Aimee O'Leary
Written by
Aimee O'Leary

IW: Today, we’re delighted to be joined by two of our 2021 North America judges for the Inspiring Workplaces Awards. Welcome: Russell Robinson,  Founder of Amplified Research, Civil Servant and Researcher Focusing on Employee Engagement and;  Jason Lauritsen, Keynote Speaker, Author, Adviser and Leadership Trainer.

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

RR: An inspiring workplace is one where the entirety of employees, managers and leaders are motivated to accomplish organizational goals and outcomes.

IW: What are three areas of focus for organizations looking to improve the people experience?

JL: 1. Improving two-way communication with employees at all levels. More conversations about what really matters to the employee.

  1. Making well-being core to how you think about supporting employees.
  2. Reskilling your managers to build better relationships with their people

RR: I agree with all of those. I believe the three focus areas are as follows: employee empowerment, hiring and developing supervisors and leaders, and creating an open and safe culture.

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

RR: I think the top priority is LISTENING.  After the effects of 2020, it is important for everybody in the workplace to listen to each other and hear each other’s thoughts, fears and experiences.  I think it is important for workplaces to hear these thoughts to determine how to best set organizations up to succeed in whatever their industry’s future of work looks like.

JL: That’s true. I would also add compassion. We are far from out of the woods when it comes to the challenges we’ve faced for the past year. People are tired, fatigued, anxious, frustrated, burned out, depressed and more. We need to have compassion first for ourselves and identify where we are suffering and do something to help. Then, we need to recognize that people around us are suffering and do what we can to help them. We will come through this best if we do it together.

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?

JL: I’m not sure it’s an either or. I think the most likely path for more organizations will fall somewhere in the middle between who they once were and who they became out of necessity. Employees aren’t going to tolerate a return to normal and the employers who ignore that reality will suffer the consequences.

RR: I think the case must be made that focusing on your employees will always relate to better outcomes with customers and other stakeholders.  Empowered employees are more accountable, creative, and innovative, which leads to stronger organizational brand.

IW: Leadership plays a huge role in everything we’ve just spoken about, What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?

RR: I think leaders that understand communication, and its role in all aspects of an organization.  Leaders need to know how to develop and deliver messages that are digestible, simple and inspire the workforce.  Additionally, leaders that know how to listen to, and act on the feedback they receive.

JL: I agree, I have a similar answer. I think it’s the ability to deeply listen to others and probe for understanding.

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?

RR: I hope to see entries that look have a reflective look at 2020 beyond COVID, to include the impacts of both.

JL: I’m really excited to see the creative ways that organizations overcame the challenging circumstances of 2020 to show up for their employees.

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

RR: My last CEO.  He was a retired C-Suite executive, and he talked about how the employee brand improved the organizational brand.  And, he made leadership decisions based on this belief.

JL: My friend recently took on a big promotion into a big job where she faces a lot of challenges. I’ve been blown away by how she’s shown courage and vulnerability in facing the challenges. Her commitment to her people and her purpose is deeply inspiring.

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

JL: It’s hard to pick just one. But, the one that comes to mind for me today came from an amazing mentor, Roger Fransecky, who passed away several years ago. He gave advice much like Yoda did, never telling you exactly what to do, just nudging in the right direction. One time, after I shared a particular challenge with him that I was having with my business, he simply said, “Sometimes, we make it really hard for people to do business with us.” There’s a lot of genius in those words.

RR: A former boss told me that even in a world of shared leadership, the leader is responsible for the direction and outputs of the staff.

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.

RR: At this moment in time, it is “Cut Me a Break” by the Free Nationals featuring T.I.

JL: Eye of the Tiger

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

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