How Technology Can Support Organisational Agility

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Top of mind for many senior executives of large organisations is the need to optimise technology, people and processes to become more agile. According to McKinsey’s report, The Five Trademarks of Agile Organizations, the cost of not transforming is obsolescence. The report shows organisations must embrace the concept of organisations as living organisms to navigate five global trends:

  • A rapidly evolving environment

  • Constant introduction of disruptive technology

  • Accelerating digitisation

  • Democratisation of information

  • The new war for talent

What is a living organisation?

Organisations that embrace the concept of living organisms optimise internal networks. This enables them to access the best talent and ideas to generate insights and develop value for customers.

According to McKinsey’s research, agile organisations maintain a stable executive team, but replace the remaining hierarchy with a flexible, scalable network of teams. Networks are a natural way to organise work because they balance individual freedom with team collaboration. To build agile organisations, leaders need to understand tribal leadership, how to build teams and how to nurture and sustain them.

A network of empowered teams

Based on the survey, the biggest hurdle to agile transformation is culture. Yet agility is highly people-centred. Agile paradigms empower teams to do their best, leverage individual talents and interests and facilitate continuous learning and development.

The three most commonly observed high performance network cells are:

  • Cross-functional teams

  • Self-managing teams

  • Flow-to-the-work pools

Agile organisations that combine any one of these network styles with a flexible, distributed approach to creating value in their respective industries can better identify and seize opportunities. They build a network of teams that quickly learn to make more informed decisions and generate value for stakeholders.

Strong teams build resilient organisations

In a traditional organisation, when a business unit encounters market disruption, their first response is to retrench staff. In an agile organisation, when pressure is applied to a network cell, research shows performance actually improves. Teams become more collaborative, entrepreneurial, creative and innovative. In short, they pull together to overcome the obstacle rather than pull apart.

Studies also show agile organisations are 70 per cent more likely to appear in the top quartile of organisational health, the best indicator of future success. These companies are also more customer-focused, take products from concept to market more quickly, have higher revenue growth, lower costs and a more engaged workforce.

Tech-enabled agility

Yet how can leaders quickly assemble the right skills, experience and knowledge, and match these to emerging business challenges? In large organisations, a lack of visibility into team members’ skill sets is hampering performance—as is lack of time and consistency. Technology can help leaders scan the organisation and build high performing teams on the fly. When teams can quickly find and collaborate with others that have relevant knowledge, they drive innovation. The organisation’s technology, people and processes combine to improve customer value.

WERKIN’s technology-enabled mentoring platform enables team leaders to build cross-functional teams and missions on the go, using everyday connected devices. Team members create digital profiles of their skills, experience and achievements. Leaders set goals such as business challenges and stretch assignments. Algorithms impartially match expertise with goals and build multi-disciplinary teams. Complementary skills and knowledge flow within and through networked teams, preventing organisations from becoming obsolescent and irrelevant.

Episode 17: WERKIN with Melissa Di Donato on top tips for mentorship.

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On our latest podcast, Hayley is WERKIN with Melissa Di Donato, Chief Revenue Officer for ERP Cloud at SAP. Hayley and Melissa discuss robots, the shapes of career ladders, and Melissa’s top tips for mentors and mentees.

A Major Shift in Tech: Robots for our Mundane Tasks

Melissa Di Donato went from studying Russian linguistics to leadership positions at some of the world’s most influential tech companies. How? Through mentorship. Identified by a teacher in grade school as having a knack for languages, Di Donato later transitioned to a career in tech after a business school professor suggested it be a fitting path for her skills. Having worked at PwC, Oracle, IBM and Salesforce before joining SAP, Di Donato has seen her share of industry shifts enabled by technology.

“In probably three to four years, many of the functions that happen in the finance department will go away and be replaced by technology led with innovation. We're about to shift the way technology is purchased, the way it's consumed, and what's expected in the delivery of an application. What is being demanded by society, and by buyers, and by businesses and by consumers, is now merging into being one of innovation.

Mundane tasks are going away. We're going to expect more from people. I think that's good for our society, it's good for our children because our children will come into a world that's going to be much different, where technology, robotics are going to be replacing, a lot of the things that our grandparents used to do, or our parents in favor of doing something different.”

Bring your whole self to work

As industries embrace technology in new ways, how are companies themselves innovating to become more inclusive and supportive of the unique paths of employees? Di Donato talks about the “trap doors,” that women encounter as they move through their careers. “How do we get women to avoid the trap doors, they truck along in their career and then the trapdoor happens and they fall before they can get into a management role. How do we avoid that?”

It’s important for companies to reflect on their own policies and processes that cause employees, particularly women, to leave. “Are they leaving to take care of sick parents? Leaving to have a baby? Are they leaving because their husbands got a more powerful career? We’re trying to find ways to support women as they face those roadblocks and get them the support network to stay in.”

