Importance of leadership support for harnessing workforce diversity.
At the event, Ibec President and CEO of Trilogy Technologies Edel Creely told attendees that the day’s reflection on leadership for a new world was timely and relevant for business and government.
To sustain strong growth and an outward looking approach, organisations need to invest in the leadership skills of employees. This supports the growth and maintenance of an economically strong, diverse and inclusive society.
Ireland itself, she added, must become a country that better embraces entrepreneurship, nurtures talent and rewards success Acknowledging that this next phase of Ireland’s development will not be without its challenges, she said it is incumbent on HR leaders, as vital contributors to business success, to understand the depth and substance of the Irish business model. HR leaders must communicate this impressive message given how crucial a positive international reputation is for Ireland.
75% of companies plan to increase basic pay next year
Maeve McElwee, Ibec’s Director of Employer Relations told delegates that in developing the theme of the day, Ibec had been mindful of its members’ businesses moving again into a period of growth, which she, like Edel Creely noted, is not without its challenges. Disruption to the established working ‘norms’ – be they political, technological, cultural or commercial all place considerable demands on business leaders in terms of negotiating these changes and exploiting the opportunities they present. It is in this context that leadership has increasingly come under the spotlight, she added.
During her address, Ms McElwee shared the results of Ibec’s Autumn 2017 HR Update Survey which, based on responses from over 400 companies across a range of sectors, reports on trends in pay, leadership, talent management, recruitment and HR priorities.
Ms McElwee told delegates that in relation to pay, the findings indicate that 75% of companies plan to increase basic pay in 2018 with the median pay increase set to be 2% -similar to the last four years. Remarking that a significant number of companies are not expecting to increase pay next year, she emphasised that the continuing record low inflation together with income tax cuts have resulted in the economy as a whole experiencing strong real wage growth and this needs to be reflected in pay expectations.
Delegates heard that other strong trends emerging in the results included a focus on recruitment with 60% of respondents planning to take on permanent hires and more than half additional temporary staff in 2018 as part of their growing workforce. Meanwhile, attracting and retaining talent was also identified as a key employer concern with strategies such as investing in learning and development opportunities for employees, wellbeing initiatives and succession planning named as the just some of strategies being used to boost retention. In terms of attracting talent, the main area of focus of the survey respondents was engaging in online recruitment to attract new employees and building employer brand awareness.
Against the backdrop of a tightening labour market, noted Ms McElwee, the survey shows that skills gaps are evident in the areas of IT and engineering as well as a rise in shortages of staff across many sectors including health and science.
A shift away from a narrow approach to management of sickness absence to more proactive and encompassing focus around wellness, managing mental health and creating a supportive culture also emerged in the report’s findings.
Performance management skills is one of the key areas earmarked by respondents for inclusion in leadership development training in 2017 with 52% of companies saying this was a priority. Other areas of focus include communications skills for leaders (44%) while the identification of leaders’ personal strengths and weaknesses is a focus for 37% together with mentoring and coaching of leaders. Two out of five respondent companies, she disclosed, review leadership capabilities on an ongoing basis within their company while an additional quarter (26%) review annually. Around one in ten companies never conduct a review. Related to this, 33% of respondents report they have, or intend to in the next year, specifically prepare their leaders for the workplace of the future, she said.
Significance of anchoring staff to the purpose of the company
David Harney, CEO of Irish Life told delegates that the times we live in call for different types of leadership. The next 10 years, he predicted, will be a period of radical disruption featuring a further increase of computer power.
Mr Harney observed that traditionally we think of leadership as leading from the front but a more important aspect is how leaders prepare people for the journey ahead. Furthermore, he added, a leader needs to consider how to teach and upskill employees and educate them on how to think differently in order to anticipate and prepare for changes ahead. He said it is also crucial for HR practitioners to focus on the purpose of the company and to anchor staff that way.
Reframing the boundaries of talent management
In his address as the Summit, David Collings, Professor of HRM at DCU, shared his view that most firms’ talent management is focused on attracting and retaining high performing and high potential employees. This approach is premised on a view of employees' careers unfolding within the firm. However, the talent landscape is quickly evolving and it is increasingly clear that individuals build careers across multiple organisations, that organisations hire talent at multiple levels, and work is increasingly completed by workers who are not employees of the firm.
Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the gig economy for high level talent Professor Collings reminded delegates that the gig economy is driven by individuals as well as companies. It is important, he said, to bear in mind that there is also very high-end dimension to the gig economy that is technologically enabled and driven by individuals’ desire for interesting and meaningful work that allows then to enjoy a degree of autonomy and to leverage their expert talent. Mindful that freelancers often up-skill themselves more quickly than employee, some organisations have put together their own register of freelancers they can call on depending on the project. The question is, he said, how does a company position itself so that a freelancer is interested in working with the organisation?
Employee attrition it is not always negative posited Professor Collings. He encouraged delegates to think of leavers as brand ambassadors that can add value if an organisation manages former employees as alumni and is open to boomerang hires. In relation to hiring, companies, he warned, should avoid hiring quick and cheap. Rather than fixate on the maxim that time per hire is cost per hire, organisations would be better advised to look at the output of the new hire 18 months into the role, he suggested.
Echoing sentiments expressed in David Harney’s earlier presentation regarding the significance of the purpose of an organisation David Collings said that the area where a company can differentiate itself from other organisations is in the area of purpose, reminding listeners that meaning in their work is important to people.
Start acting like a leader in order to start thinking like a leader
Professor Herminia Ibarra of London Business School was the keynote speaker at the event. In her message to delegates she said to become a successful leader, you have to ditch the conventional “think before doing” logic and instead start acting like a leader in order to start thinking like a leader. She said people are much more likely to act their way into a more strategic way of thinking, than to think their way into strategic action. People need what she termed “outsight” – the fresh, external perspective they can get when they do new and different things – plunge themselves into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with new ways of getting things done – and then observe the results of their actions. Potential leaders, she advised, can gain “outsight” from three critical sources:
· New ways of doing their work (their job)
· New relationships (their network)
· New ways of connecting and engaging people (them self)
To be successful, newly promoted or appointed leaders need to redefine their job and avoid what she described as the ‘competency trap’ or the temptation to do what they do well and like best. We all like to do what we already do well, she continued. This is why, every year, we see the downfall of yet another company that was once the undisputed leader in a given product, service or technology, but that missed the boat when a new, disruptive technology came along. That is precisely what happens when people let the operational “day job” crowd out their engagement in more strategic activities, she added.
The most valuable role that a leader can play is to be a bridge or linchpin between an array of functional and business unit managers, according to Ms Ibarra. No matter what kind of organisation it is, team leaders who scout ideas from outside the group, seek feedback from and coordinate with a range of outsiders, monitor the shifting winds within the organisation, and obtain support and resources from top managers outperform those who dedicate themselves solely to managing inside the team. In addition, it enables them to see the big picture in relation to what direction the business should be taking.
Moving into a bigger leadership role usually involves a shift from having good ideas to selling them to diverse stakeholders. Sometimes this can leave people feeling “inauthentic” because it feels artificial and political to them. Making the required significant changes however, not just in what people do as leaders, but how they do it, requires a playful frame of mind. To this end, she recommended that people think of leadership development as “playing with” rather than “working on” their identity. By adopting a playful attitude, people are more open to a diverse, even divergent, set of possibilities.
Inspiring innovation and inclusive leadership
Also speaking at the conference was Oisin O’Gogain, HR Director, Aon Ireland. During his address Oisin explained Aon Ireland’s diversity strategy and told delegates that 1% improvement in diversity leads to 3% improvement in engagement.
Diageo Europe’s HR Director Joan Hodgins outlined how leadership is defined in Diageo and how it shapes their decision making. During her talk Joan revealed that Diageo has invested an € 30 million in their leadership programme. The leadership programme at Diageo is designed to inspire purpose-driven and inspirational leadership.
Liam Curley, Site Director of Abbott Diabetes Care shared his thoughts on inspiring innovation and inclusive leadership as did Declan Noone, Co-Founder of Serrano 99 Management Consulting.
The panel discussion in the afternoon included Lady Chanelle McCoy, Co-Founder of Channelle Medical, Laura Mahoney, CEO, Royal Irish Academy and Regina Doherty TD, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
David Meade, Million$Mentalist and motivational speaker ended the day’s proceedings. He demonstrated to attendees that one’s mindset affects everything and that when someone sees it can be done, the undoable can become doable
Irish Life was strategic partner for the Ibec’s 2017 HR Leadership Summit. DeCare Dental, CPL Resource plc, and Deloitte were associate sponsors while the Irish Times Executive Jobs was the media partner for the event.