Healthy people = healthy profits

Wellbeing and mental health are trending topics and for good reason! Many individuals and organisations are campaigning to end the stigma around mental health by raising awareness of the issue and fighting for better treatment and support being made available.

And businesses are catching on. More organisations than ever before are prioritising employee wellbeing and mental health over company profits. And this change in business approaches is yielding exceptional results.

Reduction in healthcare costs
It goes without saying that healthy employees cost you less. Most organisations pay out around $13,000 per employee on healthcare costs every year. And if you have an employee count of over 1,000…well, you do the maths. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that, when it comes to health, prevention is nearly always better than cure.

For many organisations, introducing office perks such as standing desks, healthy snacks, mental health treatment, gym memberships, and mindfulness initiatives have been great ways to support mental health and reduce health issues resulting from a sedentary lifestyle. “High-powered professionals often prioritise work over their own health. As laudable as this is, it can be unsustainable,” says Kayla Gill, content director at LuxuryRehabs.com. “It’s possible to achieve your goals while still living a healthy life.”

People want to work for ethical companies and so adopting these kinds of programmes can provide the added bonus of attracting and maintaining top talent

The rise of obesity and stress can have an extremely negative effect on employee performance. So, by taking proactive steps and caring for the mental and physical wellbeing of your team,you will see a reduction in medical claim costs and employee absences.

Improve recruitment and retention

Employees who are unhappy leave their workplace in search of somewhere better. Organisations that don’t prioritise the mental health of their employees will see a higher rate of employee turnover and find it harder to retain their top talent. Turnover costs US employers over $1 trillion a year.

Creating health programmes and enforcing wellness activities for employees are great ways to provide a healthy outlet for managing stress. This can make for a happier working environment. And a happier team means a more engaged and satisfied one.

What’s more, adopting health and wellness programmes shows potential employees that you are an ethical company that cares about treating people right and supporting them in all aspects of their lives.

People want to work for ethical companies and so adopting these kinds of programmes can provide the added bonus of attracting and maintaining top talent.

Boost productivity and engagement

Employees that are dissatisfied at work and struggling with their mental health will often be less productive and struggle to engage. Companies that prioritise employee wellbeing will see the mental health of employees improve, as well as their resilience to stress, their decision-making, their relationships with colleagues, and their approach to work.

Employee engagement is the gold standard for business success. Engaged and highly motivated employees will always do their best work and tend to go above and beyond what is required of them. Employee wellbeing and good engagement and productivity rates go hand-in-hand. One affects the other. Employees whose wellbeing in the workplace is prioritised are twice as likely to be engaged and productive at work.

If you aren’t investing in the mental health and wellbeing of your employees, you should be. Better mental health means boosted employee productivity and engagement, ultimately leading to higher profits and success for your business.

Better customer service
The better your customer service, the more customers you will attract and retain. Great customer service is central to the success of your business. Organisations that excel in customer service see the results of their efforts in the financial success of their businesses.

However, the success of your customer service will depend on the mental health and wellbeing of your employees. An overworked, stressed, or struggling employee will ultimately result in poor customer service. And this can hurt your brand reputation.

In contrast, employees that are well looked after and have high wellbeing tend to provide far better customer service, show more enthusiasm for their job, and be more productive in their role. These factors alone can boost business turnover and help win and retain high numbers of new customers.

Improve brand reputation

As a brand, if you support the mental health and wellbeing of your employees, it won’t take long for others to hear about your efforts. Employees love to shout from the rooftops about organisations they work for that allow for benefits such as flexible working hours, unlimited holidays, gym memberships, health insurance, and paid therapist appointments.

Organisations that provide the mental health of their staff are more likely to be highly favoured by their team, potential employees, and their customers. When people know that you care they are more likely to care about you, too. And in order to grow your business, you want people to care about it. So, supporting the mental health and wellness of your team is a great place to start.

Final words
Prioritising the mental health and physical wellness of your employees doesn’t just benefit them, it can also benefit your business. Healthier employees are happier employees and that means better job satisfaction, higher motivation levels, and increased company loyalty.



Redefining presenteeism in the workplace

Matt Jenkins argues that there are many reasons why people feel they can’t bring their “real self” to the workplace, which affects their productivity and retention of talent.
Many are familiar with the phrase “”Presenteeism‘As a person who gets a job even if he is ill. From coughs and colds to burnout and illness, people who go to work are less engaged and can be distracting.With vitality Reported by the BBC in June of this year Eighty-three percent of workers reported that presenteeism was present in the workplace. The quarter says it has deteriorated over the past year. There is no doubt that presenteeism is becoming an increasing threat to businesses around the world. However, there is a whole new category of presenteeism that needs to be considered. The idea is that an individual feels that he or she cannot bring his or her true self into the workplace, such as an extroverted or introverted personality, a sexual orientation, or a true expression of race or culture.

Hidden employee
Last year’s report from the Bureau of Higher Education Statistics (Hesa) found that African-American and Caribbean-black graduates were 6.3 points and 7.9 percent less likely to be satisfied with their work than white graduates.This is in addition to CIPD study found that LGBT + employees are more likely to experience workplace conflicts It’s more harassing than heterosexual or cisgender opponents.

Before Covid-19, there was a commonly held understanding of what it meant to be ‘present’ at work – it typically meant daily attendance at a particular office building. The term presenteeism was coined to describe the phenomenon at its extreme, and most work activities were based on co-location in a physical space. In fact, most forms of career advancement were generally considered to depend entirely on physical presence in the workplace for a regimented period of time.

However, since Covid-19 accelerated pre-existing trends towards more remote and flexible working, the concept of being ‘present’ at work has shifted. The pandemic eroded the concept that presence relies on physical co-location because for the past 18 months employees have had no choice but to be ‘digitally present’ as they work more flexibly across a range of settings, including their home.

The flexibility of work has not only impacted the space we work in, but also time. ‘Presence’ was once synonymous only with synchronous work, in which people work together on things at the same time (usually at a single office location). Now it is also an aspect of asynchronous work, in which work doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone and the cloud is the key location.

The workplace of the future

It is increasingly becoming clear that this redefinition of presence asks new questions of the office building. It can no longer be a dumb and unresponsive container for work activities carried out synchronously by a workforce that is physically attendant on a consistent and unchanging basis. In the post-pandemic era; it must become a smart and connected entity that can curate and manage the interactions of an office population whose presence will fluctuate with demand and reflect more unpredictable working patterns.

The pandemic has raised several debates in corporate real estate teams about the purpose of the office. While there is no single answer to this conundrum, the universal response in that the corporate office building will remain of critical importance as a hub to build culture and generate social capital, to seed innovation and train staff. But it will no longer be the only channel for work and it will no longer require daily attendance. In what some commentators have described as ‘omni-channel working,’ employees will work in the future via multiple channels. The task of the office building will be to become a ‘destination of choice’ that brings the right people together at the right time with the right tools for certain face-to-face activities.

The future-ready connected office

If ‘presence’ in the workplace is no longer a one-dimensional idea, but an increasingly multi-faceted one, then a stable, effective and unobtrusive digital infrastructure is needed to underpin all the emerging considerations around hybrid ways of working. Software and systems architecture need to seamlessly plug into the physical workplace and connect to other systems to work effectively and seamlessly to create the most flexible and collaborative work experience. Smart systems should be modular and scalable, so that companies can test the principles of the connected office at a basic level and be future-ready to scale up. In this context, the use of LED connected lighting with embedded IoT (Internet of Things) sensors makes a lot of sense from an operational and design perspective.

Academic research in the field of environmental psychology suggests that the continuing endurance of the office building is because it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively. There are fundamental psychological reasons why we need to be physically co-located to support creativity and innovation. As researchers Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel predicted in the Harvard Business Review in 2016: ‘Human aggregation, friction, and the interaction of our minds are vital aspects of work, especially in the creative industries. And that is why the quality of the physical workplace is becoming more crucial than ever.’

After the pandemic, the quality of the physical workplace will increasingly include smart systems and software to connect the infrastructure as part of a collaborative ecosystem. A shift in what it means to be present at work has seen to that



A new role for business leaders: Moral integrator

Claire was looking forward to the long holiday weekend. After two brutal weeks of late nights and early mornings getting ready for a new product launch, dealing with supplier disruptions in China, and managing a sudden labor shortage in Germany, the Fortune 500 CEO was ready to catch her breath and spend some quality time with her family. The plan was to leave first thing Saturday morning to beat the traffic headed to the shore. Instead of the alarm, though, Claire awoke to her cellphone buzzing. It was her company’s general counsel. The night before, one of the company’s top executives had been recorded drunkenly berating a waiter in racist and homophobic terms. Posted to TikTok within minutes, the video had already amassed more than 2.5 million views and was spreading like wildfire across Twitter and Facebook. Social media commentators were demanding action, institutional investors were calling, and requests for comment were flooding in from major news outlets. “Claire, how do you want to handle this?” asked the lawyer on the other end of the line.

In the past, few executives might have considered addressing social issues as part of their job description. Now, in an era when a single tweet can obliterate US$4 billion of a company’s value, it’s become even more important for leaders to understand how to negotiate this sensitive territory: in fact, it’s a business imperative. Executives need to know how to make sense of and engage with these issues so they can simultaneously deliver business results that satisfy shareholders, build trust with their employees, and meet the expectation many have that organizations are responsible for driving more equitable outcomes for society.

And the issues on the table are expanding rapidly. We saw this when North Carolina passed a bill in 2016 banning transgender people from using bathrooms in public buildings that did not correspond with their birth sex. Payments firm PayPal responded by curtailing its investments in the state, and performers canceled concerts and events. Amy Cooper, an employee of financial-services firm Franklin Templeton, was summarily dismissed by the company in 2020 after social media channels exploded with outrage over a viral video of her racially charged altercation with a Black bird-watcher in New York’s Central Park. More recently, when state legislatures proposed laws to restrict voting rights in Georgia, locally headquartered companies Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola eventually came out against the move, following heated public debates. Underlying these demands is the notion that businesses have certain moral and ethical obligations to the public.

More PwC insights

Ten Years to Midnight
Increasingly, ordinary people, customers, employees, suppliers, and even social media influencers expect leaders to speak out and act ethically, and immediately, when it comes to issues of justice and equity in their organizations—and in society at large. These emerging leadership challenges cannot be delegated or outsourced if companies are to build and retain stakeholder trust. And they most certainly weren’t on the radar when most of today’s executives were in business school or working their way up the corporate ladder. No, these new challenges require a fundamental shift in how business leaders understand and practice ethical leadership.

The present conceptualization of ethical leadership considers leaders as moral individuals within their organization (and increasingly in society). But it does not address how to bridge the gap between internal and external stakeholders’ expectations. The negotiation of this complex set of relationships requires the integration of what might appear to be competing codes and values: the fiduciary responsibility to maximize investment returns versus the moral obligation to fulfill the organization’s stated purpose and contribute positively to the external world. It’s a difficult balancing act. For example, retrofitting manufacturing plants to cut carbon emissions in support of environmental sustainability goals may be the right thing to do. But it can cost a company hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades and lost productivity, negatively affect quarterly earnings, erode the balance sheet, and depress share price.

CEOs, rather than being heroes or charismatic leaders, have to become moral integrators: people who recognize this tension and have the self-awareness to use collaboration and listening skills to navigate a world in which accountability is defined in different ways by different audiences.

Defining ethical leadership
Morals are an individual’s standards for right behavior. Ethics are the codification of individuals’ morals that inform the decisions they make and the actions they take. For instance, a person who believes institutionally raising animals for food is morally wrong may choose to adopt an ethic of veganism.

CEOs, rather than being heroes or charismatic leaders, have to become moral integrators: people who have the self-awareness to navigate a world in which accountability is defined in different ways.

So, what is ethical leadership, and where does moral integration fit in? Ethical leadership came into its own starting in the early 2000s, largely in response to corporate scandals such as that at Enron, the high-profile energy company that collapsed owing to fraud. Historically, the academic literature has defined ethical leaders as both “moral persons,” meaning that they themselves act in a moral fashion, and “moral managers,” meaning that they foster an environment that inspires or compels others to behave morally.

This definition has since been enhanced by introducing the dimension of moral entrepreneurship, whereby leaders innovate new norms of behavior that contribute to society’s moral development and build stakeholder trust. Consider the CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, Dan Price, who in 2015 instituted a $70,000 minimum salary among his employees, or the menstrual hygiene company that includes people of diverse gender expressions in its advertising rather than only cisgender (people whose sense of identity corresponds with their birth sex) women.

The operational and financial benefits of ethical leadership are significant and demonstrable. Studies show that ethical leadership improves the bottom line and produces returns. It directly combats corporate wrongdoing, such as financial fraud. There’s a link between ethical leaders and positive employee performance. When employees trust their leaders to act ethically, they are more willing to speak up when they see something wrong. The employees of ethical leaders tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and more willing to go the extra mile. In social psychology, that’s called organizational citizen behavior (OCB). OCB describes discretionary actions on the part of employees that are outside the formal performance management and compensation systems and beneficial (or intended to be beneficial) to the organization. For instance, OCB is demonstrated by that salaried employee who stays late and works over the weekend to help others meet a pressing deadline, or the one who volunteers to organize office-wide social events and brings homemade treats for team members’ birthdays. Ethical leaders increase OCB, and studies have demonstrated that OCB is a contributing factor to enhanced firm performance.

