Insights, Inspiration and Actions from BridgeCon Europe

By Heather McArthur

“With 2020 almost here, think about how much has changed and how your organisation has been impacted by change from even a year ago. These continue to be uncertain times, which means our roles as people leaders have never been more critical.”

Kenny Nicholl, Instructure’s General Manager of EMEA opened this year’s BridgeCon Europe asking the more than three hundred HR professionals in attendance to explore the idea of employee development in all its facets. Throughout the day, keynote speakers and panelists put forth a series of ideas and actions HR leaders should take to meet the change ahead.

1. Activating our best selves at work. Dan Cable, professor of organisational behavior at London Business School, started the morning’s keynote with an examination of the impact positive psychology has on performance and engagement. His hypothesis: When people are able to focus on the story of what they are capable of, they come alive and ‘activate their best selves’ at work. “The stories we tell about ourselves are real. We can edit and change them. So, when you give people a positive story you help unlock their unique potential.” How can we create cultures where people are inspired to bring their best selves? Start by having employees:

  • Create their own job titles. In one study, participants at a hospital were statistically less likely to burn out when they were given the option to create their own job titles. Why? It gave people the ability to ask themselves, “What is the unique value I bring? What do I do best?” These titles became a unique expression of who they were at work.
  • Share stories about “who they are at their best.” When a call centre was experiencing massive turnover, they had new employees start off by writing down a memory of a time they were at their best. Each employee then shared their story with the group. The result: those that did the exercise were 32% more likely to stay and produced 11% higher customer satisfaction scores.
  • Initiate their own ‘best selves reports’. Go outward and have friends, coworkers, mentors write a memory where they saw the employee at their best to create a living eulogy.
  • Increase diversity in teams to share unique perspectives. In environments where people might hold back information to fit in, they need to be encouraged to open up and bring their unique perspective to what they do.

“Why do people feel like they can’t be themselves at work? The future of work will be job crafting. We need to be able to personalise work about what we find interesting to have less division between work and life–because work is our real life.”

2. The latest research on employee development. David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group closed the day by revealing research that focused on gaining a better understanding of Employee Development from both the employer and the employee perspectives.

From the employee perspective, the main driver for their development was job satisfaction, followed closely be “being better at my job.” There also is very little consistency in who employees believe owns employee development in their organisation. Employers agree that Employee Development impacts their ability to retain their best people:

  • 88% agree it increases morale and job satisfaction
  • 82% agree it increases productivity
  • 77% agree it increases retention rates
  • 77% agree it reduces staff turnover

Looking at the findings, Wilson asked the audience to consider what’s missing from their strategy to ensure they are meeting employees expectations. He pointed out the need for clarity on who owns it and to look for ways to empower employees to be actively engaged in their own employee development plans.

“Development is fundamentally aligned with work. The key is to learn to develop people in their work in order to be effective within your organisation.”

3. Best practice sharing from HR leaders. With two panels of culture leaders–representing small businesses to global enterprises, insights to the challenges all organisations are facing today were shared.

  • Top challenges HR leaders face today.
    • With global cross-franchises: collaboration and the need to encourage a siloed company to reach out and share ideas.
    • Growing in a challenging market. How can you do more with the same resources? How do you utilise your training budgets to help people focus on innovation and think differently?
    • Employee retention. Demonstrating to our teams that they have a long term career with us and that they can develop and learn and achieve what they need to.
    • Defeat the fear of letting go.
  • Engagement and retention strategies.
    • Build amazing cultures where people want to work and bring their best selves.
    • Focus on leveraging the capabilities and skill sets of your managers.
    • Make effectiveness and skill building the goal not engagement.
    • Create clarity to work effectively by showing, living and document that you’re doing it.
    • Be clear on what you’re asking people to engage in, draw people in and give them something to believe in.
    • Be clearer on what’s important how do you prioritise on what we should be doing. Put OKRs on Bridge, linked to performance reviews, linked to 1:1 document all to empower people in the context of a growth mindset.
    • Enable people to share what they love by using a platform.
    • In performance driven cultures try to be “the Greek among the Romans” and bring common sense. Take care of the people, not the resources.
  • Effective employee development.
    • Put people in charge of their own careers and development, build a feeling of trust and safety so they can do that effectively.
    • Get departments and business managers enrolled as creators on the Bridge Employee Development.
    • Stop focusing ‘top talent’ concept. Talent is more fluid today. Look at strengths-based development approach as you have different talents in different contexts. Be aware of your total inventory to see where you can pull on strengths and bring in different perspectives.
    • With a five-generation workforce, leverage the platform approach to engage all generations.
    • Create a social learning environment with nudges and feedback.
  • The role of HR when it comes to culture.
    • As you grow, how do you design what makes you who you are? HR needs to help articulate what makes the business unique. It’s powerful to link what we are to why we are here. Clearly communicate that to all levels is what drives you and makes you the best you can be.
    • Make time for leaders and space for leaders to think about culture. Most leaders intellectually understood things matter but need need help with the “how” to implement and change. Speak the language we speak to build their confidence in the space.
    • We learn through reflection, so how do we embed learning in the person and in the workflow.

As you get ready for 2020, consider these insights in creating environments where people bring their best selves, have the opportunity to grow and the tools to take ownership of their own development.

Access all the BridgeCon Europe presentations here: