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Imagine a Better Future at Work

100% Human at Work (the Australian Chapter)

Hosted by: Virgin Unite

Following on from our successful conversations in London, ChapmanCG was proud to participate in Virgin Unite’s 100% Human at Work gathering in Sydney. Virgin Unite and the B Team incubated the 100% Human at Work initiative in 2014 with the aim of generating and sharing ideas around thinking of people as humans rather than resources and ways in which we can help them achieve their potential and purpose – all of which will naturally have a positive impact on the bottom line. It’s a privilege to partner with Virgin Unite globally with our colleagues in Europe and the US participating in the 100% Human at Work events in their respective regions.

Through a series of keynotes and workshops, attendees were challenged to rethink the future of work, their roles as leaders and the old work systems in which we function.  Alongside business leaders, entrepreneurs and many of our HR friends, the Virgin Unite team and many thought leaders on inclusion, leadership, technology, office work spaces, mental wellbeing and facilitated discussion and brainstorming as we were taken on this one-day journey of optimism, inspiration mixed with a healthy dose of realism. 

Collective Flourishing

Jean Oelwang, Founding CEO and President, Virgin Unite set the scene for the day stating that we now have the opportunity to re-think, reimagine and re-focus on what is important, building on the shifts instigated by COVID.  She also spoke to the opportunity to learn from the indigenous communities of the world and businesses adopting practices to increase focus on sustainability: “There are no jobs on a dead planet”.  We were asked to ponder what business co-operation versus competition might result in, and as leaders to reflect upon our ‘million magic moments’ of making an impact on those we lead.  No one person can solve the issues we are faced with but together we can achieve great things.

Belonging and Inclusion

A better future of work is a more inclusive workplace. Katrina Webb, Paralympian and Founder and Director of Newday Leadership, led a conversation to explore belonging and challenged us to approach inclusivity by using a strength-based model rather than a deficit model. Developing CQ (cultural intelligence) gives leaders the “ability to lead people who are not like you”, as well as drive the attraction of diverse talent and those with similar values but diverse voices, whilst more broadly looking at how our incentive structures are driving behaviours.

Manisha Amin, the CEO of the Centre for Inclusive Design highlighted that inclusion, safety and fun need to be factored in when redesigning the workplace for people of all abilities including the neurodiverse. In this next iteration of work we have an opportunity to reconnect and galvanise relationships with a digital fabric that connects everyone. 

Yvonne Kelly, the Founder and CEO of Glow Up Careers, explained how her not-for-profit enterprise assist refugees with career coaching and support to enable them to secure a job in this market.  We also learnt about inclusion and support for First Nations peoples’ business enterprises through the application of human centred design, regenerative design, systems thinking and reciprocity.

Redesigning Work

Derek Laney, Technology Evangelist at Slack, shared recent research that indicates 59% of Australian workers feel burnt out, 12%, have already “quietly quit” in 2022 and 45% are considering moving jobs in 2023.  With such a high proportion of our knowledge acquisition and work is online, information overload is a contributing factor to the high levels of burnout. Derek posed the pertinent question: do we want to return to work or redesign work?

Work in the present day isn’t simply an activity involving mental or physical effort done to achieve a set of objectives. There are many other important elements such as collaboration, learning, mentoring, social engagement, experiential learning, growth and providing the opportunity to practice skills such as influencing, problem-solving and working through complexity.

Ben Morris, Group General Manager Human Resources at Mirvac, and Victoria Tavendale, General Manager Real Estate Operations at Mirvac, facilitated discussions around reimagining office space. Mirvac have undertaken extensive research on this topic and found that the office space needs to cater for many needs including open work areas, connection, privacy, collaboration and social interaction. They have piloted a movable and flexible workspace where walls, furniture and whiteboards can be moved around to suit the purpose of the group. This enables businesses to ‘earn the commute’ by making the office space an appealing place for people (particularly early careers) to go to.  

In imagining a better future of work, many challenges were identified such as overwhelm, personalisation versus scaling, conscious versus unconscious mental health, anxiety, having up to six generations in the workplace, leadership capability to deal with all of this and deciphering whether people’s expectations of work are realistic.

On the positive side, participants identified many potential solutions including: hyper-personalisation, robots to enable work/human augmentation, human centred job design, having ‘relay leadership’ where one leader is not expected to do everything but rather the leader is supported by other specialists such as psychologists, developing resiliency skills for crisis, learning how to learn, Four day work week, talent sharing/swapping between organisations, and humans to develop a greater sense of humility and adaptability so that a new world of work can be crafted, rather than just settling with the status quo.

Visual credit: Alan Chen at Sh8peshifters

Attendee Feedback:

When we spoke with attendees after the gathering these reflections caught our attention: 

In particular, I can’t shift my mind away from the ‘all abilities’ piece.  There really shouldn’t be any barriers for us in our business, but I am challenged to go back to look at the equity part of the DEI agenda and figure out what is stopping people with a physical disability or those that are neurodiverse, getting a seat at our table – I need to solve the problem as to why ‘we can’t find them’ and ‘they can’t find us’.

Jessica Sharpe | Entain | Chief People Officer – Australia

Katrina was such an eloquent speaker, having her present so early on in the day helped my thinking open up. She helped us consider both the structural and societal aspects of inclusion through her own personal experience. What I loved hearing about from the group is the progression of DEI from labels of groups to acceptance of all differences and abilities as well as neuroabilities coming through louder in the conversation, and that is making mental wellbeing the next frontier in our workplace.

I have already spoken to our Executive team around our participation in the mental health survey the B Team are releasing in May. I have been looking for a tool of measurement and something as a benchmark and I think this survey will be it. 

Cassii Rusk | integratedliving | Head of People Experience and Effectiveness

We could lead collaboration across the industry, I actually think we are on the cusp of that.  Everybody suffers similar problems and we worry so much about the competitive edge, but if we come together as an industry, we can solve collective problems together, for the benefit of everyone.

Angela Hornby | Sedgwick | Director – Capability

I was really inspired by Katrina, and the focus on inclusion. I think in the D&I space we look at what can be measured, and D&I is spoken about through that measurement lense.  The concept of belonging is something we are driving at Mirvac, to move past just the current D&I journey we are on. 

Benjamin Morris | Mirvac | Group General Manager Human Resources

ChapmanCG would like to thank the team at Virgin Unite and all presenters, facilitators and attendees for their contribution to this important and inspiring gathering.   

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