Two case studies
As part of my doctoral studies, I analyzed how organizations applied ethical leadership in response to publicized incidents of anti-Black racism involving their employees. The goal was to test the idea for the role of moral integrator. I focused on two cases that took place in the United States in the last three years within publicly traded companies. The cases followed the same basic pattern: a casual observer’s smartphone video of an employee demonstrating racist behavior went viral; social media users quickly identified the employee’s company and flooded its social media accounts with demands for an organizational response.

In one case, the event occurred in the workplace; in the other, it transpired outside the office, but the location did not appear to make a difference in how the public reacted. In both cases, the companies responded to the outcry with a mix of statements on social media, press releases, and traditional news interviews with corporate executives detailing the steps the company was taking to address the situation.

The employee in one of the cases was terminated as soon as the video went viral. In a video interview with a business news outlet, the company’s CEO discussed the decision to immediately fire the employee in terms of aligning management’s actions with the organization’s stated values, claiming “zero tolerance for any kind of racism.” Journalists questioned the CEO’s portrayal of the company’s ethos, noting that former executives and current board members had financially supported political candidates with ties to white nationalism and that the company’s track record of hiring and promoting underrepresented groups was abysmal.

In an open letter on the company’s website, the CEO repeated the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) to her personally and to the company, noting that D&I directly contributed to delivering superior service to clients and returns for investors. However, none of the company’s public quarterly or annual reports bore any mention of D&I. The topic was also absent from the two earnings calls following the event. Neither the company’s leaders nor the analysts raised it.

The response in this first case exemplified a lack of moral integration by the organization’s leaders. Although the CEO made the expected remarks in the media about the incident and about the company’s values, and the company acted quickly to discipline the employee, when it came to communicating with investors and proactively taking a stand on the issue of racism, the executives were silent. The message conveyed was that the company outwardly presented an image of caring about D&I but inwardly considered it irrelevant to investors. In other words, talk of anti-racism was a show for the public rather than a topic for the boardroom. The company’s response did not move the dial or signal that this was a watershed moment. To a degree, it came from a standard tool kit. Firing an employee for behavior that violates a company’s code of conduct is an established human resources practice.

Public reaction to the company’s handling of this incident was mixed. Members of the business press heaped praise on the CEO for being so passionate about D&I. Social media commentators lamented the lack of tangible outcomes, noting that firing a single employee and returning to business as usual did not address systemic issues. Ultimately, the incident and the company’s response did not appear to hurt earnings or share price. The executives lived up to their fiduciary responsibility to investors but not to the expectations of some stakeholders.

In the second case I examined, the executives approached their response differently. The employee was not terminated as a result of the incident. Rather than focusing on the employee, the CEO and other leaders concentrated on the broader issue of racism in business and society. They framed the event as management’s failure to properly train and educate employees about unconscious racial bias. “This is on me and my team,” said the CEO. Some cable news journalists questioned whether this response from the company would make it a target for activists looking to create trouble for prominent brands. One interviewer seemed to imply that the problem was the recording and sharing of the event rather than the incident itself. The executives dismissed this notion. Instead, they acknowledged that they could not eradicate racism because it was a systemic issue in society—but they could address it within their company. And they transparently put forth a plan to start driving change there. Moreover, they made their training curriculum freely available online for other organizations to use.

The incident and the cost the company incurred in responding to it were proactively discussed by the executives on the two earnings calls following the event and mentioned in the quarterly and annual reports. Most importantly, these executives were humble. They met with the individuals who were harmed in the incident and apologized. They also listened to concerns from community groups and publicly shared what they learned. The company’s earnings and stock price rose following the incident, and the company earned praise from stakeholders across the board.

In both cases, the executives were trying to perform a delicate operation of integrating their personal ethics with both the expectations of organizational stakeholders and their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. These goals may not always seem to be aligned because of the costs involved in delivering to stakeholders in the short term. Companies know they must build and maintain trust with societal stakeholders by acting in accordance with evolving societal norms for ethical conduct. The recent focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) programs and reporting reflects the awareness of this imperative among investors and analysts.

How to incorporate moral integration
How can CEOs both head off incidents that will spark a backlash and send messages that all stakeholders will accept?

In the two cases analyzed here, certain executives stood out because they simultaneously managed stakeholder and shareholder expectations, particularly regarding the ability of businesses to bring about social change in their organizations; and they listened to stakeholders and shareholders with discernment. They engaged in difficult conversations with individuals who had been harmed by the events involving their employees, and publicly acknowledged, with humility, the challenges their businesses faced.

They reframed the issue of corporate participation in efforts to promote social welfare as investments that benefited the business as well as society, not purely as an expense. For example, the CEO in the second case explained that the company was investing in its culture to directly enhance customer experience and said that this would drive revenue and market share—key contributors to share value. The CEO put the company’s actions into words that linked ethical leadership practices to fiduciary responsibilities in terms investors understood and could appreciate.

One way to emulate this approach is to learn how to have the right kinds of conversations. This is where coaching can help. Dialogue should not be performative, appropriated by corporations solely for the self-serving goal of enhancing organizational efficacy. Coaches can support organizational leaders in practicing ethical leadership by helping them make sense of these complex situations and then, through dialogue, creating lively exchanges and mutual understanding between groups with seemingly competing priorities.

Another element to encourage is heightened self-awareness. Self-awareness prepares leaders to better trust their instincts and act in alignment with their values. Both elements are critical to the practice of ethical leadership. In the second case study above, the self-aware leader instinctively acted with humility and tried to address the systemic cause of the problem: racism in society.

Self-awareness also improves resilience. The surest way to cause people to burn out is to make them do something for money they believe to be wrong. To engage in more effective and productive dialogue, leaders will need to develop a strong sense of how their words and actions affect others. Among the many ways to cultivate self-awareness, mindfulness is one of the most powerful. Mindfulness is often trivialized, despite neuroscientific research demonstrating its value.

Every day, executives are facing events and realities that require moral integration: viral videos of racist language from employees, pay equity concerns, sustainability targets, and ransomware demands, to name a few. They need the ability to operate beyond existing leadership practices. They need to understand how to connect in more authentic ways with stakeholders without compromising their integrity. As moral integrators, they can help influence their shareholders to accept initiatives aimed at advancing social justice by translating their actions into terms compatible with their fiduciary relationship. Similarly, organizational leaders can work with stakeholders to understand their concerns and desires for change and identify approaches for implementing solutions. Ultimately, these approaches can deliver results that build trust in society and produce sustainable shareholder value.



The Power of Sign Language to Create a More Connected and Inclusive World

Like most college and university presidents, I find this fall to be an especially promising time as our schools have resumed face-to-face instruction across the country. We no longer take for granted the power of learning in the physical presence of others. While learning can be effectively achieved virtually, after the hiatus of face-to-face learning for many of us over the past 18 months, we enter this new academic year with a deeper and more profound appreciation for the physical presence of our communities. Language is central to all of this.

At Gallaudet, our reunion this fall on campus is especially poignant and perhaps more deeply cherished. For our linguistic minority that uses and learns through both American Sign Language (ASL) and reading and writing English (bilingual education), being back on campus means restoring our 3D visual language and learning experience and our visual sign language vibrancy. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we seamlessly shifted our entire educational mission into the cloud, into the digital virtual world, including our pre-K-12 educational programs. However, a majority of our students left campus to reside in predominantly spoken language environments and maintained their lifeline to the signing visual experience through video screens. Once the screen is turned off, so too, is their access to the visually vibrant signing campus. While we were able to replicate much of our sign language vibrancy online, we lost the 3D and physical vibe that we achieve when we gather and socialize, whether it’s intentional and planned or just incidental meetings in the halls or on our campus grounds.

Access to language and communication is a fundamental human right, one that all too often is denied to deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind people. Only one to two percent of deaf children worldwide have access to education in sign language. For centuries, sign and spoken language have been set up as rivals inchild development, language planning and deaf education, presenting parents with a stark binary option, pick either spoken language or sign language, denying too many children the full range of options to support their language, brain growth andlifelong well-being. Consequently, policies and practices have missed the opportunity to support families and children,embracing the full possibilities that can be achieved if every child — not only deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind children — receives exposure to sign and spoken languages. Sign language is not only beneficial for those born deaf. Most adults will suffer from late hearing loss after the age of 55. Knowledge of sign language, far more than most people realize, is a universal imperative.

At Gallaudet in 1960, a team of researchers proved that ASL was a language in its own right. Today, on our campus and in the Gallaudet neighborhood, you see the power and vibrancy of sign language everyday with both hearing and deaf people. Many of the nearby businesses have signing employees, as well as visuocentric menus and point-of-sale terminals. On H Street there is a signing Starbucks, a deaf-friendly Chase branch, and Mozzeria, a deaf-founded and deaf-staffed Neapolitan pizza restaurant. Just a few blocks away is the Apple Store at Carnegie Library with nearly two dozen deaf employees. We are seeing the power of how American Sign Language strengthens our community and brings us together in new and inclusive ways. Late deafened people and their families can now find settings where they can naturally immerse themselves in sign language to build a more inclusive family experience for everyone.

Our sign language economy in the United States is big business. It brings economic value to our cities and our neighborhoods. Our local and state bilingual education programs create thousands of jobs for deaf and hearing people who are bilingual. Colleges and universities across the nation generate more than$43 million in revenue from teaching ASL, with Gallaudet training most teachers for these programs through our Master of Arts in Sign Language Education program. Gallaudet is proud of the fact that our university and our alumni have played a major role in building a sign language economy in the U.S. now worth an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion.

There are many misconceptions surrounding sign languages. Just like there is no universal spoken language, sign language is not universal. There are hundreds of sign languages and dialects used throughout the world, including ASL, Black ASL, and protactile sign languages used by deafblind people

The human experience and research affirm that the brain does not prioritize spoken language over sign language. Science has shown that the brain recognizes sign languages and spoken languages equally. Science also has shown the benefits or “gain” of learning visual language on brain development, including enhanced reading skills and comprehension, improved complex brain functioning especially with math and music, even protection against diseases like Alzheimer’s. Importantly, research on how human brains produce language on the eyes and hands as effectively as through the ears and mouth is changing our understanding of the impact of visual learning and visual language on the development of the brain and children.

Sign languages are currently enjoying a moment in the spotlight, from the myriad of deaf actors using sign language in recent movies such as CODA and television shows such as New Amsterdam and This Close, to the use of certified deaf interpreters at recent COVID government briefings. All of this is welcomed, but these must not just be fleeting moments that fade once the cool factor wears off, an all too familiar experience for the deaf community. Sign language should be respected, embraced, valued the same as any other language each and every day.

More than ever, as Gallaudet has returned to campus and the classroom, I contemplate the power and vibrancy of sign language and its integral role not only in our students’ lifelong success but also in the creation of a more inclusive and connected world. As it has for 157 years, our university remains steadfast in its mission to expand bilingual learning opportunities across our students’ lifespan. By doing so, Gallaudet will continue to help the broader world more fully recognize, respect and embrace the value of deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind people and their contributions to our world.

But Gallaudet and the broader deaf community cannot do this alone. Our world needs a sign language mind shift, a profound societal awakening that access to any language, signed or spoken, is ultimately about the fundamental right to human connection – connection that we all rightly expect, need and enjoy – connection that is so central to our life and liberty.

Fittingly, the theme of this year’s International Day of Sign Languages was “We Sign for Human Rights.” I invite all of you to be our partners as we grow the signing ecosystem and cultivate opportunities in the local, national, and global economies. What can you do? Befriend your deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind neighbors and colleagues, take ASL classes, support deaf organizations and businesses, hire deaf talent, and immerse yourself in the vibrant signing culture close to where you live and work. We all will be enlightened through our shared experiences and the far more connected and inclusive world that we create together.



How Entrepreneurs Solve the Big Fish vs. Big Pond Dilemma

ollaboration with a partner is not strictly a two-way affair; instead, prospective partners take the entire competitive landscape into account when forming ties.

In the movie Jerry Maguire, a sports agent played by Tom Cruise is fired from his top agency after openly criticising its impersonal approach. He is forced to go it alone, but all his clients desert him, preferring to continue to be represented by a large, established organisation. That is, all except American footballer Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr), who feels his career could use more personalised attention.

While movie-goers know that, indeed, things end well for Tidwell, an important question remains: When striking a partnership, is it better to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? In a paper published in the Academy of Management Journal, my co-authors* and I looked at the particular case of developers and publishers of PlayStation2 (PS2) video games, at a time when self-publishing of titles was not yet an option and developer-publisher ties were necessary to commercialise a game. We found that the level of experience of developers and the relative uncertainty they faced in terms of getting personalised attention from a publisher were driving much of their decision to seek a certain “pond” size.

Two conflicting goals requiring a trade-off

Akin to the book industry with its authors and publishing houses, the video game industry involves developers that propose game concepts and initial development, and publishers that provide late-stage development and access to markets. Out of the 163 PS2 games which have sold more than 1 million units, only 30 were published directly by Sony, the manufacturer of the console.

When partnering up, developers typically seek two things. On the one hand, they want a close collaboration in order to develop the very best product there is. In an extremely crowded video game market, an average product may essentially be a “dead fish”, so to speak. (Over 3,800 game titles have been released for the PS2.) On the other hand, developers would also like to secure the largest market access. After all, how sad if no one ever hears about their newly launched PS2 game.

The problem is that meeting both goals to the highest degree is unrealistically difficult. Large publishers with strong connections to retailers and which are able to organise vast launch campaigns often attract many high-calibre partners. As such, a partner may not receive a lot of personalised attention. Especially if many other, stronger developers work with the same publisher. A trade-off is usually necessary.

