Ambition, Motivation, and Belonging

World of Work round table series


The topic

Ambition, motivation, and belonging

Before Covid-19, the perception among some was that ambition and development at work depended on being ‘seen’ by bosses and the best businesses understood that creating a culture that employees wanted to be part of was key to attracting and retaining talent.

Meanwhile, many believe people develop the most outside of a formal training structure and learn ‘by osmosis’ from experienced colleagues. Lots of businesses are also used to rewarding their employees and reinforcing company culture through social events like Christmas parties, away days and team-building activities.

A world with far less time spent in the office changes all of this. How do businesses create the sense of belonging, culture and an environment that enables people to learn from each other?

At this roundtable we spoke to a panel of experts to find out their views on how the world of work is changing, the challenges and opportunities for organisations and what firms need to do to keep their employees motivated and engaged.

Our research

To help inform the discussion, we asked YouGov to conduct two surveys with:

• 1,000 senior decision-makers at UK-based businesses

• 1,000 employees working at UK-based businesses

To find out:

• Has Covid-19 affected how motivated employees are at work and is it more difficult now for businesses to keep their workforces engaged?

• Has Covid-19 and the onset of mass remote working negatively affected professional development?

The findings

A third (31%) of employees feel less motivated now than they did before the onset of Covid-19

Almost half (47%) of employees are worried about the changes to how they work, such as remote working, brought about by Covid-19, will affect their professional development

More than a third (37%) of senior business decision makers say it has become harder to motivate their employees since the onset of Covid-19

• When asked how much they thought their employees had developed during the period since the onset of Covid-19, half (50%) of senior decision-makers said either ‘not very much’ (38%) or ‘not at all’ (12%).

The panel

Bex Burn-Callander
Carolyn Hicks
Sir Cary Cooper
Sharon Blyfield
Rachel Credidio
Rishi Sethi
Bex Burn-Callander

Bex Burn-Callander

Senior Business Journalist, writing for the Telegraph and Management Today (chair)

Former enterprise editor of the Telegraph, Bex was previously associate editor at Real Business magazine and web editor at Management Today.

Her work has also been published in The Guardian and The Times. A seasoned and respected journalist, Bex regularly provides commentary for TV and radio, appearing on BBC Radio 4, Share Radio, Sky News and Channel 4.

Carolyn Hicks

Carolyn Hicks

Director – Consulting, Deloitte

Carolyn is a director in Deloitte’s Consulting business and is leading the Consumer leg of Deloitte’s Consulting North Expansion.

A transformational change specialist, Carolyn has worked with organisations for over 20 years to architect and deliver the people side of transformational change.

She regularly engages businesses to help them think about the Future of Work for their organisations.

Sir Cary Cooper

Sir Cary Cooper

Professor of Organisational Psychology and health, Alliance Manchester Business School

One of the world’s leading authorities on health and wellbeing in the workplace, Sir Cary was appointed the 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Alliance Manchester Business School in 2015.

He is also the president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and author of over 170 books and 350 scholarly articles.

In 2001, he received a CBE and was knighted in 2014 for his contribution to social sciences.

Sharon Blyfield

Sharon Blyfield

Senior Manager – People and Culture, GB early careers and apprenticeships, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP)

Sharon has 16 years’ experience as a HR professional and now heads up CCEP’s early careers programme.

Her role incorporates overseeing the company’s apprenticeship scheme and entry-level recruitment, ensuring the business is taking an inclusive approach that produces a diverse workforce for the future.

Rachel Credidio

Rachel Credidio

Group people and transformation director, Aster Group

Rachel has more than 20 years’ experience in the housing sector, having spent the past 15 years at Aster.

Responsible for HR and talent management, communications, IT, business insight, innovation and project management at Aster, she is leading a transformation in the way the group engages with its people to drive innovation, creativity, collaboration and productivity.

Rishi Sethi

Rishi Sethi

Director – Sustainability and Communication, Rabobank

Rishi is director – sustainability and communications at Rabobank, the Dutch multinational bank. Rishi has been with the bank for almost a decade and now heads up all areas of communications in the UK.

He has been responsible for Covid-19-related colleague communications in the London office and he is part of the bank’s steering group on future working practices.

Panel discussion - key highlights

  • Covid-19 has focused attention on organisations’ purpose and their relationship with employees
  • Finding alternative ways to motivate colleagues will be crucial to businesses’ performance in the long-term
  • Organisations will need to embed a culture of innovation and creativity to successfully pivot to new ways of doing things

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane recently argued that mass working from home risks “damaging Britain’s creative potential and could harm personal wellbeing” in the long-term. It reflects the fears of some that new ways of working could hamper the UK’s economic recovery.

Yet it’s a sentiment not shared by the panellists on the first roundtable for World of Work, a new campaign series created by Aster to help businesses understand and respond to rapidly-evolving workplace trends.

As Professor Sir Cary Cooper, president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and organisational psychologist at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS), argued, it’s time to re-think the traditional office space and “re-set the ‘human’ in ‘human resources’”.

