise your brain fitness, carry out the following activities to keep cool:

  • Ensure blinds are on the windows and there is good ventilation: reducing the amount of light that floods the office and ensuring there is good airflow will minimise your experience of the heat.   

  • Drink plenty of water: I know it sounds obvious but keeping well hydrated throughout the day gives you the energy to perform at your best.  

  • Take regular breaks: optimise your brain performance by making sure your mind is revitalised and focused on the right stuff.

  • Exercise in the early mornings as opposed to late afternoons: helping to build up more energy that will be utilised during the day.  

These simple steps help to counteract the effect of heat. Keeping cool will help to re-energise your mind and ensure you’re as productive as you can be, even as the temperatures soar.

What's the Value of Coaching?

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We lead frenetic lives, with many of us not taking the time to reflect on how or why we’re doing what we do. We spend our entire lives living inside our own heads and this can sometimes lead to self-imposed limitations.

Coaching provides the opportunity to take a step back and reflect, building greater self-awareness, and from there, the ability to shift our thinking, to adapt our behaviours.

We’ve been working with a coachee recently who was being incredibly hard on herself, beating herself up for every perceived imperfection. From that position of judgement it was very hard for her to create movement - so our goal was to help her to develop a kinder mindset to enable her to tackle her challenges more proactively.

At Agents of Change one of our mantras is to lead with curiosity over judgement. One benefit of this is increased kindness - to ourselves and to others.

Coaching has helped her to become more curious and less self-deprecating. By adopting a more pragmatic approach, taking a moment to reflect at the end of each day, she now jots down what’s gone well and what hasn’t. This physical list has helped her to become more aware of the stuff that’s going well, and observe, rather than judge what’s not gone so well. This helps to create a greater sense of balance and control - and the opportunity to recalibrate her approach each day - what can she do differently tomorrow to generate more successes?

What can coaching do for you?        

  • Coaching provides the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our motivations and habits, and explore ways to create new ones.

  • Coaching helps us to achieve our goals by breaking them down into manageable chunks and proactively working towards them.

  • Our engagement with our roles, our teams and our families can be transformed through coaching - allowing us to contribute more effectively, to feel happier and more fulfilled in ourselves.

We have a wide range of coaches and coaching packages available, get in touch if we can help you.

The Power of Storytelling

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In his fascinating Ted talk, David Phillips explains the science behind the feelings we evoke when we communicate with others.

He talks about how positive hormones and neurotransmitters can be released by a good story. These include dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which Phillips refers to as the “angel’s cocktail.”

When dopamine is released into our blood, it leads to greater focus, motivation, and improved memory. The effects of oxytocin make us more generous, trusting, and ready to bond. It makes us feel relaxed and more human as we bond to the storyteller. Finally, there are endorphins which we create by making people laugh. Endorphins make us feel more creative, relaxed, and focused.

There is, however, an opposite effect that Phillips calls the “devil’s cocktail.” This is when there are higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline produced in response to a scary or stressful situation. This cocktail makes people intolerant, irritable, uncreative and critical.

In our work lives, we can influence people better when we are working with positive emotion, so it’s useful to use storytelling to create the right response in people.

What are you doing to feed the angel’s cocktail, and to mitigate the devil’s?

Time Out?

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I spent last weekend running a leadership retreat for a client in Budapest. Reflecting on the incredible progress this team made over two days reminded me of the benefits of taking teams offsite to talk about not just what we do but how we do it.

While some teams have more work to do than others, most will benefit from a schedule that purposefully mixes time offsite with on-the-job integration.

Here’s a quick download of some of the key outcomes that we help teams to achieve:

  • Build trust - People may work together for years but it sometimes takes an offsite retreat to establish deeper bonds and mutual understanding. Time spent together equals increased trust. People tend to reveal more of their true selves when they’re relieved from the day-to-day pressure of delivery - getting away from to-do lists helps your team relax, get to know one another, and connect in new ways.
  • Create a unified team - An agenda with some flex in it allows issues to surface and be resolved, helping build buy in for strategic direction and a common approach. Teams learn about each others' strengths and explore ways to improve how to work together productively.  Back at the office, you'll see quick results as your group works together toward a common goal.
  • Hone individual strengths - Getting away from it all gives your team a chance to hone individual strengths. Through team building activities, people can learn about each others’ strengths, explore ways of building on these skills, as well as how to apply them to contribute to the goals of the team.
  • Improve communication - How well you plan for and subsequently involve the wider team in your decision-making and retreat goals is proportional to how engaged they will be with them.  When your team gets the perspective from being away from the office internal communication improves - most teams report improved communication as a result of their enriched relationships.
  • Increase productivity - With leaders aligned, the rest of the organisations will will experience increased productivity as there is more of a sense of flow, with leaders and teams actively working together to offset obstacles.  Most leadership teams see greater efficiency as they return to the office and work together on their shared goals

Keeping Mum

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One aspect of diversity and inclusion that’s not often discussed is how well organisations treat women returning after maternity leave, and the impact this can have on engagement.

