3 Key Takeaways from Great Places to Work 2019

The 2019 Great Places to Work For All conference was a hit. Optimism pervaded the conference; the keynote possessed an infectious energy; and the attention to progress within and across organisations was balanced by a polite, yet forceful, message saying, yes…employers can do even more.

Where can organisations continue to improve? Three themes cropped up time and time again during the formal presentations and the hallway conversations. 

Diversity of Ideas

One of my favourite quotes came from Great Place to Work CEO Michael Bush who said, “You have to be delusional to be a good leader.” It’s not an indictment of organisational trailblazers. It’s recognition that to lead into the future, you have to imagine a world where the impossible is possible.

That requires a diversity of people and ideas. Homogony may support harmony. But all that agreeing actually stalls innovation. It’s the disagreements of diversity that spawn invention.

To create that diversity, employers will have to develop new lenses for evaluating talent – looking not just at experience, but at skills and how they complement, versus overlap, with existing employees. They also need to make sure people have both the space – and the safety – to speak out. But the results will be worth it.

Creating Great Workplaces for All

Modern diversity and inclusion practices can’t be limited to singular populations. It’s not just women or minority hiring we need to talk about – it’s everyone. Broader efforts need to provide the same opportunities for all – where pay equity for women becomes pay equity for the whole workforce.

This is a seismic shift in thinking for many organisations, and will require rethinking not just cultures, but whole benefits strategies. Employee development, for example, needs to reach beyond the small corporate populations to which it’s historically been limited. Retraining the entire workforce is both a business imperative and a moral one. We have to treat it that way. Ask yourself:

  • Is the value of each of my benefits clear, affordable, and accessible to all? 
  • Are they reaching your frontlines, your part-timers, your remote team members?
  • If not, what steps can you take to make sure they do? 

Enabling Innovation

The secret ingredient for innovation might well be trust.  Unfortunately, most employers aren’t set up to deliver it – opting instead for bureaucracy and excessive governance, which is essentially the opposite of trust (and often delivers the opposite of innovation). "You want to give people a little more freedom than you're comfortable with,” said one speaker. "If you give people freedom, they will repay you by being more productive and effective.” 

Those were just a few of the insights that came out of this year’s event.  As the title said, the overarching theme was the ambitious goal of Great Place to Work For All.

I look forward to seeing how far we can move that goal along before we reconvene next year.