We collected data on 367 developers of PS2 games and 170 publishers between 2000 and 2009, the time period when console games were most popular. The majority of our sample firms were based in the three countries that dominated the industry: Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom. Our data collection strategy enabled us to build a comprehensive dataset on the activities of the mostly private developers and publishers in the industry.

We supplemented our data analysis with two waves of in-depth interviews. We found that younger or newer entrepreneurs focused on getting development help and worried less about reaching the largest number of consumers. This point was particularly salient for early-stage developers. As one of them told us: “When you’re innovating … there’s always some snag and always some complication that you did not foresee. It is crucial than [an established firm] is going to support you.”

Keeping an eye on the other horses in the race

In addition, the more competitive the market – i.e. the more developers are out there competing for publisher attention – the more a novice entrepreneur might be concerned about getting the proper level of attention that will ensure product differentiation. An interviewee said: “You have to worry about the competitive set that the publisher supports. The publisher may have great capability in your title because they also publish your major competitor. Then you have to ask yourself, is it going to lead them to prioritise your project lower.”

After all, entering a collaboration is only the first step. Securing the desired resources from the partner/publisher is not always guaranteed. Established firms in technology industries may sign more developers than they can eventually support, a fact that is not lost on these entrepreneurs. The number and the quality of the “other horses in the race” create uncertainty – and a definite threat – for developers. As a matter of fact, our data showed that when a developer ranked lower than average (in terms of the quality of its previously published games), it was 26 percent more likely to have its projects cancelled than its higher-ranked peers.

In all, experienced entrepreneurs who didn’t expect to need as much support based on their track record were willing to give up almost four times as much development help as inexperienced developers to secure better market access. Of course, publishers do not wait around to be chosen. Naturally, established publishers with high market access also prefer to partner with experienced developers, reducing their risk of needing to toil over duds.

Collaboration is more dynamic than it may seem at first glance

Although our dataset concerns the video game industry, our results apply to other types of entrepreneurs who need to form collaborations, partnerships or other types of ties to go to market. These include content creators of any kind partnering with platforms or other market intermediaries that may help refine their products. Biotechnology entrepreneurs partnering with pharmaceutical firms to hone their products and gain market access are another great example.

In fact, we all face the big fish/big pond dilemma more often than we realise. When we take a job in a famous company, we accept the idea that we are (in all likelihood) going to be just one of the many very smart people working there. Standing out may prove difficult. Conversely, if we choose to work for a new start-up, we may rise rapidly, but our opportunity to shine outside the firm (through speaking engagements or media requests, for instance) may remain limited. In our personal lives, if we choose to befriend a very popular person, we may have to fight for their time and attention.

Any sort of collaboration entails a trade-off between our status, the status of the partners we have in mind, and the status of the other people interested in partnering with them. The process is a lot more dynamic than it seems. Depending on the competitive landscape, you may want your very own Jerry Maguire.



How To Be A Good Internal Consultant

As an internal consultant and a member of an internal consulting team (although “internal consultant” or “internal consulting” is not in our “official” job titles), my colleagues and I are often called on to lead, support, and offer coaching, consultation, or facilitation services on wide-ranging areas, projects, and initiatives including culture, change management, conflict management, leadership development, organizational development, learning & development, onboarding, and so much more. Indeed, now more than ever, today’s HR professionals play the role of internal consultants (Miller, 2016).

The Association of Internal Management Consultants (AIMC) says that an internal consultant provides various client support services within the enterprise. They may be in a variety of areas (e.g., project management, quality management, human resources, information technology, training & development, finance, supply chain management, process improvement, etc.).

According to Phillips, Trotter, and Phillips (2015), “The rapid rate of change coupled with heightened competition on a global basis is increasing the need for companies and public sector organizations to develop effective internal consulting capabilities” (p. 3).

Important competencies to be a successful internal consultant (Phillips, Trotter, & Phillips, 2015) include communication skills, feedback skills, problem-solving & analytical skills, and organizational skills. Additionally, several core consulting skills (AIMC, 2017) are needed, such as business acumen, business process optimization, change management, coaching & consulting skills, and project management.

If you want a company to value you as an indispensable internal consultant — especially in the human resources, talent management, and leadership development space — here are a few tips I’d like to share based on my work and experience as an internal consultant.

First, it doesn’t matter how smart or knowledgeable you are or how much experience you have or bring. If you want to excel as an internal consultant and have top corporate decision-makers listen to you, you’ll need to master the art of influence & persuasion — how to sell your ideas and convince leaders to go along with you. Leaders are short on time and attention. You must master the ability to be concise, to-the-point, and ensure that your timing is right. For instance, if you are advocating for a specific program or agenda, but it does not align with your organizations’ goals or senior leaders’ mindsets, it will be very unlikely your proposal will ever have a chance of getting off the ground. The ability to both gain senior leadership buy-in and support and navigate an organization’s hierarchy, politics, and culture is absolutely critical to an internal consultant’s success (Zentis, 2018).

Second, learn to be interpersonally savvy because it is “an essential part of getting things done within organization” (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014, p. 235). “Interpersonal savvy helps you read and address relationships appropriately and at the right time” (Scisco, Biech, & Hallenbeck, 2017, p. 261). I have seen individuals with graduate education and degrees (i.e., knowledge) be terribly ineffective at internal consulting because they were unable or unwilling to move out of their comfort zone (i.e., relying solely or mostly on knowledge or technical skills, rather than being savvy enough to read the situation and the relationship and understand what others need and respond accordingly).

Third, a positive attitude goes a very long way in helping you gain social capital, as well as getting you to the table of these decision makers. Regardless of how smart, talented, or experienced you are, if you have a bad attitude and cannot get along with others, you will struggle to get senior executives to listen to you. They may accept your work or ideas but will never see you as a leader or a person with the potential to become one. You have to play nicely with others. Even if you are the resident “genius” and you know how to do everything, if your attitude sucks, no one will care what you have to say, even if you’re right.

Earlier, I shared important competencies needed to be a successful internal consultant. These included Communication Skills, Feedback Skills, Problem-Solving & Analytical Skills, Organizational Skills, Business Acumen, Business Process Optimization, Change Management, Coaching & Consulting Skills, and Project Management.

Here are 8 competencies (some of these will be identical, similar to, or complement the ones previously outlined, while others will be new and different) you can incorporate into your repertoire to help become an effective internal consultant:

From CCL Compass (Scisco, Biech, & Hallenbeck, 2017):

  1. Communication (p. 9) – “Listen, convey your ideas and emotions with clarity and authenticity, and adapt your personal speaking as needed for the situation and audience to foster an environment of trust.”
  2. Interpersonal Savvy (p. 261) – “You need interpersonal skills to recognize and assess what others need. These skills involve not only listening to others, but also include noticing social cues that communicate how others are thinking and feeling, even if they don’t say so outright.”
  3. Influence (p. 17) – “Your greatest leadership asset is your ability to understand and persuade others. Influential leaders know how to get others to work with them, whether or not formal authority exists.”
  4. Tolerating Ambiguity (p. 401) – “[I]n today’s business environment, ambiguity is pervasive and affects leaders at all organizational levels. . . . Learn to handle ambiguity comfortably and confidently and learn to anticipate situations rather than simply react to or retreat from them. Make peace with ambiguity and gain greater control over how you handle key decisions in daily situations and over your career.”

From Awaken, Align, Accelerate (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011):

  1. Business Acumen (p. 159) – A leader with strong business acumen understands the global environment, business model, and key drivers of the organization, and leverages this understanding to recommend alternatives and measure performance.
  2. Building Collaboration (p. 285) – A collaborative leader participates with and involves others, promotes cooperation, builds partnerships, and resolves conflicts.
  3. Creating Alignment (p. 57) – An effective change leader creates alignment by ensuring the structure, systems, people, and processes are aligned in support of organizational goals.

From Bernholz and Teng’s Harvard Business Review article (2015):

  1. Be Entrepreneurial & “Be Scrappy” – In Bernholz and Teng’s article, in which they offered recommendations on how to build an in-house consulting team, one of their suggestions is “be scrappy” and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. At EMC Information Infrastructure (EMC II, which has since been acquired by Dell), an information technology, storage & protection company, Bernholz (now VP, Head of Corporate Strategy at Adobe) and Teng (now VP of Global Business Transformation at Commvault) knew they didn’t have the luxury of having extensive support staff that external firms often enjoyed. So they made up for the staffing shortfall “by assigning all [internal EMC] consultants to an “office development” team, such as recruiting, training and onboarding, knowledge management, or social committee. Though these require time commitment beyond project-work, they offer team members the opportunity to shape the group’s operations and culture, instilling an entrepreneurial mindset among [internal EMC’s] consultants.”

Takeaway: Here’s my advice to those who wish to be outstanding internal consultants to organizations. To increase your chances of success: (1) Take a few steps back (figuratively) to really understand the issue or problem and absorb (like a sponge) everything you see, hear, and experience; (2) Build and maintain solid long-term relationships throughout the company; and (3) Work to connect the dots by thinking about and asking these questions: (a) “Why has this issue been a recurring one?” (b) “How many people or departments have an influence over this or play a key role?” (c) “Who truly holds the decision-making power and who are the influencers in the organization?”, and (d) “If others (inside & outside the company) have come up with a solution, why has it not worked?” By talking and listening to others, you will be in a great position to better know and understand the organization and the industry in which it sits. Finally, learn to get along and work well with others and be nice. If you are a jerk, you will have a very hard time providing internal consulting services.



Five actions to help your organization leap from survivor to thriver

A new generation of leading companies emerging from the pandemic crisis will operate by the rules of a new S-curve of growth.
To innovate at scale, organizations can take a future-back approach by using future scenarios to create a multi-horizon strategic roadmap.
Using data to understand the customer and moving from supply chains to supply networks will help companies innovate the unique experiences customers demand.
Since World War II, the global economy has followed an extended S-curve of growth. The foundation of this growth has primarily rested on the traditional value drivers of scope, scale and efficiency to measure performance and value.

However, within the last 10 years, we’ve begun to see a shift, both with the backlash against companies that ignore their systemic impacts on the world, and with the explosive rise of digitally-driven, hypergrowth “unicorn” companies that have exponentially raised expectations around the consumer experience and propelled valuations to new heights.

We expect another disruptive generation of leading companies to emerge from the current pandemic crisis, accelerating existing trends and creating new ones. They will operate by the rules of a new S-curve, where innovation timelines compress and ideation, prototyping, piloting and commercialization will happen in rapid cycles at global scale.

Examples of companies that leaped onto the new S-curve during the pandemic include a healthcare enterprise software company developing a video-based medical consultation service in 48 hours for healthcare workers in the UK, an African taxi start-up becoming a delivery service, and a Canadian biotech company that used its AI platform to identify drugs already FDA approved that had the potential to treat COVID-19.

These and other innovative companies have left behind the traditional drivers of scope, scale and efficiency in favor of long-term value creation to meet the dynamic demands of their customers or broader society. In following the path toward long-term value, organizations will need to build their performance using new transformational value drivers that put humans at the center of purpose and strategy, deploy technology at the speed where exponential benefits accrue, and innovate at scale to be at the forefront of reshaping industries and customer expectations.

innovation infograph
The magic of the next S-curve showcases solving challenges with creative approaches
Even before the pandemic, customer behaviors and preferences were shifting toward hyper-personalized, predictive and adaptive customer experiences. The pandemic, which has kept many people at home, has rapidly escalated these expectations. Customers want the companies they interact with to know who they are, what they want and how to deliver products and services that are of high value to their lives.

Companies that use data to gain a deep understanding of their customers and provide unique experiences — whether it’s individualized cancer care, custom-designed and 3D printed athletic shoes that provide a perfect fit or furniture that is ergonomically designed to relieve a customer’s specific pressure points — will exponentially accelerate along the next S-curve of growth.

To innovate at the speed and scale they’ll need for success, companies will have to transform strategically, digitally and operationally.

Companies that use data to gain a deep understanding of their customers and provide unique experiences will exponentially accelerate along the next S-curve of growth.

How EY can help
Strategy consulting
EY-Parthenon professionals recognize that CEOs and business leaders are tasked with achieving maximum value for their organizations’ stakeholders in this transformative age. We challenge assumptions to design and deliver strategies that help improve profitability and long-term value.

Read more
A future-back approach sets the strategy for innovating at scale
Innovating at scale along this new growth trajectory requires companies to take a future-back approach to strategic planning, as exponential value creators have done in previous times of crisis and change. Leaders of these companies look into the distant future and consider whether their business will be as relevant then as it is now. They then use their purpose to explore their opportunities and their vision to work future-back scenarios that make sure they are following a path where the priorities and actions of today are positioning them on a relevant and exponential trajectory for 15 or 20 years down the road.

With future scenarios as a starting point, companies can then create a multi-horizon strategic map that charts a course from the future back to today. The latest EY Megatrends report is a think-tank research report on global futures and highlights five steps for developing a future-back strategy using megatrends as a foundation. The concept of future-back planning results in an ability to break free from past assumptions, explore megatrends that will change the world and identify weak signals beginning to reveal the future. From there, organizations can use that understanding, today, to develop a better strategic investment and transformation plans.

Future-back planning provides an opportunity to break free from past assumptions, explore megatrends that will change the world and identify weak signals beginning to reveal the future. Organizations can use that understanding, today, to develop a better strategic investment and transformation plans.

Data will be the differentiator between products and unique experiences
Technologically, companies looking to make the leap from middle of the pack to exponential value creators, will need to more effectively harness the reams of data they are already collecting and generate vast amounts beyond what we collect today.

