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This is how we can make our workplaces happier

by LLB Editor
2nd Mar 15 4:17 pm

Great insights from top executives at LinkedIn, Mindshare UK and AECOM

This article is brought to you by our advertising partners, inmidtown

A recent poll says that only 13% of the workforce is engaged – that’s bad news for any business. So, are we happy at work? Should we be happier? And what’s the difference between being happy and being engaged?

These were just some of the meaty questions at the forefront of the lively debate ‘Work, Love it or Hate it’ held at MidCity Place in Holborn last month.

Chaired by School of Life tutor and writer, Gaylene Gould, the lively panel debate brought together heavyweights from LinkedIn, Mindshare UK and AECOM – and was the tenth event in the hugely successful Midtown Big Ideas Exchange, a series of debates and discussions celebrating Midtown’s (the area spanning Bloomsbury, St Giles and Holborn) diverse and dynamic business community.

Over the 90-minute session, issues around leadership, technology, flexible working, careers advice and generational shifts were dissected, pored over, analysed and debated. Does Generation Y have it better than Gen X? How is it possible that only 13% of people are supposedly ‘engaged’ with their jobs?

These were the questions that Nicola Gillen, EMEA practice lead at AECOM; Carole Zibi marketing director for LinkedIn; Jennifer Healy, HR director for Mindshare UK and Gaylene Gould did their best to answer.

Improving your office

Each panellist brought fresh insight to the debate; drawing on personal experiences, expertise and the wider practices of their workplace. For the architect Nicola Gillen, the traditional office with its rows of desks and “people clocking in and out” is a thing of the past, and it’s vital that office buildings are updated to match modern methods of working.

“Now it’s much more about networks that are dispersed in our virtual,” explained Gillen. “So, actually, the role of the office is increasingly important, despite the fact that work has left the building. That doesn’t make office buildings irrelevant, it makes them more important than ever in terms of connecting people and creating a magnet that draws people in.”

For Gillen, creating productive surroundings is “definitely not about a set of colours and finishes” either: “It’s about the process you follow, engaging people in the process, finding out what they do and then wrapping an environmental solution around that.”

It’s also about the “little things”. Regaling the audience with tales of the magnificent offices she had visited in her role as an architect, Gillen revealed that Pixar’s HQ in San Francisco has a sushi bar and outdoor swimming pools – “it’s like a five-star hotel,” she said. Yet it was the bank of fridges containing different types of milk – full fat, low fat, soya – that also makes a difference.

“It’s attention to the small things – and that’s a very non-corporate attitude, but I think it’s a very next gen attitude.”


Being a good leader

Meanwhile, LinkedIn’s Carole Zibi called for more effective leadership to increase happiness. She outlined three qualities that all good leaders need; a sense of equality, a heightened sense of compassionate management and a shared ethos – a vision – that’s held by the team at large. Zibi drew on the unlikely parallels between Barack Obama’s successful electoral campaign team and the Box Office hit, Avatar.

What do they have in common? The teams behind Obama’s presidential campaign and Avatar both had a powerful sense of ethos, and it was this ethos that brought about their respective successes.

Mindshare UK’s HR director, Jennifer Healy echoed Zibi’s sentiments, touting the truism that “people leave managers, not jobs” and calling on more managers to “look in the mirror and see what role [they] are playing – managers have great responsibility and a great role,” she said.

Daily appraisals and continual development

The need for better trained managers was something everyone on the panel raised, with Healy highlighting the futility of annual appraisals and the demands from Generation Y,  who will “give you three years at the most, and they’ll expect you to develop them.” Healy described the apprehension people have around managing, but revealed the methods her team used to help novice managers overcome these fears.     

“Whenever people are asked to manage people they see it as such a great responsibility and not something they enjoy generally, so we use different training and try to develop coaching skills, encouraging them to listen and understand people better and really bringing out the best and helping them develop them that way […] it should be a continual conversation you have with people, understanding where they’re at, what they’re doing and where their output is.”

Missed the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange? Don’t worry, it’s coming back! Thanks to the unprecedented success of the 2014/2015 Exchange, a new series of talks are planned for later this year.

Follow inmidtown on Twitter @inmidtownbuzz and never miss an event again.

Is your business based in Midtown – the area spanning Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles? This week is your last chance to vote for inmidtown; the business improvement district transforming the area

This article is brought to you by our advertising partners, inmidtown


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