An article in HR magazine that caught our attention recently discusses how the attitudes organisations have towards maternity leave affects women when they return to work.

Just like any of us, mothers returning to work need to feel a sense of belonging to their organisations. They want to feel as much a part of the organisational culture as they did before they left. But how a mothers' time away is viewed by line managers and the wider organisation can have a significant impact on engagement and performance. 

Subconscious bias can lead to women feeling stereotyped and judged on their return to work, with employers discussing availability issues and changes in priorities.

The research carried out reveals some solutions, however:

  • Organisations who view maternity leave as a brief interlude rather than a major disruption are more likely to retain high-performing mothers.

  • Importance of buddy schemes - new mothers felt more inspired to progress in their careers when they had role models they could look up to.       

  • Organisations need to be more inclusive of parents by introducing initiatives such as adoption leave, shared parental leave and flexible working.

If we look at our own organisations, what is being done to ensure mothers can re-engage easily and give their best? The risk of losing key talent is too great to ignore.

To explore more impacts of subconscious bias come to our next Breakfast of Change on Diversity and Inclusion - details below.


Once a quarter we bring together a cross-section of people for a unique Breakfast of Change. Each event brings fresh thinking to a challenge holding individuals and organisations back. 

Using the power of the network to explore new possibilities, Breakfast of Change kickstarts the day and reinvigorates the agent of change in each of us.

Join our next Breakfast of Change on 12th July, 8.30-10.45am in King's Cross, London. Click here for details and to reserve your spot. 

Beyond the Gender Agenda - Overcoming Unconscious Bias


Two candidates are shortlisted for a job vacancy. They both have exceptional skills and experience, so why do we favour one over the other?  

Subconsciously, our final choice is likely to be biased by age, race, gender, or any other social stereotype.

While we may not be aware of our below-the-radar biases, they can lead to serious consequences in the composition of our teams and networks - and the long-term success of our organisations.

Dangers of unconscious bias

Research has shown that unconscious bias can strongly influence recruitment and selection decisions. A manager who is educated to degree level might favour other graduates, ignoring the wider, more experienced pool of talent. Unconscious bias may make more extraverted managers reject quieter more talented candidates.

Why does it matter?

  • Workforce diversity is a key driver of innovation.
  • Diverse organisations attract and energise the best global talent, enabling a diverse range of opinions and more informed problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Greater growth - a study carried out by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity had 15% better returns.
  • More diverse organisations have access to a more wide range of customers, opening up new markets and audiences.

The benefits are clear. So what can you do to overcome to help your managers and organisations overcome unconscious bias and create a more inclusive culture?  

A good place to start is by joining us for the next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

For limited time only, get a 50% discount when you use code catalyst50 - only £10 per person.  

Gender Equality: Good For All

In this fascinating TED talk, Michael Kimmel explores how gender equality benefits men just as much as women.

The virtues for women may seem obvious - whether it’s narrowing the gender pay gap, smashing through the glass ceiling or simply taking a more balanced approach to housekeeping and childcare.

But the idea of gender equality has some interesting perks for men as well. Men are able to have a better work-life balance when their wives are able to be just as committed to their careers as they are.

When men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. They have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement.

It is also good for companies. Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity.

The film reveals many of the rewards gained from gender equality and the impact it has on our wellbeing as humankind. So we need to empower not only women but men as well to become a part of the dialogue. It’s only then we’ll be able to create more diverse, inclusive cultures, and happier, more productive teams.

Come join our next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

Employee Engagement: Inside and Out

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It’s little surprise that feeling connected to our organisation’s mission drives positive performance at work - when we buy into the purpose of what we’re doing we’re willing to go that extra mile as we feel the company’s success is allied to our own.

But feeling engaged with our work benefits us as much as our organisation. We’re happier, more focused, self-motivated. We understand our contribution to the organisation and are invested in our personal development.