In a recent EY study, 83% of digital transformation leaders understood the value their companies could gain from leveraging data and analytics insights to speed innovation. Even 70% of digital transformation laggards see the same value.

Understanding the value data can bring
of digital transformation leaders use data to help them innovate faster.

To be successful, organizational leaders need to see data as an asset worth investing in. Further, companies will want to act on the following three innovation imperatives, as outlined in How data can help you innovate when change is constant:

Assemble the right teams that have experience across strategic change, design thinking, data science and industry knowledge. They’ll be able to ask the right questions to get the right results.
Develop a human-centered innovation business model, operating model, and culture that embraces and drives change. Using data to augment the capabilities and experiences for people in innovative new ways is the key to realized value.
Deliver insights and results fast and have a clear plan for industrialization. Analytics sprints can help teams iterate through business questions, starting simply and becoming increasingly complex to support new innovations that can be embedded at scale.
Of course, any actions companies take to strengthen their data and analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities will need to tie back to the future-back strategy the company has set.

Customer expectations propel operational value chains into an autonomous era
Operationally, value chains will need to evolve to keep pace with making innovations tangible and real in terms of products and services for customers. For years, companies have relied predominantly on efficient, just-in-time supply chains that mass produce products to ship in bulk to customers. In delivering hyper-personalized experiences, companies will need to move toward flexible, resilient supply networks that are highly responsive to local needs, and flexible enough to reconfigure and deliver new products and services quickly.

In a networked era, supply chains will be data-driven and allow for end-to-end visibility, hyper personalization and real-time communication. This will allow companies to manufacture uniquely designed, bespoke products at scale. Emerging technologies also will play a critical role in disruptive innovation by helping companies to make real-time decisions and integrate data to source, make, sell and deliver their products.

In an autonomous era, companies will produce products at or nearer to the source of consumption. In this new autonomous reality, items would be available to customers on-demand and in real-time by accessing the flow of intellectual property and production when needed and producing products in seconds.

If the goal is to deliver hyper-personalized experiences, companies will need to move toward resilient supply networks that are highly responsive to local needs, and flexible enough to reconfigure and deliver new products and services quickly.

Along the new S-curve, the beyond is closer than we think
Along the new S-curve of growth, innovating at scale will require companies to place humans at the center of their customer journey, develop a future-back strategy, harness their customer data to deliver unique experiences and turn their supply chains into networked then autonomous supply networks. By understanding individual customer needs and delivering at scale in real time, companies can find themselves leading the next generation of post-pandemic disruptors into a beyond that is closer than we think.


The Explosive Growth In Coaching: One Of The Biggest Trends In Business

This week BetterUp announced another $300M round of funding, valuing the company at $4.7 Billion. Recurring revenues are already over $100 Million this year more than doubling year over year. Vendors like SpringHealth (Unicorn on the therapy side of coaching), CoachHub (a fast follower to BetterUp), Torch (coaching integrated into L&D), and others are now riding this wave.

As Alexi Robichaux (CEO) puts it, the world of benefits, learning, and employee development have merged. And I really have to agree. And the “digital health” industry itself has received more than $20 Billion this year, showing how explosive this new combination can be.

If you think about it as a CEO, the connection is obvious. We want our employees to feel healthy, energetic, engaged, and ready. Our Employee Experience research points this out in detail: all these benefits programs come together.

Later this month we’re going to be launching a massive study on this market, one we call The Healthy Organization. And what you’re going to see is that wellbeing programs, coaching, development, and leadership coaching are all connected together. In fact the one silver lining of the pandemic is that it taught us all a big lesson: if you don’t focus on the “whole person” at work, all these individual HR programs don’t add up.

Consider what Alexi tells me about his clients (Chevron, for example). Before the use of coaching, managers had sporadic leadership development training and many of them just struggle to learn to lead. Remote workers and staff members try to “learn to deal with stress” on their own. The wellbeing strategy is clear at the CEO level, but the head of compensation and benefits often sees these as “programs” and measures results through utilization.

BetterUp, which integrates development, coaching, assessment, and career growth, ties all this together. So this massive spending on “benefits” (which sits in the comp department) and the similarly massive investment in training (which sits in L&D) can now come together.

Chevron: Precision Development At Scale

I’ve interviewed Chevron in detail and the impact of BetterUp is amazing. Let me share some details here.

Since the start of the program in July of 2020, more than 1,200 Chevron leaders received personalized development. The Net-Promoter score of the experience is +65 (my last study of corporate L&D found that the L&D function itself has a negative net-promoter score), and 94% of these leaders say “coaching makes them more effective at their job.”

And it gets even better. Through a new offering called Coaching Circles, Chevron leaders can come together in small global groups to discuss and learn through expert facilitated discussions. These programs have now reached more than 3,000 Chevron leaders in 15 languages.

Other benefits from leaders (analyzed through self-reflection and assessment) at Chevron include a 15% increase in employee recognition, 12% improvement in business alignment, 13% improvement in problem-solving, and 16% improvement in strategic planning.

And in the case of Chevron, this initiative has helped the company transform and improve its entire performance management process. As the energy industry goes through massive change, this benefit alone more than cost-justifies the investment.

Where Is All This Going?

As you’ll read about in our upcoming Healthy Company research, Wellbeing at Work has come a long way. Going back to the Cadbury employee health and living facilities in the 1800s, today companies want to provide an end-to-end “healthy experience” for employees.

This brings together the disciplines of employee engagement, development, job design, and coaching into one integrated view. Add a dose of technology, and you get AI-enabled coaching, “whole-person” assessment, and a myriad of digital health programs added on. It’s a new whole-person focus for employees, and this brings the entire function of HR together. All in the flow of work.

And the vendor market comes together too. Vendors like BetterUp, which focuses on the whole employee “system,” will transform the way we think about corporate training, wellbeing, and leadership.

As I’ve told people many times, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s about the “unquenchable power of the human spirit.” When we give people the right support and a safe environment, they do amazing things for your company.

Start thinking about all your HR programs as investments in the “whole person” at work. It will pay off many times over.



Data Drop: Touchless Greetings, the Death of the Open Office and the Impact of Class on Collaboration

Returning to work was always going to churn up a mixed bag of feelings among employees and HR vendors are looking to get a sense of what those feelings are. Combine it with the ongoing wave of resignations, increased automation in the workplace and what you’ve got is a recipe for data telling you the story of how people are reacting to it.

As usual, my inbox is full of the latest studies and surveys being conducted by HR vendors, researchers and employers of all sizes. In today’s data drop, we’re going to take a closer look at how employees are coping with all these factors and what they aren’t looking forward to about going back to work.

No Touching
Remember the days of handshakes? Well your memory might be the only place they exist moving forward. After COVID-19, it’s only natural that a heightened awareness of contamination and swapping germs will be more commonplace. As employees return to work, employers are finding ways to give people more distance from each other or more opportunities to sanitize themselves and their environment.

When it comes to greeting each other, a Qualtrics study reveals that more than a third of employees say they’ll be using touchless greetings with colleagues, such as a wave or a friendly nod.

You might be tempted to think: what’s the big deal? It is after all, it’s just a greeting among people you already know. But the fact is, many employees have anxiety about the awkwardness of social situations and following proper etiquette when returning to the office. And for many of these people, this will be the first time they have met colleagues face-to-face. Around 57% of people surveyed said they would be meeting some colleagues for the first time when returning to the office.

While it may seem a small thing, this might be a good time to establish some norms around social etiquette, at least in the short term future while so much uncertainty swirls around COVID variants and how to ensure people are vaccinated.

Give Me My Space
As long as we’re talking about vaccinations, the folks over at interior design and architecture blog Homedit conducted a survey that revealed some concerns people have about the new workspaces they’ll be coming back to.

There were two really notable points to come out of it though. The first, was that 72% of employees feel that their employer should require some kind of proof of vaccination in order for someone to return to work. The data illustrates what many an HR professional knows to be true; the level of anxiety around COVID-19 has only eased somewhat following vaccine rollouts.

READ: Employee Experience Remains a Priority as Work Models Shift Post Pandemic

The second only illustrates their anxiety about being around each other further, with 83% of respondents saying they would prefer any other office layout than an open one. And science may have finally given us more of an understanding as to why that is.

A study released in June from the Journal of Management & Organization show that open office plans have a negative impact on employees. Specifically, it studied the impact of open office noise on cognitive performance, physiological stress and mood, monitoring things like heart rate, facial expressions and skin conductivity. The findings show a causal relationship between open office noise and physiological stress. People tended to sweat more and facial expressions show signs of tension.

After a year of people finding new levels of productivity and comfort working at home, plunging them back into any office environment could have negative impacts. If you’re absolutely certain returning employees to an office is what you want to do, you might want to consider ways to help them find spaces that ease stress levels. If you don’t, keep in mind that more than half of employees around the world are willing to find a new job if their employer eliminates the option to work from home at least part of the time.

Class Collaborators
Collaboration is a key component of a dynamic workplace these days and something that you find everyone from floor manager to C-suite executives talking about. It’s a skill that pops up in just about every job description these days and employers spend a great deal of time figuring out ways to facilitate and encourage collaboration.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that what drives someone to collaborate may not simply be their personality type, but their life experience, particularly as it relates to class. The study looked at groups of people from varying classes performing interdependent team work. What they discovered is that groups from lower social class backgrounds had conversations that were more wide-ranging, active and balanced than their middle and upper-class counterparts, something key to high team performance.

As the study notes, these people often fail to stand out as individual star performers in a divide and conquer approach to work, but when working as part of a collective are extremely effective.

Previous studies have revealed that in most collaborative environments, 3-5% of the employees involved were contributing 20-35% of the value add. Perhaps future research will draw a link between the two, but in any case, when looking at building teams that diverse in both culture and style, class may play a bigger part than you ever imagined.

Returning to work was always going to churn up a mixed bag of feelings among employees and HR vendors are looking to get a sense of what those feelings are. Combine it with the ongoing wave of resignations, increased automation in the workplace and what you’ve got is a recipe for data telling you the story of how people are reacting to it.

As usual, my inbox is full of the latest studies and surveys being conducted by HR vendors, researchers and employers of all sizes. In today’s data drop, we’re going to take a closer look at how employees are coping with all these factors and what they aren’t looking forward to about going back to work.

No Touching
Remember the days of handshakes? Well your memory might be the only place they exist moving forward. After COVID-19, it’s only natural that a heightened awareness of contamination and swapping germs will be more commonplace. As employees return to work, employers are finding ways to give people more distance from each other or more opportunities to sanitize themselves and their environment.

When it comes to greeting each other, a Qualtrics study reveals that more than a third of employees say they’ll be using touchless greetings with colleagues, such as a wave or a friendly nod.

You might be tempted to think: what’s the big deal? It is after all, it’s just a greeting among people you already know. But the fact is, many employees have anxiety about the awkwardness of social situations and following proper etiquette when returning to the office. And for many of these people, this will be the first time they have met colleagues face-to-face. Around 57% of people surveyed said they would be meeting some colleagues for the first time when returning to the office.

While it may seem a small thing, this might be a good time to establish some norms around social etiquette, at least in the short term future while so much uncertainty swirls around COVID variants and how to ensure people are vaccinated.

Give Me My Space
As long as we’re talking about vaccinations, the folks over at interior design and architecture blog Homedit conducted a survey that revealed some concerns people have about the new workspaces they’ll be coming back to.

There were two really notable points to come out of it though. The first, was that 72% of employees feel that their employer should require some kind of proof of vaccination in order for someone to return to work. The data illustrates what many an HR professional knows to be true; the level of anxiety around COVID-19 has only eased somewhat following vaccine rollouts.

READ: Employee Experience Remains a Priority as Work Models Shift Post Pandemic

The second only illustrates their anxiety about being around each other further, with 83% of respondents saying they would prefer any other office layout than an open one. And science may have finally given us more of an understanding as to why that is.

A study released in June from the Journal of Management & Organization show that open office plans have a negative impact on employees. Specifically, it studied the impact of open office noise on cognitive performance, physiological stress and mood, monitoring things like heart rate, facial expressions and skin conductivity. The findings show a causal relationship between open office noise and physiological stress. People tended to sweat more and facial expressions show signs of tension.

After a year of people finding new levels of productivity and comfort working at home, plunging them back into any office environment could have negative impacts. If you’re absolutely certain returning employees to an office is what you want to do, you might want to consider ways to help them find spaces that ease stress levels. If you don’t, keep in mind that more than half of employees around the world are willing to find a new job if their employer eliminates the option to work from home at least part of the time.

Class Collaborators
Collaboration is a key component of a dynamic workplace these days and something that you find everyone from floor manager to C-suite executives talking about. It’s a skill that pops up in just about every job description these days and employers spend a great deal of time figuring out ways to facilitate and encourage collaboration.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that what drives someone to collaborate may not simply be their personality type, but their life experience, particularly as it relates to class. The study looked at groups of people from varying classes performing interdependent team work. What they discovered is that groups from lower social class backgrounds had conversations that were more wide ranging, active and balanced than their middle and upper class counterparts, something key to high team performance.

As the study notes, these people often fail to stand out as individual star performers in a divide and conquer approach to work, but when working as part of a collective are extremely effective.

Previous studies have revealed that in most collaborative environments, 3-5% of the employees involved were contributing 20-35% of the value add. Perhaps future research will draw a link between the two, but in any case, when looking at building teams that diverse in both culture and style, class may play a bigger part than you ever imagined.



