Bridging divides for better outcomes at work

17 May 2019 

By Alison Maitland

In divided times, there is cause for hope in initiatives that aim to bridge differences, whether at work, at home or in society. One such initiative is More in Common, a project that has brought together residents of Lambeth, in south London, where nearly 79% voted for Britain to remain in the EU, and Boston, in Lincolnshire, where nearly 76% voted for Brexit.

There are lessons here for how we build connections and cultivate better relationships at work, by making the most of our mix of life experiences and perspectives. Leaders need to be skilled at this, given that diverse teams have the potential to be smarter and more innovative than teams in which everyone is similar. Continue reading

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The future of work is agile

20 March 2019

By Alison Maitland

I recently came across a company called ConsenSys that develops applications for blockchain technology. Its work model intrigued me. According to its website, the 1000+ employees around the world decide their own schedules, work wherever they want to, and pursue projects that interest them. With all this freedom comes responsibility to support their teammates.

The company, which describes itself as a ‘mesh network of purpose’, was named by LinkedIn as one of the 50 most sought-after start-ups in the US last year.

Is this the future of work? Self-managing organisations are certainly coming into vogue. Yet this model still represents a stark contrast with the daily experience of many workers faced with congested commutes and long hours in concrete office buildings.

What enables or blocks the spread of agile working in big organisations? And what can we do to speed up the shift to more human-centred work styles? Continue reading

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How employers can keep pace with the work revolution

18 March 2019 Willis Towers Watson recently ran this article in their corporate and trustee briefing featuring my views on the huge challenges facing organisations in keeping pace with rapid changes in work and society, and how enlightened employers are responding. Among other issues, I talked about the focus on making work more human in a time of massive upheaval, and the positive results companies are seeing from well-implemented agile working.

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How do we ensure that AI is our friend, not our foe?

19 Feb 2019

By Alison Maitland

How vulnerable are we humans to smart machines? We got a nasty glimpse of the possibilities with the air travel chaos caused by drone sightings over London’s Gatwick airport in the busy run up to Christmas.

The drone use was illegal, but, even when it is in the ‘right’ hands, we have reason to be vigilant about how artificial intelligence is rapidly entering many parts of our lives.

At work, there is the potential for bias and discrimination to be automated. Machine learning relies on large sets of data to detect patterns and make predictions. This typically reflects past human behaviour, which inevitably contains prejudices and assumptions, whether conscious or unconscious.

One example of what could go wrong, reported by Reuters, was an experimental recruiting tool that Amazon decided to scrap when it was found to discriminate against women. Continue reading

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To drive inclusion in your company, engage with the world outside

16 January 2019 This article is the second in a series that Rebekah Steele and I have written on LinkedIn, focused on how organisations can do a better job of inclusion.

By Rebekah Steele and Alison Maitland

Amid the divisive social and political debate surrounding the migration of refugees and asylum-seekers, some companies have brushed negativity aside, viewing the crisis as an opportunity to do good and benefit their business. Starbucks committed to hiring 10,000 refugees worldwide over five years. In the UK, the company linked up with a leading charity, the Refugee Council, to offer refugees training in preparation for Barista roles in its London coffee shops.

Other companies pledging jobs around the world include Hissho Sushi, US yogurt maker Chobani, and global services provider Sodexo. ‘It’s the smart thing to do, it’s in our business interest,’ said Rohini Anand, Sodexo’s head of diversity & inclusion and corporate responsibility.

Companies need to address the whole of inclusion – internally and externally – to find sustainable solutions to the global business challenges ahead.  Continue reading

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Hyping generational differences is unhelpful

5 November 2018

I’m starting to feel sorry for the so-called ‘Millennial’ generation. For years, they’ve been surveyed, sorted and categorised into a cohort with distinctly unappealing characteristics: the ‘Me’ generation, ‘snowflakes’, self-absorbed, restless, entitled, and needy.

Now they’re going to suffer the indignity of being overtaken by a new ‘generation’: Gen Z, the digital natives, who are attracting breathlessly enthusiastic terms like ‘Generation We’, creative, self-aware, sharing, and caring. They’re so very different from the Millennials – apart from the fact that they spend loads of time on their smartphones and social media!

The idea that each ‘generation’ is uniquely different is hype. Continue reading

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If you think you’re doing a good job measuring inclusion, think again

24 Oct 2018 This article is the first in a series that Rebekah Steele and I are posting on LinkedIn, focused on how organisations can do a better job of inclusion.

By Alison Maitland and Rebekah Steele

ARE your inclusion measures helping you achieve your critical business goals? Or are blind spots obscuring the path to better results?

Companies need to address the whole of inclusion — feelings, actions, and organisational factors – to know what they need to do differently to face the business challenges ahead. Consider this case at a multinational conglomerate.

Senior managers agreed that Devon (name changed to protect identity) was a strong performer, regularly meeting or exceeding objectives. At the annual meeting to assess high-performing employees’ potential to grow, there was no dissent on that point. One executive, however, noted that Devon lacked commitment and was therefore not promotion material.  Continue reading

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Telling your career story

7 Oct 2018

What is your career story? What pivotal events, opportunities and setbacks have shaped your professional life? What are the values and strengths that motivate you and determine the choices you make?

If these questions are hard to answer, you are not alone. Many people enjoy their job, as far as it goes, but reach a point where they feel ‘stuck’ career-wise. They sense they could be doing something more meaningful, but they are not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Continue reading

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Will UK employers have to advertise jobs as flexible?

4 Oct 2018

It’s National Work Life Week in the UK, and with it comes news that the government is considering steps to increase flexible working.  As part of a package of measures,  Business Secretary Greg Clark said the  government ‘will consider creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising’.

That’s a lot of ‘considering’, but hopefully it’s a positive sign. Many employers still resist advertising roles as flexible. This is despite a large body of evidence of the business benefits of new ways of working, which we set out in our book Future Work. It often comes down to fear – especially fear of ‘opening the floodgates’ – and we provide  guidance for managers and businesses on breaking through that fear barrier. Continue reading

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How to have better conversations at work

25 Sept 2018

What we say and how we say it affects the culture at work. I recently went to collect an order at a furnishing store and the staff could not find it. When the manager came over to apologise, he said: ‘I don’t know what’s happened. Maybe one of my staff has done something they shouldn’t, and I need to slap them.’

I don’t think he meant it literally, but the image of management by ‘slapping’ was enough to tell me why the store seemed an unhappy and inefficient place. Delivering a verbal slap would be sure to shut off the recipient’s cooperation. It would send their brain into ‘fight, flight, freeze or appease’ mode, and the willingness to learn and do the job better next time would be lost.  Continue reading

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