Each of us is responsible for our own engagement, and that of those around us. So we need to try to recognise what’s working and what’s not, and influence change where necessary. But where do we start?

We need to look inside, and we need to look outside.

Inside lens  

Firstly, take a good look at your team and/or organisation and make an honest assessment of what’s working well about your culture. How are these aspects celebrated? What can be done to make them even better?

Secondly, analyse the gaps - where can things be better? Make a list of the changes you’d like to see. In what ways could people feel more included? What would help them to contribute more positively towards your organisation’s success? Who do you need to influence to make change happen?

Outside lens

Everyday more and more case studies are emerging of organisations who are getting this stuff right. These organisations understand the link between employee engagement and performance, so we can learn from their experience.

For Marks & Spencer for example, shifting from an annualised, action-plan driven approach where engagement was merely seen as another task to be completed to a more committed approach that concentrated on regularly listening to employees - and acting on what they heard - has delivered a year-on-year increase in engagement for the past six years.

This is just one of many examples where organisations have seen the difference a fresh approach to engaging employees can make. So what needs to happen to help your organisation reinvigorate its approach to engaging employees?

Privacy vs Trust


In the wake of the Facebook data scandal, we have to ask - is privacy still possible?

For many of us, the answer is no. The digital trail we leave behind us, our social media profiles, that random online quiz we took, they all open up our personal preferences for the world to see.  

But it’s as much about trust as it is about privacy. As technology continues to influence our everyday lives, the question is how much we can trust the platforms and people we open ourselves up to?

Concern for our privacy  

When 50 million Facebook users can be manipulated into having their data collected by Cambridge Analytica, it’s no wonder we are hesitant to share our lives with others.

How companies collect and use our data is an issue the GDPR initiative seeks to address, but it doesn’t stop there. There can be a knock on effect in our everyday lives too - the wariness we feel sharing our lives online can impact how much we reveal and share with our colleagues in the real world.

A lack of trust sits at the heart of many of the issues we’re called in to support clients with - it’s an issue that holds many teams and organisations back.

But trust is a two-way street - in order for others to trust us, we need to trust them.

Openness leads to better solutions  

The more we open up to others, the more they will feel confident sharing with us, so we can build our collective confidence and trust in the knowledge that there are people who ‘get us’, who care. A survey by Time to Change revealed 66% of adults had no one to speak to about their problems. This further highlights why it’s vital for us to talk more - not less -  with our colleagues.

For organisations to thrive employees have to be able to feel safe to speak openly - which is only possible through relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Companies that promote a culture of open communication and transparency reap the rewards.  At TGI Fridays - voted Britain’s best big company to work for by The Sunday Times - 79% of employees say they love working for the company, thanks to the culture and the fact that they feel like they have a voice.

Furthermore, far more creative solutions start to emerge when we open up and create a culture of trust with our teams. This can lead to bigger and better things not just for us, but for our organisations.

Learning for Growth


This week marks the celebration of Learning at Work Week, and as workplaces are rapidly evolving, we too need to continue to  develop and grow.

In the quest for competitiveness, companies are constantly looking to be the leanest, most effective, most productive they can be; versatile employees are the key to making this possible. And in today’s fast-paced working environments, dynamic, flexible employees are the most widely sought after.

So as we’re faced with constantly changing demands, it is important we maintain a focus on our own development - if we lose that drive and hunger to grow we risk being left behind.

Evolving Learning
Along with changing ways of working, ways of learning are evolving as well. As training budgets get ever smaller, the 70:20:10 model has served as a powerful guideline for organisations to maximise the effectiveness of their learning and development programmes. Long gone are the days of chalk and talk in dull grey rooms - we’re now able to learn from a plethora of different sources - whenever and wherever we need it.

With the growth of platforms such as Google and YouTube, we’ve never had such an array of opportunities to learn. In fact such ready access to learning is driving self-development, as 67% of people learn on mobile devices, and 80% choose to learn from Google, at the point of need.

Tapping Into Expertise
Our own colleagues are also a great source of learning – many of them have been there and done that. Finding ways to tap in to their knowledge and experience can help us to hone our own approach and discover new, more effective ways of doing what we do.

Opportunities for learning are all around us - we just need to recognise and capitalise on all that’s available. So how are you learning? And when?

The challenge of course, is time. It’s easy for our own development to slip down the agenda when things get busy. So with all the complex demands on our lives how do you ensure you regularly carve out time for your own personal development? 

Learning at Work Week is a great opportunity to take stock, to ensure we are putting our attention where we'll reap the greatest rewards.