Five things freelancers must know about GST

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology and transformed the gig economy. Owing to the mounting uncertainty, people have switched over to freelancing. At present, India has the largest freelance workforce after the US.

A freelancer is a person who works independently and earns an income on a per-job or per-task basis. It could also be contractual, usually for short-term work. Freelancers work on multiple projects simultaneously for different clients. A freelancer is not an employee of any organisation and hence is not on pay-roll or entitled to any company benefits or perks.

Under the current Goods and Services Tax (GST) laws, any person supplying taxable services must be registered at the start from where they are providing such services. GST rate, as applicable to any other service provider (which is typically 18%), would also apply to such freelancers, based on the nature of services being provided.

GST affecting income
For registered freelancers, GST liability which is required to be deposited by them with the government is usually collected from the service recipient. This is over and above the value of services rendered by freelancers. While the same may result in slight working capital/cash flow issues with the time difference in payment to department viz-a-viz collection of their payments from customers, however, there would not be any other impact on freelancer’s income. This holds true in most cases unless the customers do not agree to pay GST over and above their value of service i.e. when the value of services are contractually agreed to be inclusive of GST.

In addition to the same, freelancers may be eligible to claim an input tax credit of GST paid to suppliers/vendors on procurement of goods or services, which are used in their freelancing business, subject to conditions. Hence, typically GST is not a cost to them if applicable.

For an unregistered freelancer, while there would not be any liability to pay GST, any GST paid on procurements to vendors would be a cost as they would not be eligible to claim input credit for the same. Accordingly, in such cases, the same would have an impact resulting in an upward increase in the overall cost of services rendered by freelancers to their customers.

Voluntary GST registration
When a person is not mandatorily required to obtain registration under GST law (usually when it does not cross the threshold limit), they can register by choice even if the turnover is less than the prescribed threshold.

If a freelancer obtains voluntary GST registration, they will have to abide by the provisions of the GST law. Also, they would be required to undertake all the related compliances and pay the applicable GST. However, obtaining voluntary registration may increase the overall compliance burden. This is seen as a preferred option while dealing with B2B customers, as they usually deal with registered persons. Obtaining GST registration would also help to reduce the input GST costs which a person may incur on procurements which would then be available as credit to such freelancers.

Services on online marketplaces
GST is generally applicable in both scenarios, i.e., where services are provided via online marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer, etc. or directly to clients. The liability to collect/ deposit the same with the IT department would remain with the ultimate service provider in both scenarios, as per criteria mentioned earlier.

In addition to the same, in case of online marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer etc., an analysis may be required to examine if the same would qualify as an ‘e-commerce operator’ under GST law. In such a case, additional GST compliances would have to be undertaken by such online marketplaces. Online marketplaces qualifying as e-commerce operators, would also be required to collect TCS @ 1% from persons, including freelancers who are supplying their goods and services through their electronic platform. Credit for such TCS would be available to such persons, subject to conditions.

In addition, depending on the exact nature of services being provided through online marketplaces, GST implications would have to be determined from such service providers.

Filing returns
Freelancers are required to comply with the prescribed compliances like other registered GST assessees. They would be required to undertake filing of monthly/quarterly (depending on turnover) returns, i.e., return of outward supplies (GSTR-1) and summary return for outward and inward supplies (GSTR-3B). In addition, annual compliance in the form of GSTR-9 is also required to be undertaken depending on the prescribed turnover.

In case the freelancer’s turnover exceeds INR 5 crore, annual reconciliation statement in the form of GSTR-9C is also required to be filed. Multiple penalties for non-compliances (registration, documents, invoices, etc.) of various provisions have been provided under the law, however, in case of delay in filing of monthly/quarterly returns, a late fee of INR 50 per day per return has been prescribed.

GST registration benefits

One may argue that obtaining GST registration would result in additional compliance burden on small service providers like freelancers, however, it may be noted that GST has provided a very simplified compliance process for taxpayers.

There are various benefits in obtaining GST registration such as availability of GST credit for tax paid on procurements, which in case of unregistered freelancers would be a cost. Same can also be utilized for discharging output GST liability of services, by the freelancer, thereby passing minimal burden on the end consumer.

Further, obtaining GST registration also helps service recipients gain more trust and deal more transparently with freelancers. Even the government encourages larger businesses to deal with GST compliant service providers.



The Politics of Influence in Top Management Team Meetings

Interactions between the chief executive and other members of the top management team appear to follow distinct scripts. Managers who take note can boost their standing or stay out of harm’s way.

Top management teams (TMT) have been studied since at least the 1980s for insights into how chief executives and their deputies make the strategic decisions that can make or break organisations. But little is known about what exactly happens in the decision-making process, which more often than not is steeped in politics and power play. This article is about a ground-breaking study we conducted that filmed and analysed verbal and non-verbal exchanges in TMT meetings as they happened.

Our findings, published in a new paper, suggest that, contrary to previous research that highlighted the influence of stable, longstanding alliances in organisations, coalition-building in TMTs can also be in the moment and fluid. By forming even temporary coalitions with other TMT members and deploying simple influencing behaviours, senior managers can persuade the CEO to take their side and sway key decisions.

Reading the room right

We studied two TMTs similar in size, gender composition and other key dimensions. TMT A belonged to a medium-sized computer game company based in Canada while the other, TMT B, was the top team of a business services company with global operations.

For each team, we videotaped their meetings and examined them in minute detail, from emotional tone, body posture, hand gestures to eye contact. We also interviewed each of the team members after the meetings.

Five kinds of CEO-TMT member interaction patterns emerged, which we outline below.


In the most amicable of the interaction patterns, the CEO and other TMT members see eye to eye right from the start.

What would be a wise strategy in this environment? Build on this congenial atmosphere by employing the rational argument and drawing others into the conversation.


This is when the CEO disagrees with the rest of the team at the beginning, and the team resolve their differences through a constructive discussion during the meeting. Our findings show that managers can gain legitimacy by appealing to a higher authority and, again, by using rational argument to great effect.


This is a scenario in which the CEO retreats to the background as an observer, while two team members debate an issue.

Duelling managers can bolster their case by declaring ownership (“this is my project”) and drawing on one’s experience and knowledge (“I know my team better than anyone else”). The spectating leader might be wise to delay a decision while emotions cool, as the CEOs in our study did.


This is when a disagreement between the CEO and a team member triggers an adversarial dynamic at the start of a strategic issue discussion. There is a risk the decision-making process becomes polarised.

Here, participants need to be politically savvy. They can seek support, build a coalition by directly appealing or looking at colleagues, and draw on the credibility and agenda of others. A CEO could check to see if there’s scope for an upward appeal (“the founder needs this to be done before the end of next month”).


This pattern evolves when the CEO and a TMT member are in opposition: The former challenges and undermines the latter while other members simply look on.

For those who find themselves in an undermined position, dismissed and ostracised by the team, the best chance of surviving is to duck, retreat and fight another day. In our study, one executive chose to derail the discussion, and another turned the conversation to another topic. Another magnified the risk of the rival proposal.

Playing your cards right

Importantly, we found that more than one constellation could form in a single meeting. Team members can be congruous or cooperative when they discuss one issue and adversarial or undermining another. This suggests that the TMT decision-making process is more dynamic and nuanced than shown by previous research.

How you use influencing behaviours matters. For example, we observed rational argument in all five constellations albeit with very different delivery – relaxed incongruous, emphatically with plenty of hand gestures in cooperative, and calm and authoritative in undermining. Each led to different outcomes. Thus, tone of voice and body language can be very effective influence mechanisms.

Finally, cultures also play a part. In East Asia, for example, leadership styles tend to be more hierarchical, providing fertile soil for undermining and adversarial situations, although the general patterns hold.

TMTs are contested spaces characterised by conflicts, alliances and negotiated orders. When collaboration fails to resolve differences, our study shows that executives with deft political skills are likely to prevail. In other words, those who can relate well and demonstrate situationally appropriate behaviour in a manner that inspires confidence and trust will get their way.

Our findings offer tips that could help senior managers navigate the patterns of interaction we observed. A reliable guide to reading the situation and deciding what actions to take is to ask yourself: Am I aligned with the leader? Am I aligned with my peers? How much energy do they have about the issue? Then play your hand accordingly.



Do you really want that promotion?

If you are good at your job, all sorts of push-pull forces within your organization—and society at large—will propel you into bigger roles with more responsibilities, including managing people for the first time or taking on larger teams.

And many people understandably want those bigger jobs, and the reasons go beyond the pay bump that often comes with promotions. It’s called a career ladder for a reason: it’s something to climb. As human beings, we are wired to strive for greater status, and all the markers that come with it: titles, more pay, and a better office (at least, back in the day when people had offices). Social media platforms amplify that dynamic because we share our titles with the world.

Within organizations, there can also be an assumption that all high-performers want to move higher. So, as managers assess and develop talent to be future leaders, the default belief at many companies is that people will want to move up—a point that I hadn’t quite appreciated until I interviewed Shawna Erdmann, the senior vice president of learning at Comcast, the telecommunications multinational based in Philadelphia.

“Often the leaders of a company, including boards and HR, will pick and choose among upcoming executives for promotions, but no one ever has a conversation with that individual to ask them, ‘What do you want to do? What are your ambitions? What do you see as your goals or your next steps?’” she said. “So often we miss that critical piece and then we wonder why, when we elevate someone, they might not do as well as we expected. But nobody ever asked them, ‘Do you really want that job?’ Maybe they were just super happy making a difference at their particular level, and they didn’t have the ambition to do the next thing. We need to get better at having those conversations.”

Listening up
The crises of the last 18 months have led to profound shifts in our perception of the role of organizations in society, the nature of work itself (how and where it gets done), and the qualities that matter most in leaders now. This period of disruption has also led many people to reconsider what they want to do and where they want to live. And so, with all these fundamental career questions being put on the table, I would argue that we should add one more: do people really want the promotions that everyone assumes they want?

Yes, I get that it might seem like trying to fight gravity. The reward systems we have in place are structured to create a powerful upward pull. But once the thrill of the new title and pay bump wears off, a lot of people find themselves in roles that they may not like or be suited for. It’s a fact of life that many people think they want a particular job until they actually get that job.

The reward systems create a powerful upward pull. But once the thrill of a new title and pay bump wears off, a lot of people find themselves in roles they may not like or be suited for.

It’s a point that Kasper Rørsted, the CEO of Adidas, made to me when I interviewed him back when he was CEO of the German chemicals company Henkel. During our conversation, I asked him what advice he would give to someone who was about to become CEO for the first time. His answer is just as relevant for anybody looking to move into any higher position because every senior position brings new demands and difficulties.

“I would ask them the question, ‘Do you really want the job?’” Rørsted said. “It’s such a demanding job. On the outside, it looks very shiny. But there’s a lot of hard work. You get paid to do all the uncomfortable things. You don’t get paid to go play golf in Savannah. It’s not just glamour. I’m not saying it’s hardship, but are they able to live with it? So that’s the first one—‘Is it really what you want?’”

The question is a personal one for me. Over my 30-year journalism career, before I moved into consulting four years ago, I twice turned down an offer to run a big newsroom department. I was the number two in the department, and so the assumption was that I would want the job. But in working closely with my boss, I had exposure to what his job entailed, and I knew that much of it didn’t suit my strengths or personality. And I wanted to keep doing what I enjoyed most as an editor, which was working with reporters to do great journalism. Did I pay a penalty in terms of my trajectory there? No doubt. Do I regret it? Not for a second.

The “up or out” culture that started in many fields such as law and academia—the pressure to achieve a certain rank within a certain period of time or else—has become a bedrock notion of many companies. But some CEOs I’ve interviewed over the years have applied fresh thinking to compensation and hierarchies so that talented individual contributors feel rewarded without the usual pressure to move into bigger management jobs. They include Selina Lo, who was then CEO of Ruckus Wireless, a provider of wireless networking equipment based in Sunnyvale, California.

“In my company, there is a rule that all new managers need to know: that it’s not a given that their people [under them] will be paid less than they are,” Lo told me in our interview. “That’s part of becoming a manager—that you really have to enjoy enabling people. I want people who are good managers to be managers. I don’t want people to become managers just because they feel they need to.” And she wanted people who are not manager material but have other skills to get the monetary rewards for doing their jobs well.

Think of it as the Peter Principle in reverse: rather than rising to their “maximum level of incompetence,” according to the famous maxim that describes how ambitious employees often trip themselves up by taking jobs they are unqualified for, people may realize they don’t want a particular job because it doesn’t match their skills or career goals.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for ambition. But for those considering promotions or HR leaders managing talent pipelines, the ambition should not be blind. It’s time people start asking the question more often: do you really want that job?


Why Do They Leave? Better Yet: Why Do They Stay?

With 40% of the global workforce considering quitting soon and replacement cost at 1/3 of a newbie’s
salary, CHRO’s need to focus on retention. With 80% of the world’s workers either disengaged or not
engaged, costing USD 7.8 trillion in lost productivity worldwide (Gallup), CHRO’s need to focus on
engagement and productivity.
OK, is there anything CHRO’s don’t need to focus on?
Better yet: what are you supposed to do?
Since increasing retention and engagement even slightly will have a big impact on company profits and
people’s work-lives, perhaps it’s time to try Design Thinking (DT). After all, HR departments rated as
“high-performing” are five times as likely to design-think as their peers, and research shows that design-
oriented companies grow better, return more to shareholders, and financially outperform their peers.
When observing and engaging with employees (yes! outside your office and in theirs!), you may discover
top reasons other researchers have – problems with supervisors, pay, respect, belonging, and flexibility
– or something new.
What you won’t get from research reports is what to do. DT offers tools and techniques for creatively
envisioning a better future, designing it, prototyping, and experimenting (for reduced cost and risk).
You may discover big opportunities, like crafting a MetaOffice, or little things like a 100-coffees program
for belonging and growth. It might be technological, like using facial-recognition to track wellbeing, or
non-tech, like how to brainstorm better.
Whether you hire a corporate anthropologist or make your own ethnography plan, personas, journey
maps, and designs, isn’t it time to …
Diagnose, Dream, and Do?

