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Date posted: 15th March 2021

15th March 2021

#1 Meet the judges

#1 Meet the judges

IW: Today, we’re delighted to be joined by three of our 2021 EMEA judges for the Inspiring Workplaces Awards. Welcome: Kelly Swingler, Founder & CEO of Chrysalis Consulting,  Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer, People & Transformational HR Ltd and Céline Schillinger, Founder and CEO, We Need Social.

Firstly, we wanted to ask you all, what does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?

PT: For me it’s one where the people and the organisation flourish. It’s that simple to me.

KS: It’s one where the people are at the heart of everything. Where ideas, innovation and creativity comes from the people, where people are heard, people are valued and people matter.

CS: Great answers, myself, an inspiring workplace respects and engages people, as co-authors of its development. It provides to everyone opportunities to grow and to collaborate, contributing positively to society.

IW: You all mentioned the importance of your people. What are three areas of focus for organizations looking to improve the people experience?

CS: Collaboration, Workplace democracy, Cognitive diversity.

PT: I believe it’s about 3 core elements: clarity; accountability and togetherness. However adventurous or safe people are in their descriptions of their inspiring workplace (and it can either or both) if it’s clear and compelling what is expected of everyone; accountability replaces control and dogmatic micro-management; and togetherness reigns supreme in teams, the organisation, partners, customers and the community, that’s the winning formula for me.

KS: The areas of focus for organisations looking to improve the people experience for me are unique to each organisation. I don’t want to see organisations following trends of what they are told will improve the people experience, I want to hear that they have listened to their people and improved the experience for THEIR people.

IW: Following on from that, what do you think is the top priority when it comes to people at work this year and why?

PT: For me, it’s two core elements: Care and Impact. Care about the way people are led, supported, enabled, deployed and looked after; and then impact of what they – and you – do as an organisation to create value and positive impact to 4Cs and 1P – clients, colleagues, customers, communities and the planet.

In addition to the core elements, I’m also looking for breakthrough, standout, exceptional thinking and doing in equal measure. Creativity, invention and innovation are needed for the raft of challenges we now face. If it sounds predictable, it probably is. If it sounds pioneering, then what was it that was so different about the approach that showed care and impact whilst being imaginative and different in your approach.

KS:  Without a doubt the priority this year has to be wellbeing and for me that’s about the spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and financial wellbeing of our people. When one of these areas is out of sync, the others can quickly follow.  Making this a priority has to be more than ticking boxes, introducing some fitness classes and sending gifts to those who aren’t in the physical office space.  It’s about speaking with and listening to your people and working with them to create the right solutions.  There is no one-size-fits- all approach.

IW: The past 12 months have seen an acceleration of positive change, mostly due to it being enforced upon employers. Changes such as finally trusting and empowering people, flexibility, investment in wellbeing and the reduction in the stigma around mental health. Our question is, how many employers will stick to this path and how many revert to type?

CS: I am curious to see how current changes will shape companies’ operating models over time. I am not sure that heightened attention to people’s wellbeing will translate to structural changes in decision-making. We’ll see.

PT: We’ve seen emerging strategies on display. With remote working called ‘an aberration’ to companies committing to introducing more ‘permanent flexibility’. So I think it’ll be 80/20 like much of the world. 80% of companies will say they’ll change but only 20% will truly get it right, and 80% of companies will stick to their guns and not change, but perhaps only 20% of them will survive in the long term. It’s a test of faith and ability and what we need is visionary, applied pioneering spirit with togetherness, evidence and adaptability. It’s stark that in the last 3 recessions, only 9% of companies emerged stronger from that. The warning signs are there.

KS: I agree, I believe the employers who value their people will be the ones who stick to the path that the last 12 months have created. The employers who will revert to type are those who see people as a commodity to making money.

IW: Taking all that into account, as a judge for the 2021 EMEA Inspiring Workplaces Awards, what do you hope to see in the entries?

CS: To run for an Inspiring Workplaces Award during Covid, companies must have developed humane and ingenious ways of working. I am looking forward to being inspired!

KS: In the entries I want to see real examples of what it means to be a #PeopleFirst employer.  I want to see that initiatives have been co-created with people from across the organisation and I want to feel the passion of what this means in practice leap out of the entry.

PT: I’ll be looking at how people are developed, recognised, are influential and included. It’s a time where these are recognised elements of a high-performing organisation’s playbook but sadly are often under-leveraged, mechanistic and soulless, and awkward and inadequate. We know these things really matter to people, yet we don’t realise how off-kilter we are sometimes in our systems of work. These 4 elements inspire people to greatness and give them energy. Without inspirational energy, most companies will flatline or wither and lose out.

IW: Now on to a few more personal questions. Who was the last person to inspire you at work and why?

KS: The last person to inspire me at work was my partner Mick.  He’s my life and business partner and his ability to have the conversations that need to be had, put people first, listen and get the job done really amaze me.  I’m big vision and he’s in the detail and his ability to really pinpoint the detail is awesome.

CS: A senior female leader at Symbio, a hydrogen mobility company I collaborate with. About 10 years younger than me, maybe more. Brave, talented, funny, energetic… Very impressive.

PT: I was inspired by our entire team (Catalina, Emily, Jess, Katy, Kirsten, Megan) who just put together the most inspiring International Women’s Day content and messaging I’ve ever seen. Awe-inspiring is not overstating their application, creativity and togetherness with this work. And to our currently absent team member Clare who just delivered a 9lb 7oz baby boy!

IW: Wow – congratulations Clare! On to our penultimate question: What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

PT: Chris Matchan once said to me ‘Always have a conversation with people about how they are and if they need your help, it’ll come through. Never offer, sell or impose your potential solutions on them. Be prepared to have a warm, inspiring and keen conversation with them about them, and to walk away not having gained any work from that but knowing you’ve helped them anyway.

CS: Slow down, pay attention. A teacher’s advice in college. I am quick to take action, and I love that, but I may overlook critical elements of context or miss people whose contribution might be key. I’ve learnt to balance my urge for impact with a more reflective approach.

KS: The best advice I was ever given was from one of my previous managers, “never email out of hours. Once you start people will expect it from you and you’ll never be able to move away from it”.

IW: Some great advice there that we’ll be sure to remember. Finally, we love music and find any chance to weave it into our events, interviews and podcasts!  Name one song that fires you up, when you need to get motivated and fast.

KS: My go to song for some fast motivation and energy is Hustle by Pink – (parental advisory explicit lyrics)

CS: Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone (The Temptations)

PT: Currently, it’s ‘Can’t Fight The Feeling’ by the soulful genius that is Charles Bradley.

You can enter the Inspiring Workplaces Awards ahead of April 8, 2021 here.