Read more in the sections below.

The traditional office working environment is dead, according to Sir Cary, and people feel the need to “be present” to combat the lack of face-to-face interactions as a result. He said that managers need to be able to open up to their employees, to promote a healthy work-life balance and to check in on how they’re doing, from both a professional and personal perspective.

Rishi Sethi, director of communications and sustainability at Rabobank, shared this view. He argued that Covid-19 has helped to break down barriers and hopes that long beyond this period, people will be encouraged “to be their authentic self in the workplace”.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP)’s early careers lead, Sharon Blyfield, said “breaking from the tradition of being present” was crucial to avoiding issues like presenteeism: “You don’t have to be present to be doing a good job.”

With all panellists agreeing, Aster’s Rachel Credidio said involving the rest of the household in virtual social events is also a big part in getting to know colleagues and in creating a healthy work-life blend. “We implemented a ‘virtual difference wall’ to hear about different colleagues’ personal experiences to build a sense of family and mutual support for one another.”

While working virtually has its benefits, spending time away from colleagues, often isolated at home, can have an overwhelming impact on employee motivation. According to a YouGov survey commissioned by Aster, more than a third (37%) of senior business decisionmakers say it has become harder to motivate their employees since the onset of Covid-19.

Deloitte’s Carolyn Hicks said that as well as making leadership more accessible, “purpose is a key motivating factor” in driving employee engagement. “Having a core purpose at the heart of what you’re trying to do is critical to the effectiveness of an organisation,” she argued.

Businesses like Aster, a housing association, have social value at their core, arguably making it easier for employees to engage with the organisation’s mission. But for brands whose purpose isn’t as clear, Rachel advised businesses to “look at things through the individual’s rather than the organisation’s lens”.

Rishi said Rabobank noticed a dip in younger employees’ motivation levels at the peak of the crisis, so the bank launched purpose-driven initiatives “to connect people to our core values and to their communities”. These events – held virtually – saw engagement levels increase rapidly.

Sharon added that through CCEP’s Just Be Ambassadors, who work across various diversity streams to promote equality of opportunity, the business can connect people who wouldn’t normally work together, to champion causes close to their hearts. “It truly gives people a sense of purpose and makes them motivated to ask, ‘How can I be involved in that?’”

The transition to remote working has triggered businesses to completely reassess their operations. Working virtually and phrases like “You’re on mute” have become commonplace. But businesses have been able to ditch some old ways of working and experiment with new ones. Carolyn asserted that the virtual world is “here to stay in some shape or form”, while Rishi pointed out that businesses can benefit from a period that is “constantly evolving”.

In can be tempting in times of change to yearn for ‘the old days’. Yet, warned Rachel, rather than fall into that trap of “the old ways of doing things”, organisations “need to make innovation a priority”.

Before the pandemic outbreak, Aster had plans to launch a social incubator, which it has still been able to roll out virtually, involving more people in the initiative than if it had been launched in person. “It’s about finding something that works for everyone”, said Rachel, and recognising that there can’t be “a one size fits all” answer.

Similarly, Rabobank recognised the need to assess the internal comms channels in use, acknowledging that not all communications benefit or reach all people in the same way. As Rishi aptly put it: “This time has given us the opportunity to fail and fail fast.”

The crisis has given businesses the chance to step back and even press the reset button if they want to. Not everything will work but organisations should make the most of the opportunity.

Covid-19 has forced businesses to make changes for the better

A view from Rachel Credidio

Group people and transformation director at Aster Group

"For me, the past few months have been a real catalyst for transformational change. It’s forced businesses to do things differently and to adapt quickly to meet new and unexpected challenges"

Read the full blog below.

Read blog

Most under 35s fear Covid-19 has adversely affected their careers

Aster Group and YouGov Survey

A survey of 1,000 UK employees, conducted by housing association Aster Group and YouGov, revealed that 56% of under 35s are worried the changes to how they work caused by the coronavirus pandemic will negatively affect their professional development. Among over 45s, the figure was significantly lower at 41%.

Click the button below to read the full release.

Read More

About Aster Group

About Aster Group Housing association Aster Group supplies a wide range of housing options in response to the housing crisis, working towards its vision of ensuring everyone has a home.

The not-for-dividend business was established in 1990 and has £2 billion worth of assets. Aster plans to invest £2 billion over seven years on 10,400 new homes.

The group reinvests profits from open market sale and shared ownership to support the development of affordable rented homes. It owns and maintains over 32,000 homes, provides services to around 93,000 customers and employs more than 1,400 people.

Learn more

Aster's roundtable series

Ambition, motivation, and belonging

Get an insight into the discussion at our first roundtable on ambition, motivation, and belonging and hear more from the panellists here.

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At this roundtable, we discussed with the panel how the business community is fairing – what is it getting right, and wrong?

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Future of work

At our final roundtable we discussed what the future looks like – how will people work, and where will they work from?

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