To learn more about Design Thinking, see The Design Thinking Workbook: Essential Skills for Creativity
and Business Growth, available on Amazon, and free, multimedia Design Thinking Intro, available on
Gnowbe via drcjmeadows.com/design-thinking.

The new work–life balance

In the 20th century, work–life balance became more of an aspirational lifestyle goal. For anyone who has ever juggled a busy job and raising kids (not to mention taking care of a house), the notion of work–life balance always seemed like a distant dream: a stress-free mix of rewarding work and plenty of quality time for the family, exercise, and sleep. But that’s not how life works, and, in some ways, this idealized sense of balance created a mirage that only served to frustrate people who tried to attain it.

The pandemic seemed to render work–life balance a laughable concept. As white-collar workers set up workstations at home, there was no longer a separation of job and personal time or space. So we need something new, something more useful, to help us think about balance in our lives.

Here’s an alternative model. It starts with the idea that every moment falls into one of three categories: want, should, or need. It seems to me that every decision we make starts, implicitly or explicitly, with a sentence that begins “I want to…,” “I should…,” or “I need to….” (The last one includes its close cousin, “I have to….”) If you accept these buckets, you can then start creating a pie chart of your life based on this categorization.

How much of your typical day, week, or month falls into each of those three categories? How much of your job is spent doing the things you want to do—ideally creating that state of flow in which your skills and talents are well-matched to the task at hand—versus the things you just muscle through because you should do them or need to do them.

There is no right mix, per se, and each individual’s outlook will change over time. When we are in our 20s, we can indulge in more of what we want to do. The same is true later in life, when personal interests can be prioritized. It’s those decades of our 30s, 40s, and 50s that can be particularly challenging—raising a family and building a career, which will include jobs that are stepping stones to more fulfilling roles. These chapters of life gave rise to the widely cited U-shaped happiness curve.

To me, that three-part pie chart is useful in determining whether we feel a sense of balance in our lives. And it also helps explain some of the meta-narratives of the moment, including the “great resignation” and the persistent desire of employees to work from home. All that time alone during pandemic lockdowns gave people time to consider the meaning of life and prompted many to quit unrewarding jobs. They decided to prioritize more of what they want, and commuting strikes many as more of a “should” than a “want.” And companies are making more of an effort to listen to their employees, too, conducting frequent pulse surveys. At the moment, employers are bending over backward to give employees what they want to help with recruitment and retention.

We need a framework for assessing our relationship with work that is more practical and realistic in this post-pandemic world than a scale with work on one side and life on the other.

The pendulum may be swinging back. As talk of recession heats up and companies come under pressure, CEOs are starting to sound like they want to revisit the want–should–need equation and remind people that work is called work for a reason.

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google’s parent company, wrote a memo to employees in July, stating that “moving forward, we need to be more entrepreneurial, working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days.” This may not change the pie chart for some—often people want to show more initiative at work and feel thwarted. But it does signal a shifting mood at Google.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, Facebook’s parent, told employees in late June that, in light of the challenges the company was facing, they would have to do more with fewer resources, and that low performers were not going to be tolerated. “I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is OK with me,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on the call. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”

The not-so-hidden message: work is about what you should do and what you need to do. The bosses are back in charge, and they’re less interested in what you want to do or whether you are feeling a sense of purpose in the work that the company is paying you to do.

We need a framework for assessing our relationship with work that is more practical and realistic in this post-pandemic world than a scale with work on one side and life on the other. In every job, there is always a mix of things that you like doing and things that you don’t like doing. Same with your personal life. What matters is how much of your time is spent doing things you want to do, should do, and need to do. That pie chart—however you fill it out—will provide a more accurate picture of the balance you need in order to feel a sense of happiness, contentment, satisfaction, and accomplishment.


Why Quiet Quitting Is A Really Bad (Dumb) Idea

I’ve been astounded at the flurry of articles about Quiet Quitting. It seems like the press has jumped on some kind of meme that really serves us poorly.

Before I jump down anyone’s throat, let me explain what I mean.

First of all, we all understand that employees are often burned out. Mercer’s data shows that 81% of employees have “had it” to some degree, and in any given team it can often be overwhelming. We are living in one of the hottest economies of all time (unemployment is near 1960-level lows), so people are asked to do a lot.

Second, the problem of “overwork” or “burnout” is both a company, manager, and individual issue. Each of these stakeholders plays a role.

If the company’s goals are unrealistically high, there will be burnout all over the place. I interviewed a team of top leaders at IBM a few months ago and their particular business was growing at over 60% per year. Rather than feeling excited and celebrating, they were all burned out. Why? The goals were constantly being raised, and I encouraged the senior leaders to push back.

If a manager is new, immature, or overly aggressive, the team will suffer too. In healthcare, where nurses make up more than half the workforce, we hear stories of overload, toxic work environment, and all sorts of bad behavior all the time. You, as an employee or leader, have to coach and give feedback to these managers. If they don’t get it, no amount of “quiet quitting” will make life easier. (Managers are human too, and they’re likely as burned out as you are.)

For you as an individual, it’s important to manage your own life well. As someone who works a lot of hours (but I do love my work), I know how burnout can creep up on you. You get tired, cranky, and your quality of work suffers. This is why “slack time” is built into our Employee Experience model. Everyone needs quiet time during the day to rest, think, and reinvent.

Should You Quietly Quit?

While many of the articles and memes are cute, I agree with Arianna Huffington, this is a very bad idea. The original Tik Tok Video seemed harmless at first, but then NYT, Fortune, HuffPost, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, and LA Times all chimed in, making it seem like a big “trend.”

Yes, as the LA Times article was the most interesting because it points out that “hustling” is not for everyone. And we, as leaders and HR managers understand that. (I highly recommend you watch Office Space, one the best movies I’ve ever seen, if you really want to see what “quiet quitting” is all about.)

But let me give you another perspective.

While many people work for survival, the real value of work is to fulfill your values as an individual. Every job, no matter how boring or mundane, has opportunities for you to thrive. When you lean into your job, and give it extra effort, you find unexpected value as a result.

In my 45+ year career, for example, I’ve had at least 10 years of “crummy bosses” or “poorly run companies” to deal with. In every case I had to drag myself into work in the morning, deal with frustrating, boring, or difficult situations, and then decide if I wanted to stay.

At one point in my life, my kids were both young and on soccer teams, so I used to leave work at 4:30 and rush home to be their coach. I didn’t “stop working” in the office, but I did rebalance my time to spend time on their activities. Later, as they went off to high school and didn’t want as much attention, I focused more attention at work, eventually becoming an entrepreneur.

At every point in your career you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and change. It’s ok to put limits on your work, but don’t do it “quietly.” If you tell your boss that you just can’t work these hours and he or she gets upset, maybe it’s just time to leave. There really aren’t a shortage of jobs right now, and as difficult as it is to leave, it always results in something better.

If you’re just personally fed up, either tell someone or do something about it. We as employees have much more power than you think. If you are the “positive one” on the team, you may find yourself getting promoted just because you have a better attitude.

Finally, if you’re a Millennial, Gen-X, or Gen-Z worker, please don’t feel that you’re alone. We all went through this in our careers, and only by “motoring through the rough periods” did we grow and thrive later in life. And believe me, when you lean in more, you get more in return.


Impact of cultural transformation on change programmes

There needs to be more proactivity in fostering more modern, progressive organisational cultures, but teams should develop their own programmes of change that are directly associated with the organisational values and purpose. For example, a Product Management focused delivery framework that uses agile techniques will deliver iterative change against customer value steams.

Whilst organisational cultural change is being more actively embedded, business transformation programmes are expected to speed up and deliver more. For example, Lloyd’s Bank has claimed that the UK made five years of progress in digital engagement in 2020, but most organisations don’t have the tools and technology to meet those needs, so change programmes need to be implemented even quicker in order to meet both consumer and commercial needs, otherwise they risk falling behind and being overtaken by new market entrants.

So, what do teams need to do? All teams need the time to:

Understand and adapt to organisational values to ensure any cultural shifts contribute to progressing the organisation (which often aligns with improving delivery of change outcomes anyway).
Understand and adapt to changes of delivery methods and structure, whilst still meeting change programmes expected timescales and most importantly outcomes (which is more difficult, as while time is the priority it doesn’t enable employees to effectively react to changing behavioural considerations).
But how? Here are seven key tips:

Take best practice methods/models as a reference point but adapt them to your business.
Ensure your teams are mixed ability: combining experienced teams with those who are less experienced will demonstrate what great looks like.
Onboard a third-party organisation where required, as they can help to play an objective part in embedding change, by coaching teams to understand how they can change for the better.
Give people time to learn and reflect on successes and make improvements as required.
Create a culture for feedback and make sure that there is active participation from senior management to allow a feedback loop for continuous improvements.
Accept that it will take time, but it’s worth it. By embedding all of this, benefits may be delayed but it creates a long-term foundation for more sustainable changes.
Communicate with humility and vulnerability: support curiosity, a willingness to participate, and a more engaged organisation that will advocate for change and progression. As a result, you will be able to attract and recruit the better candidates in an already touch recruitment market.
Companies that are proactive and progressive will yield the most results. The world we live in is constantly changing and shifting the world of work can be relatively simple, if these steps are followed.


Who blinks first? The battle to get staff back in the office full-time?

The last two and a half years have fired the synapses of our business leaders in ways they could never have predicted.

Every business has had to overcome hurdles – with each obstacle coming at them harder and faster, while the finish line remains perilously out of sight.

From the pandemic and the associated physical and mental health of staff as well as the legality and practicality of working protocols, firms have landed straight into a crippling hiring crisis with a yawning talent gap.

We now find ourselves wading into a cost of living nightmare that will stretch employers’ duty of care again – and all this before we’ve considered the nuts and bolts of running a business – the profits, losses and five year plans.

From our recent client conversations, it is the latter that is fuelling an increasing desire to get teams back to something resembling full time office working.

They’re not alone. The outgoing prime minister has done his best to reverse the homeworking trend catalysed by the pandemic’s measures, going as far as referring to those office-working Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays by an impolite acronym – even chiding that young people will fall in love with offices again because “Mother Nature does not like working from home”.

Global business leaders are coming down hard on home-working. It has been reported that Elon Musk is demanding his workers return to the office with leaked memos laying bare his methods to force his employees at SpaceX and Tesla back towards a standard working week, reportedly telling workers that they were required to “spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Those who did not do so would be fired” and “The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence”.

The view of our more boutique clients is that smaller businesses struggle more with the concept of remote working, given the delicate balance of limited resource versus productivity – and that teams are too small to be able to harness full capacity when people are not working together.

Client recruitment language has subtly changed tone too. Terms and language being used includes “the hybrid situation at present” and the intent is clear: increased representation in the office will be required over the longer term.

Yet pressures exist. These clients are competing for a dwindling candidate pool, with salaries in certain areas rocketing as a result. It’s causing a classic Catch-22.

For instance, within financial services, it is those with technological backgrounds, such as coders, cyber security experts and data analysts that are among the most prized. Offering flexible working can help smaller firms overcome being financially muscled out of new hires, or having existing staff poached for higher salaries, further compounding staff shortages.

Candidates are often not inclined to entertain full time office returns, put off by soaring fuel and unreliable public transport while safe in the knowledge that they hold the cards in the current candidate-driven market.

A recent Harvard Business School survey revealed that 81% either don’t want to come back at all or would prefer a hybrid model of work. Of those, 27% hope to remain working remotely full time, while 61% would prefer to work from home two to three days a week. Only 18% want to return to in-person work full time.

There is therefore a clear mismatch with executive team expectations.

It is now a case of which client blinks first in mandating full time office returns –will they trigger a movement or be left as an outlier?

The challenge of getting staff back into the office on a more full time basis should be no different than managing any other kind of organisational change that has professional and personal implications considered.

As anyone who runs a business or team can tell you, any type of change engenders resistance in some format at one end of the scale to buoyant enthusiasm at the other, and all the variations in between.

Business are scrambling to design appropriate and fair policies, remote working frameworks and part time working schedules for those that wish to work in a hybrid manner – walking a fine line between trying to get their teams on board, via engagement and collaboration days, while desperately trying not to lose engagement with full time office based staff members.

It’s a fine balance, but how this next hurdle is navigated will almost certainly determine their long-term viability and place in the market.


Healthier, wealthier, and wiser?

The period historians like to call the “long 20th century,” which began around 1870 and ended around 2010, was the most remarkable period in global economic history. The pace of growth jumped from an average of 0.45% a year prior to 1870 to 2.1% a year after, according to University of California, Berkeley economics professor J. Bradford DeLong. Even accounting for a growing population, the average person was still almost nine times richer in 2010 than they were in 1870. “Suppose we could go back in time to 1870, and tell people then how rich, relative to them, humanity would become by 2010,” DeLong writes in his new book, Slouching Towards Utopia. “How would they have reacted?” Surely, with so many more resources at hand, humanity would achieve “freedom from pressing economic cares” and “live wisely and agreeably and well,” as the British economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied in 1930.

