In the latest instalment of our HR industry executive interview series, we spoke to Dr Andy Brown, CEO, ENGAGE, about his company, the challenges and opportunities currently faced by HR professionals and trends in the market ahead.
Tell us about your company, products and services.
ENGAGE improves organisational performance through people-led change. We do this by:
- Developing leaders who are equipped to drive change
- Engaging and enabling employees to deliver change
- Embedding culture and behaviours that allow change to happen.
Our clients are leaders of everything from small, fast-growth start-ups to large FTSE and Fortune corporates. But they all have one thing in common: they value their people as the agents of change.
We work as trusted partners of organisations that want an innovative, agile and bespoke approach to improving performance. To achieve this, we have a range of bespoke insight tools that we use to gather and integrate data from every level of an organisation. We then use world-class people science and smart analytics to inform decision-making. We then combine the results into strategic advice that drives measurable change.
What have been the biggest challenges the Human Resources industry has faced over the past 12 months?
The pandemic has, of course, provided some of the biggest challenges that HR teams – and organisations as a whole – have ever had to face. As well as the individual impacts on health and wellbeing, COVID has shone a spotlight on the strengths and weaknesses of different organisation’s people strategies. It has also focused specific attention on three core areas: leadership, employee engagement and culture.
Businesses that have demonstrated balanced leadership – combining humanity and empathy with laser-like strategic focus – have thrived. In our view, that’s the biggest challenge that organisations now face: the need to be thoughtful and purposeful in identifying what they need to achieve in the post-pandemic landscape – and ensuring people and leadership behaviours reflect this.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
Despite the many negative impacts of the pandemic, it has also presented some of the biggest opportunities. Forward-looking organisations have turned the situation to their advantage – taking the chance to review what their ideal future looks like, in many cases pivoting their business, or resetting their strategic goals.
And this is now a huge opportunity as we emerge from the crisis. In a world of negativity, it’s easy to get drawn into a downward spiral. But rather than looking at mitigation, HR teams can look proactively at what opportunities now exist to reset or refocus people strategies.
To do this, they must truly listen to their employees, use data to help them make people decisions and ensure everyone is empowered towards a common purpose, with employee values aligned to organisational goals.
What is the biggest priority for the Human Resources industry in the year ahead?
If they haven’t already done so, HR must identify their biggest change priorities that will ensure they’re ready and agile enough to cater for an uncertain and ever-changing future of work.
They can do this by looking at the three critical components of people-led transformation: leadership, employee experience and culture. This may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to happen in one go. A clear change framework – what we call our Blueprint for Change – will create alignment between the overarching ambition for your organisation and how your people will deliver this.
The result is a tailored, insight-led plan which helps you prioritise where you need to focus in order to drive sustainable transformation.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in the year ahead?
We believe there will be three core trends, which we’re already witnessing among our more forward-thinking clients:
- The rise of balanced leadership: leaders who are strong on both the ‘harder’ side of business (strategy, execution etc) and on the more human side (humility, compassion, humanity etc). This is going to be an essential balance for the future of work.
- Deeper listening programmes: organisations listening to the voice of the employee more smartly and more frequently to help them iterate their approach to emerging from the pandemic. One-off or annual surveys should be a thing of the past – they just don’t provide the agility or depth of insight that organisations need to combat ongoing change.
- Re-setting the organisation: helping to refresh the organisational purpose, the way teams operate and the culture of the business to make it ready for the post-pandemic world. There are lots of questions organisations need to ask themselves and they shouldn’t be afraid to do so!
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
Technology that enables deeper engagement. But it’s important to note that technology cannot achieve this alone – it needs to enable leaders, managers and the organisation to achieve this.
In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?
The future of work and the workplace – have we landed it effectively yet?
Which person in, or associated with, the Human Resources industry would you most like to meet?
Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Head of People Operations, because of the great advances he’s made in people analytics, the use of research to create simple frameworks for effective organisations, and a pioneer of nudging.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Human Resources sector?
(Sadly,) the lack of analytical capabilities. It’s getting better but HR needs to up its game to play on a par with Marketing and Finance.
You go to the bar at the London/Manchester HR Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
A cool pint of well-poured Guinness.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
The variety of C-suite executives we get to learn from every day.
And what’s the most challenging?
Finding stand-out talent in the sector who want to get away from the ‘sausage machine’ mindset of our competitors.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always listen and ask great questions.
Baptiste or Game Of Thrones?
Baptiste (personally) and GoT professionally (Warner Media/HBO are one of our biggest clients so it’d be rude to choose otherwise!).