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Speaker Q&A

Speakers at this year’s Talent Summit talk about wellbeing and engagement in the ever-changing world of work

Holly Fawcett, curriculum development manager, Social Talent

Q. What are the best ways for employers to build a reputation as being an attractive workplace?

A. Employers sometimes feel that building a positive reputation as an employer is a big , potentially expensive task, but that's rarely the case. Your business has two, sometimes three, brands: the consumer brand, the investor brand and the employer brand. You probably already have a positive reputation amongst those who know you and those who work for you, the challenge comes in telling the world about it.

My advice for employers, big and small, is to leverage your employees. Ask them for their feedback; what about their work do they love? Who do they impact? Encouraging employees to share their experience with candidates, with their families and friends is key. Their experience is the only credible one that exists. No employer has a flawless reputation, but the reason some employers have great employer brands is not an accident: they asked for feedback, acted on it, and promoted it to the world.

Ian McClean, founder, Flow Group

Q. What can employers do to increase productivity through real-time employee engagement?


A. One of my favourite pieces of research investigates the evergreen conundrum of employees' lack of productivity. Why employees don't do what they are supposed to do? And what you can do about it is a book written by Ferdinand Fournier, which found that the top answer for 99 per cent of more than 25,000 managers surveyed is that "employees don't know what they are supposed to do". Americans call this a BFO – Blinding Flash of the Obvious. Obvious, maybe. However, in 25 years of working with corporate organisations globally, guess what? One of the final places businesses look for a solution to the perennial problem of engagement and productivity is under this rock of the blinding obvious.

It is more corporately credible to commission an engagement survey; do a time-and-motion study; adopt an algorithm to gather banks of data. Instead it is better, simpler and cheaper to drill your managers on how to be clear on outcomes, expectations and standards. Something so obvious it is rarely done well. Ambiguity is the enemy of clarity and, without clarity, how can anyone commit? After all, you can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Vanessa Tierney, co-founder and executive chairperson, Abodoo

Q. What can employers do to ensure discretionary effort of flexible/ remote workers?

A. Trust between the employer and the employee, be it from home, hub, hybrid or fully office based, is critical to any working relationship.

However, for businesses who in the past have relied heavily on presenteeism and are now embracing new ways of working, it is important to remember that trust works both ways. The employer needs to feel confident that their employees will work independently to achieve their goals. Similarly, the employee must trust their employer to support, communicate and guide them in planning and setting expectations.

Key elements to ensuring productivity and trust include:

  1. Setting clear and measurable output/ goals with deadlines.
  2. Strong communication channels (email, slack, zoom, shared calendars etc).
  3. Regular catch ups and updates (video conferencing supports team culture and trust, and is often more productive than in-person meetings).
  4. Technology is what enables employees to work remotely. Therefore employers must provide their teams with the tools, training and up-to-date software to ensure their success.
  5. Structured reporting and measurement. Be concise and clear on how productivity is measured and tracked.
  6. Career advancement opportunities. Many remote workers fear being overlooked for promotion when not seen physically in an office.

Finally, employers should ensure they have smart working policies in place to support their employees, especially one that supports diversity and inclusion.

Recent research shows that by providing employees with flexibility and clear communication, they are happier and tend to work more efficiently than in an office surrounding, thus resulting in increased productivity and output.

Joe Creegan, head of corporate life and pensions, Zurich Life

Q. In addition to pension contribution, how can employers support the sustainable financial wellbeing of their employees?

A. Financial Plan 101: help your employees understand the basics of finance with sound advice from a professional. As a large employer in Ireland, Zurich recognises the importance of looking after the wellbeing of our employees. Financial security is a key contributor to a person's wellbeing and while providing and contributing to a pension scheme can certainly contribute to employees financial security in the longer-term, there is more employers can do.

We’ve found that the most engaged employees are those that are empowered to make their own decisions, so we set out to help employees further. At Zurich, working with pension scheme advisors and HR teams, we find that helping people better understand the basic financial issues that relate to them will enable them to make better decisions with regards to their finances. We’ve run many workplace sessions to help employees with financial basics such as understanding their payslips and personal taxes to the more complex such as planning for children’s education, personal debt management or longer term retirement planning. Financial wellbeing starts with better understanding and as a HR professional, staff will look to you for support. You can turn to Zurich for the support you need.

Cathal Sheridan, head of program design, PepTalk and mental skills coach, Munster Rugby

Q. How can companies ensure their wellbeing programmes resonate in the workplace?

A. Wellbeing is more than fruit in the canteen and the odd yoga class. We could try and tell you there is a quick fix, but in reality, sustainable and meaningful cultures are focused on driving employee engagement through evidence-based scientific research. And data, lots and lots of data. However, it absolutely has to be fun (and it can be). It must be alive daily. And there needs to be something for everyone. No matter if it is client facing, shiftwork or even working remotely. In fact, there is a tremendous opportunity here to leverage ethical technology to support and connect these people with these programmes.

Effective cultures of wellbeing are the ones that drive real behaviour change, not just splash-in-the-pan one-day glamorous events.But there is, of course, a time and place for those as well. But it is about more than that. It goes deeper. Measurement, iteration and bi-directional feedback can help ensure wellbeing programmes reach and resonate with people in the workplace.