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Businesses gather to learn secrets of best workplaces

Great Place to Work Institute Conference takes place in Dublin on September 21st

Several hundred business leaders and HR professionals from many of Ireland's best-performing organisations will gather in Dublin for the Great Place to Work Conference on September 21st next. They will hear from a diverse line-up of speakers from Ireland and overseas who will address a variety of topics, with the central theme of improving the workplace.

"The people attending the conference will have a shared interest in improving their workplaces," says Great Place to Work Institute chief executive John Ryan. "They will come to learn about great leadership and how that means diversity of thought and innovation. They will learn from some great speakers and from each other about how to create and sustain high-performing organisations."

Keynote speaker on the day will be Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor of organisational behaviour at Insead in Paris. He directs the management acceleration programme, the school's flagship executive programme for emerging leaders.

Nomadic professionals

Petriglieri will address the topic: “The bonds that free: Developing meaningful and trustworthy leadership in the age of nomadic professionals.” This deals with the paradox at the heart of contemporary careers where widespread mobility provides people with ever more opportunities to pursue meaningful careers and gain access to leadership positions, while, at the same time, mobility can also deprive people of the strong connections and firm commitments that make leaders trustworthy.

Valerie Hughes D’Aeth, human resources director with the BBC, will look at the specific challenges faced by her organisation in an environment where effective licence fee cuts and other changes have led to a drop in income and consequent job cuts, while the UK government is also requiring the corporation to do more in terms of public service.

Internationally acclaimed and admired motivational speaker Manley Hopkinson is returning to address the conference for the second year in a row. Hopkinson uses powerful metaphors to enliven the topics of leadership – “team--?ship” and “self--?ship” – all with a focus on delivering high performance.

In September, he will continue a story from last year’s conference that enthralled the audience: his journey around the world in the BT challenge, leading people who had never been on a yacht before, and the lessons in leadership learned as a result.

Tom Fleming, human resources director of Volkswagen Group Ireland, will address the hot topic of rebuilding trust. The automotive industry faces unprecedented challenges, from digital disruption to changing mobility patterns, and on top of this the world's largest automotive company has also had to deal with "Dieselgate".

Rebuilding trust

Volkswagen’s response has been to make building and rebuilding trust among all stakeholders its number one priority. Fleming will explain what this means for the company in Ireland as an employer and employer brand, as well as discussing its biggest challenges and key learnings for its continuing great workplace journey.

Bernard and Miriam Kennedy from Carlow Precast will outline an SME's journey to becoming a great place to work. The company employs 80 people manufacturing precast concrete products from its plant in Carlow and exporting the majority of output to the UK. Significant performance improvements have been achieved over the past two years since it began the process of becoming a great place to work, so much so that the company has been able to remain competitive in its main market despite the dramatic fall in the value of sterling.

Woodies DIY chief executive Declan Ronayne will talk about the transformation he is leading in the 35-store, 1,400-employee group. He will also speak about the value of corporate social responsibility in helping to create a high-performing great workplace.

In the case of Woodies DIY this saw the launch in 2015 of its “Working on Wishes” charity drive. The campaign was a direct result of feedback from its 2014 great place to work survey, which highlighted a need for greater community involvement on its behalf. The company partnered with the Make a Wish Foundation and over five weeks store and support office teams undertook various fundraising tasks, from static bike cycling to bake sales and sponsored walks, culminating in a 1,500km charity cycle where staff cycled to every Woodies store in Ireland. This resulted in €272,000 being raised for Make-A-Wish. This total was surpassed in 2016 when €268,333 was raised for Make-A-Wish and other charity partners.