That clearly did not come to pass. Although the number of people in extreme poverty continues to fall, we have also endured two major recessions in the past 15 years, the planet’s natural resources are being depleted at an unsustainable rate, and our wealth is shared out less equitably than ever. We have never been so materially rich, but voters in most major countries think things are heading in the wrong direction. In Slouching Towards Utopia, one of the most ambitious and admirable economic-history books of the year, DeLong explains why the supercharged growth of the 20th century failed to deliver us to a state of comfort and satisfaction.

Even accounting for a growing population, the average person was still almost nine times richer in 2010 than they were in 1870.

To do this, he leans on the work of two intellectuals born in Vienna in the 19th century: the economist Friedrich August von Hayek and the philosopher Karl Polanyi. Broadly speaking, Hayek favored leaving control of the economy to the market and believed that government meddling would lead to inefficiency and chaos. Polanyi thought that markets needed regulating to protect the economic rights of people and the stability that comes from guaranteed income and access to goods and services. DeLong cites two periods within the long 20th century when growth was particularly rapid—1870 to 1914 and 1945 to 1975—and argues that it was during those periods that societies were best able to balance Hayek and Polanyi’s competing visions. It was the derailment of that equilibrium at the close of those eras, each of which lasted only a single generation, that gives us the most important insights into why material wealth has not brought an end to conflict and unhappiness.

The first era, encompassing the Gilded Age, was curtailed both by the First World War—which DeLong considers an entirely avoidable event driven not by national economic self-interest but by European aristocrats’ refusal to accept an “erosion of their influence and status”—and by the ensuing lurch toward Polanyian rights. In the 1920s, battle-scarred populations wanted greater protections, and governments responded by introducing old-age pensions, public housing, and public health insurance. This surge in state spending in economies whose capacities had been shrunk by the war resulted in sky-high inflation and then, as the US turned inward, a depression.

The story of the second period of rapid growth is the most riveting section of the book. After the Second World War, the global economy settled into what the French call Les Trente Glorieuses, the Thirty Glorious Years, in which social democratic governments again tilted toward Polanyi. But this time, instead of becoming more insular, the US embraced the opportunity to become the global hegemon. Through the Marshall Plan, it funded redevelopment in Europe, while the start of the Cold War ushered in huge increases in US defense spending that “made a return of anything like the Great Depression all but impossible.” Faster growth swelled tax revenues, which enabled governments to meet the demands from both the middle and working classes for social insurance and full employment. The biggest players in the global economy were still unmistakably capitalist machines, but good economic times permitted more protections for workers than ever before. “Things had worked,” DeLong says approvingly.

What, then, triggered the downfall of our fastest-ever march toward utopia? DeLong attributes it to our short memories. After three decades of reliably fast growth and rising living standards, we mistook this for a permanent way of being. When the oil-induced inflationary spikes of the 1970s struck, we overreacted and threw out the entire political economy. DeLong also surmises that, by the mid-1970s, the fading memory of the misery of the Depression had weakened the bonds between social classes. Some believed that the safety net had become sufficiently robust to permit “moochers” to live off the generosity of the rest. Tolerance of Polanyian rights weakened rapidly as governments turned toward neoliberalism and its full-throated commitment to Hayek’s market philosophy. Global growth has never been that strong since.

This narrative thread—of there being two periods of exceptional economic growth that transformed the living standards of millions but which were sabotaged by human nature—is the book’s strongest. But to dwell on it alone is to ignore vast and worthy swaths of the rest of the book, which includes an extensive study of why the Global South was repeatedly hobbled in its attempts to grow as quickly as the North; an excoriation of Soviet-era communism (or “really-existing socialism,” as DeLong insists on calling it); and a downbeat assessment of the Obama administration’s response to the global financial crisis, which DeLong deems too timid. The book is a huge study, but one that rarely feels like it is slipping away from its author.

For an academic, DeLong is an animated and voluble narrator who sees nothing wrong with questioning his own assumptions. “Right here I have a narrative problem,” he admits when he first attempts to describe the economic divergence of the Global North and South. His writing reminds me of the ambitious scope of the British filmmaker Adam Curtis, who makes long documentaries with titles such as HyperNormalisation and Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World, laying down his own narration over collages of archival footage. The sheer number of clips Curtis stitches together means watching his films is often a disorientating experience, and his voice feels like a helping hand through the chaos. It is only afterward that you begin to question some of his assumptions. Following DeLong on his journey through the long 20th century can be similarly dizzying, but in contrast to Curtis, DeLong is a guide whose conclusions I cannot fault.


Knowing what is (and isn’t) coaching matters

According to performance coach and author of Effective Coaching, Myles Downey, ‘Coaching is the art of facilitating the learning, development and performance of another’.

Coaching has so often been used in a remedial way, as part of a strategy to ‘fix’ a business problem. But for me, coaching is so much more than this. It’s about performance and opportunity. The aim of coaching in a business environment is to empower people to find solutions to the challenges they face and in doing so, improve their performance and ability to lead. It is a tool for building resilience and getting the best out of people. The outcome is that people work more confidently, more productively, they make good decisions, they ultimately perform better.

We call this ‘coaching for a better tomorrow’.

Being coached is not a passive exercise
An effective coaching strategy develops those who coach and those who are being coached (the coachee). The coachee in the relationship doesn’t simply ‘receive’ coaching. They play an active role in the process, and they need to be fully invested. We shift the power to the coachee so they become willing and able to make their own decisions, to become accountable and responsible for solving their own challenges.

Coaching is a tool for structuring conversations – helping the coachee to understand their goals, raise awareness of the wider issues, generate responsibility, focus their attention on finding solutions and gain their commitment to act on this.

Active listening
Coaching is as much about listening as it is about talking – you need to be present. Listening should go beyond simply hearing, it’s an active not a passive practice. A coach must listen intently, giving the coachee their full attention.

Embracing the silence within a coaching moment is often when real clarity comes to the surface. The skill of the coach is recognising their coachee’s body language and ‘thinking face’ and knowing when (and when not) to move the conversation on.

Uncomfortable truths
Chemistry between coach and coachee is crucial – there needs to be a ‘good dance’. In order for someone to disclose and vocalise what’s on their mind, they need to have trust in their coach. But we need to acknowledge that this isn’t just about empathy. It is important to build rapport, but an effective coach needs to be useful not helpful. People are so often used to being directed in the workplace, being told what to do. Coaching should change this dynamic.

It can sometimes feel challenging or even uncomfortable to be coached. The coach’s role is to ask questions which will uncover the very heart of an issue. This can be something that the coachee may not have fully acknowledged before, even to themselves. By challenging the status quo, the coach provides a framework to see the situation through a different lens, take a new perspective. The coachee becomes unstuck. In doing so, they can begin to formulate options for what to do next.

Directive or non-directive
Another misconception about coaching is that the coach is there to give advice, to tell the coachee what to do. We call this being directive. My view is that a coach should prioritise being non-directive – listening actively, using models of questioning to ignite thinking in the coachee. Asking questions which help them to discover the challenge that sits at the heart of their woes or frustration and see it in a new light. They can then begin to find their own way. This is how we build resilience.

That’s not to say a coach shouldn’t offer any advice. A shared experience or a practical tip can be hugely valuable. But ultimately, accountability must fall with the coachee.

Coaching in practice
In our clients’ businesses, in sectors from retail and utilities to manufacturing and financial services, we are seeing first-hand how an understanding and effective application of coaching is empowering leaders and driving performance. By democratising coaching in the workplace – giving everyone the skills to coach and be coached – I believe we can do better business, and truly unlock the potential of people.


Adapting for multi-generational teams

A demographic revolution is taking place across British workforces. It’s becoming common for multi-generations of employees to be working together with people in their 20s and 30s through to those in their 60, 70s and even 80s, which is creating new management challenges.

By 2025, one million more people 50 and over and 300,000 fewer people 30 and under will be in the workplace. Today, 19% of the population is aged 65 and over. In ten years, this will have increased to 22%.

With fewer young people entering the workforce in the next couple of decades – retaining them in an increasingly competitive market will be vital. At the same time, keeping the over 50s in the workplace so not to lose vital skills and experience is a priority.

Anticipating the potential for discord and proactively working out what each employee needs and treating them as individuals is a must

Few businesses are ready for these demographic changes. The Centre for Ageing Better found that only one in five employers are discussing the ageing workforce strategically.
But employers will need to face up to the challengers sooner rather than later. Especially given multigenerational, inclusive workforces are the future, according to 83% of global executives surveyed by AARP – and seen as the key to growth and long-term success.

Different generations are likely to have different skills, assets and attitudes towards work and how companies manage these differences will be critical. It will affect the training employers give, the benefits they offer, the hours they work and the way they should work together, so companies will have to adapt to accommodate everyone and find new ways to create effective multi-generational teams.

Understanding your people
To successfully manage an age-diverse workforce, employers need to acknowledge how the mindsets and life experiences of different generations affect how they approach their work and working together.

The rift between the post-1980 digital generations compared with the preceding analogue ones is something that can’t be underestimated. The under 45-year-old ‘digital workers’ will have very different attitudes and mind-sets to the over 45s ‘analogue workers’. For example, an analogue man in his fifties will be very different from a female digital employee in their 30s. Both may be hugely talented, with all the skills the business needs, but when it comes to how they approach work, they are likely to be chalk and cheese.

The analogue probably comes to work dressed smartly, gets in on time, likes his own desk and carries himself as someone who has been around the block more than once. However, he has kept pace with change and has a set of skills and understanding about his area the business values. The digital on the other hand is a classic Millennial. She may not work nine to five; however, she’s still emailing the CEO with ideas at eleven o’clock at night. She’s happiest not at her desk but slouched on a sofa in a breakout zone with her laptop and headphones on. She wants the business to have a mission. She thrives on teamwork and collaboration and craves feedback. She flouts the management structure and is always asking her manager to give her direction and talk about next steps.

A manager may think the two have complimentary skills and decide to put them together to work on a project, expecting it all to go well but instead, the opposite happens. They both end up complaining they can’t work with the other. This is a classic example of different generations coming to loggerheads because they have clashing attitudes and outlooks. Neither is going to change that much, so the manager will have to find workarounds to make it possible for them to collaborate.

Anticipating the potential for discord and proactively working out what each employee needs and treating them as individuals is a must. Here are some practical ways that businesses can manage an intergenerational workforce.

Age diversity is a positive
Having a mixed-age workforce makes for a more successful business and employers must work towards creating an age-diverse culture that embraces this. They need to help employees understand there are enormous benefits to working in a multi-generational environment, even though people may work in different ways. To make this happen, employers need to build in working practices that accommodate people’s different behaviours and values.

Life’s not just about work
From the employee’s perspective, these days it’s all about work-life balance, for younger cohorts especially, but also for older workers whom businesses hope to retain. There’s plenty that companies can do to make their organisation attractive for a generation of people who work to live rather than live to work. Companies need to be mindful that it’s not just about the salary and ensure their employee value proposition matches expectations.

Be flexible
People of all ages want (and often need) to accommodate other pressures and activities in their lives. Offering greater flexibility around the working week is one area that organisations can start to create a level playing field across the generations. They could look at offering part-time working, flexi hours or hybrid working. The pandemic after all proved this could work. Offering sabbaticals for long serving workers is also another option

There’s no ‘one size fits all’
Businesses must recognise everyone is an individual, with different personal needs and aspirations. Understanding intergenerational differences is vital in ensuring they are offering the right employee benefits for their workforce. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to employee benefits is no longer appropriate and companies must know which benefits will appeal to whom and tailor their packages accordingly. Employers should ask themselves what they want their future workplace demographic to look like and build a rewards and benefits package that will work for them.

Don’t assume
To recruit the best people employers mustn’t make assumptions about who can bring something special to the business. Age should never be a barrier – at either end of the spectrum – and neither should work gaps or experience in different spheres.

Keep communicating with employees
To create a cohesive multi-generational workforce, let employees know what the business is thinking and listen to what they want to say. This is best achieved by using different communication channels and adapting messages to suit the different age groups.

Give employees the opportunities to learn
Give employees the chance to constantly learn, grow and develop new skills. It’s likely that some jobs in the future may become obsolete, but businesses will want to retain loyal and talented staff.

To conclude
Intergenerational teams bring both challenges and opportunities. Businesses must work out how to best enable people of all ages to complement each other’s skills and assets, whilst ironing out generational differences in attitudes, priorities and approaches to work. Those that do will gain a serious competitive edge, not only in recruiting and retaining talented people but also in meeting the needs of their clients and customers.


Four Reasons Why Remote PC Management is Critical for Hybrid Work Era

As the world embraces the hybrid working model, we have seen a significant shift in employees’ computing requirements. Hybrid workers expect a high level of performance from devices, no matter where they are – fast, fluid and without diminished security. And with devices on the go, employees want highly responsive laptops that can get them online quicker so they can stay productive, easily collaborate and chat with co-workers and tackle their to-do list more effectively. However, businesses are not refreshing their PCs and laptops as quickly as they should. According to a study by SMB IT market research firm Techaisle, at least 40 percent of SMBs have either no PC refresh policy or are not following the system. As a result, 32% of Windows 10 PCs owned by SMBs are more than four years old. Outdated PC devices and aging machines lead to frequent downtimes, impact work efficiencies, and hurt employee experience. Forrester Research, Invest in Employee Experience, Drive Your Bottom Line Growth, commissioned by Intel, reveals that 50% of employees report that their PC device is outdated or insufficient.

According to Techaisle, PCs that are more than four years old also reduce IT efficiency and productivity, resulting in 70 hours of productive time lost per year per PC. These PCs on average experience 3X more malware attacks and 3.5x more phishing attacks than more modern Windows 10 PCs. And wait, there’s more. According to StatCounter, 13.06% of all current Windows PCs are running Windows 7, which hasn’t been supported since January 2020. Although 71.76% are using Windows 10, and a further 10.07% have Windows 11 installed, that still leaves many people who have not upgraded to the latest operating system. PC fleets running on old operating systems (OS) mean more bug fixes, security patches and costly device replacements.

For IT personnel, it means bearing an even greater burden. Even if one at-risk device is affected by malware, it can bring down the entire network. See More: Why the Future of Work Depends on PC Fleet Stability and Predictability Security in Focus The past two years have been anything but normal for information security professionals. With cyberattacks on the rise, security pros across every industry are acutely aware of the risks posed by cybercriminals and how hackers are shutting down vital infrastructure and exploiting vulnerabilities in software. But increasingly, organizations are experiencing rapidly changing threats that directly target identities, access control and data below the OS. Attacks on the BIOS firmware have become too frequent and can give hackers control over the system, allowing hackers to install keylogging software and steal sensitive data. A 2021 Security Signals report showed that over 80% of enterprises had experienced at least one firmware attack in the past two years. Despite this sobering statistic, only 29% of security budgets are allocated to protect firmware.

This evolving reality affords IT managers and decision-makers a great opportunity to build a PC upgrade strategy that meets the shifting technology needs of hybrid workers and empowers IT with hardware-based security they can count on. The good news is that there is a straightforward solution to this problem. Learn why organizations should adopt a next-generation PC platform to uplevel PC fleet manageability, security and overcome key IT hurdles: 1. Troubleshooting out of band devices remotely It has become quite commonplace for IT to get a call from an end-user whose device has become corrupted due to malware downloads. By deploying PCs with Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows, powered by 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors, companies can utilize technologies and services within the Intel vPro platform, such as Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT).

Intel AMT is powered by a separate hardware engine on Intel chipsets, which means that Intel AMT can operate independently of the main CPU and independently of the operating system state. Intel AMT is always available and always accessible. Intel AMT needs to be activated and is only available with Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows. In effect, Intel AMT provides persistent out-of-band connectivity that operates independently of the OS, allowing fixes to a broader range of system issues, even when the OS is down. With Intel AMT, IT can repair corrupted drivers, application software, or the OS on non-responsive systems or use KVM to monitor OS upgrades. 2. Improve efficiency and reliability of IT support Today, IT struggles to maintain dispersed device fleets and deliver remote support to end-users. An unresponsive laptop that users can’t power on or boot up results in end-user downtime. Either the user must ship the failing laptop back to the office, or wait for IT support to fix the device.

In such cases, IT needs hardware-level access and control features, known as out-of-band management, to troubleshoot devices. This allows IT teams to perform tasks such as PC setup and configuration, maintenance, and security updates. They can also deal with PCs that are powered off or unresponsive. In hybrid work models, next-generation business PC platforms enable IT teams to remotely and securely access out-of-band devices and fix corrupted or failed drivers and application software.

This greatly speeds up device repair and maintenance, helping employees to be productive again. The Total Economic Impact Of The Intel® vPro™ Platform (TEI) report by Forrester and commissioned by Intel estimated that by using the Intel vPro platform, an organization can improve employee experience and reduce security exposure. 3. Enjoy enterprise-grade security with confidence With hackers now attacking the BIOS on the PC, simple antivirus software defenses aren’t enough to defend against firmware threats. However, a PC powered by Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows includes integrated hardware-based PC protection through Intel® Hardware Shield, which provides the following features:
Below-the-operating system security, which locks down memory in the BIOS against firmware attacks and enforces secure boot at the hardware level
Intel® Control-Flow Enforcement Technology (Intel® CET) provides hardware-based protection against multiple classes of attacks, including memory safety-based attacks and increasingly popular control flow subversion techniques. This technology helps prevent an entire class of attacks that can’t be thwarted with software-only solutions.
Intel® Threat Detection Technology (Intel® TDT) provides IT teams with real-time insights about end-user devices. With the industry’s first silicon-enabled AI threat detection, provided only by Intel, this enhanced security feature takes full advantage of the advanced telemetry capabilities of Intel® Hardware Shield by augmenting ISV solutions to help stop ransomware and cryptomining attacks.
These features are available out-of-the-box and minimize the risk of a malware injection by locking down memory in the BIOS when software is running and help prevent planted malware from compromising the OS. It also helps ensure the OS boots securely. The Total Economic Impact Of The Intel® vPro™ Platform found that respondents attributed an average of 76% of security improvements to the Intel vPro platform security features and tools, including Intel Hardware Shield, Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), Intel EMA, and others. This clearly illustrates that Intel vPro provides enterprise-grade, multilayer, hardware-based security capabilities that empower IT to restore productivity and reduce help calls during an attack. 4. Do more with limited IT resources and focus on what matters Monitoring employees’ devices is hard enough, and it becomes more challenging in a distributed work environment with laptops that are constantly on the move. With the Intel vPro® platform powered by Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) and Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA), IT can schedule and automate tasks in the background without the need for end-user involvement. Most organizations are short-staffed with fewer IT resources. With the help of the Intel vPro platform, IT can expand their toolset, reduce the cost of PC fleet management and shorten the time spent remediating corrupted devices.

The Total Economic Impact Of The Intel® vPro™ Platform report showed that there are device management support cost savings – in particular through the use of Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel EMA), and Intel® Stable IT Platform Program (Intel SIPP). It also leads to reduced support for in-person escalations and fewer help desk tickets. With Intel vPro, support incidents can be resolved more often by the primary help desk representative without escalation. With Intel AMT and Intel EMA, help desk representatives have the remote access tools they need to resolve an issue, even if a person isn’t at the device or it is powered off. Another huge advantage for small IT teams is that with Intel AMT and Intel Stable IT Platform Program (SIPP), organizations can save significant time by avoiding failures of image and patch processes for remote employee

s. The additional IT cost savings resulting from Intel AMT and Intel EMA enable IT to focus on various tasks such as responding to audit, compliance, and reporting needs, planning for future endpoint improvements and supporting other teams IT requests. It’s worth noting that some Intel vPro® features are exclusive to Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows. These include remote management support with Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT). In addition, there’s connectivity support for Wi-Fi 6/6E and Thunderbolt™ 4 technology.

Is remote working fueling a loneliness epidemic?

With the four-day working week being trialled across 70 British companies and 3,300 workers, and calls for more hybrid and flexible working opportunities, the one method that doesn’t appear to be operating as well as we’d thought is full-time remote work. Amid growing concerns about loneliness in remote workers, it is also proving to be a real threat to work-life balance and contributing to a lack of trust between managers and employees.

The Loneliness Epidemic
During what seemed like a lifetime of countless lockdowns and social distancing rules, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a loneliness epidemic. According to the Office for National Statistics, many areas reported high rates of loneliness and poor mental health. In 2020, 2.6 million adults declared that they felt lonely “often” or “always”, with this increasing to 3.7 million by 2021. Some were spending less time with family and friends, whereas others were spending long periods of time with zero human contact or social interaction which, of course, is a recipe for poor mental health.

According to one report that observed the link between COVID-19 and rates of loneliness in particular, areas with a high concentration of young people, unemployment, and low incomes were most at risk. Adults who lived alone or had a pre-existing mental health condition were also highly susceptible to loneliness. With this in mind, it is certainly possible that one of the reasons why remote working is proving to be unsuccessful is because it is not providing UK workers with the opportunity to recover from the long periods spent in isolation from others.

The Importance of Socialisation
Humans are a sociable species. Psychologists have long identified the desire to feel connected to others as a basic human need, and interpersonal relationships have a significant impact on our mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk (Umberson & Montez, 2010). This is because our physiological systems are highly responsive to positive social interactions. They are essential to every aspect of our health, and research has demonstrated that having strong support networks and community bonds fosters both our physical and emotional health. Without it, we are at risk of a variety of physical and mental conditions like high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and depression.

Going to work is a great source of social interaction. Research has demonstrated that relationships with co-workers are one of the top drivers of employee engagement, along with cultivating teamwork and reducing the risk of depression and high blood pressure. We spend more time at work than anywhere else, and for this reason, remote workers are at risk of spending large amounts of time alone. In a survey of 2000 UK and US remote workers, a large proportion felt disproportionately isolated from others, and believed that working from home was negatively impacting their ability to build relationships and sustain social connections both in and outside work. 67% of workers aged 18-34 stated that since working remotely, they have found it harder to make friends and maintain relationships with work colleagues. 71% felt that their work colleagues had become distant, and 54% attributed remote working as the main cause for drifting apart. It was also found that the social element to work was more important to younger workers, who tend to be more sociable overall. When asked about how they would feel about working remotely on a permanent basis, 81% of younger workers expressed genuine concerns about loneliness. This is because younger generations are more inclined to go out and socialise than older generations (who tend to have more family-oriented responsibilities), which perhaps explains why the social element to work is less of a contending factor when it comes to job appeal in workers aged over 35.

The Work-Life Balance
Alongside feelings of disconnection from others, remote work poses a real threat to work-life balance. Remote workers are essentially consolidating their place of work with their place of rest, reducing the idea of home as a safe space; a place where we switch off from work-related responsibilities. Research has shown that commuting to work improves work-life balance, and many workers use their daily commute to switch on and off from work. Remote work removes the tangible boundaries that separate the home from the workplace, which can then make it difficult to compartmentalize different parts of life.

Physical barriers make it easier for the brain to make mental separations. By working in an office, for example, the environment is altered to alert the worker’s brain that their responsibilities need to shift as soon as they enter the workplace, therefore facilitating the work-life balance. In one study that examined the positive effects on employees who returned to the workplace during the pandemic, almost half (48%) of workers experienced improved mental health, while 46% saw an improvement in work-life balance. A good work-life balance has further been shown to reduce stress levels, boost productivity, increase feelings of self-control.

Lack of Trust in Manager-Employee Relationships
Remote work can further lead to a lack of trust between managers and employees. One survey discovered that 66% of employers do not trust their staff to work remotely, and this was despite only 20% reporting a decrease in productivity since moving to remote working.

A lack of trust from managers can have detrimental impacts for employees. Not only can managers project their anxieties onto their employees, but they can also apply an increased pressure for remote workers to be available all the time which can force work-life balance into further turmoil. On the other hand, if remote workers feel like their managers don’t trust them, it can put a strain on their working relationship as the employee may start to develop feelings of reluctance and resentment. It is important for managers to recognise that remote management is entirely different to face-to-face management. If a company is considering moving to a hybrid or fully remote work model, all managers should be trained in how to manage remote workers including how to monitor performance levels.

Increased Risk of Insomnia
Remote work has been linked to an increased risk of insomnia. By blurring the lines between the workplace and place of rest, it makes it difficult for brains to exit “work mode” and enter “sleep mode”. A study conducted by the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) explored the connection between remote work and insomnia, and found that 42% of people who consistently worked from home suffered from insomnia, in comparison to only 29% of individuals who worked from their employer’s premises. There have been various suggestions to explain the connection between insomnia and remote work, including the increased exposure to the blue light of computer screens. In an online poll, it was discovered that remote workers spend around 13 hours a day staring at a screen; two-hours more than people who work on-site. A contributing factor to this may be because all in-person meetings must also be moved online. In addition, remote workers are more likely to develop a propensity for going to bed late. This is because early wakeups and daily commutes are removed, so remote workers are more likely to forgo regular sleep times and develop unhealthy sleeping patterns.

Hybrid Work Models: The Way Forward?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the percentage of people working exclusively from work fell from 22% to 14% from February to May 2022. In the same period, the proportion of hybrid workers has increased from 13% to 24%. This is another major indicator that full-time remote work is becoming increasingly unpopular.

Hybrid work models offer a blend of in-office and remote work and are likely to become permanent fixtures of how we work. Various studies have shown that hybrid working models offer the “best of both worlds” by contributing to a better work-life balance, a greater ability to focus, saved commuting times and costs and higher levels of motivation. Not only do hybrid work models offer benefits for employees, but they also offer advantages for companies by reducing estate and facilities costs.

In an abovementioned survey, remote workers were asked about the benefits they would look for if they were to move to a new role. Hybrid working was listed as a top priority for all workers, with more than a third (38%) seeking this type of set-up. Flexible working hours were also seen as desirable by 42% of remote workers. Another survey discovered that 57% of managers believe that investing in flexible/ hybrid working models is essential to attracting and retaining talent.

Tackling Loneliness
Working exclusively from home can be a very lonely life, especially for those who also live alone. Loneliness can develop into a range of psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcohol abuse, insomnia, and cognitive decline so it is important for employers to conduct regular wellbeing checks on their remote workers. If remote work is having a detrimental impact on the mental health of an employee, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Management Referral may be required.

There are various ways to alleviate the negative impacts of full-time work. It is recommended for remote workers to get outdoors regularly to acquire frequent doses of fresh air and vitamin D. Not only will this prevent the feeling of being stuck inside all day, but it will also do wonders for mental wellbeing. Mixing up workspaces also has various benefits. This may be working from a coffee shop, a library or the home of a friend who is also working remotely. One of the best medicines for loneliness is to be near people, even if the remote worker is not directly interacting with them.