Beyond supporting women and those with caregiving responsibilities to stay on track with their careers, Di Donato is looking at ways to bring more young talent into the mix.

“We're educating them for one year, spending a significant amount of money to train them, give them some work experience, and then give them a full time job at SAP [where Di Donato leads as Chief Revenue Officer]. So really taking care and nurturing that community, and then keeping them and mentoring them, giving back, asking them for feedback.”

In supporting employees throughout their career journeys, Di Donato emphasizes the need for role models. “What we've all learned is that you can't be what you can't see inside of technology. I feel like it's my obligation for my daughter to create a better role. It's going to be her obligation to pay it back to me. We have to be visible. Be visible and be present and look for ways to pay it forward.”

Mentoring: A Beginner’s Guide

Di Donato stresses the importance of mentoring in her own career and has some practical advice for anyone starting out as a mentor or mentee. “I go to every meeting as a mentee, with a list of objectives ‘what do I want to get? how much time do I have? how much time do I have between each meeting? What am I going to do between each meeting to show success and movement and the advice I've been given?’”

“What I want to get out of that meeting has been really important for me because going and having a chat is not going to get you anywhere. Going in with objectives. Being able to report back on the advice and decisions we've made last time is important, so I'm prepared tonight to sit down with you to say we talked about these five things.”

Di Donato recommends preparing for a mentoring session as you would for any important business meeting. “I prepare for my mentoring meetings, as a mentee. As a mentor, I like to prepare in advance so I keep track of what we've talked about last time what I've asked my mentee to go ahead and do, while we're away I do a little bit of research on the topics.

Di Donato’s top tips include:

  1. Prepare a list of objectives for each session

  2. Bring five topics you want to discuss

  3. Schedule four quarterly meetings ahead of time, allowing time for follow up between each session

  4. Find multiple mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries

Beyond the mentoring session, what advice does Di Donato have for women?

“Be open to change. For women, when we think of corporate life, whether you're an entrepreneur or in a large corporation, or a small start up, you think of things in a very linear fashion, you think ‘I'm going to climb the career ladder.’ There's no career ladder. There's a New York fire escape. If you think about New York fire escapes, you go up, you go to the side, kind of hanging out, you pull the ladder down, and you climb up again, and you go back and forth and back and forth. And I think, you know, I think the one thing that young women need to embrace is change. It's not going to be linear, there's no way, single way up the corporate ladder. We know there will be obstacles in life, not just your career, and be open to embrace those changes as they come.”

  Forget climbing the career ladder, careers are a New York fire escape ladder.   Photo credit: Dan Gold

Forget climbing the career ladder, careers are a New York fire escape ladder.

Photo credit: Dan Gold

“Be present for whatever you do, when you're home with your family, be present, be focused on them. Put your phone down for a second, not forever.”

Find a mentor, embrace change, be present. For more advice from Di Donato, listen to the full episode on SoundCloud or iTunes.

Proud to be and LGBT+ Role Model 2018


Big news! We are thrilled to share that our founder & CEO, Hayley Sudbury, was named as a OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model 2018 alongside many other inspiring executives on the OUTstanding 100 LGBT+ Executives list, presented by the Financial Times.

At WERKIN, we know there are so many inspiring leaders working every day to make different sectors more inclusive and representative of the diverse world around us. We are happy to be recognised for our mission at WERKIN to raise the visibility of women, LGBT+, BAME individuals and other underrepresented communities at large organisations.

This is the sixth year that OUTstanding and the Financial Times have collaborated to publish the OUTstanding lists representing allies, future leaders, and public sector leaders, in addition to the top 100 LGBT+ Executives. This year’s lists features role models from over 20 countries and 40 sectors. Congratulations to all the role models!

How Technology Can Map Transformative Employee Journeys

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According to the LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, the line between learning and working is becoming increasingly blurred, and will continue to do so with the rising number of millennials joining the workforce. Research shows if millennials are not learning, they will not work for you. They will leave for another organisation seeking opportunities to learn and be challenged. More so than any other generation, millennials prioritise learning and development.

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. Yet learning is no longer limited to tertiary education, professional training, online courses or even books. In fact, according to the LinkedIn report, 68% of employees prefer to learn at work and 49% prefer to learn at the point of need. Technology has made learning ubiquitous, enabling it to occur as we complete our daily work.

In fact, when younger generations assess a potential new employer, subconsciously, they want to know:

What kind of employee journey will I experience at this organisation?

What will be the quality of the challenges and mentors I encounter?

How does this organisation’s learning experience compare with other opportunities I’m considering?

According to learning and development experts, the best types of learning happen on the job, when a manager, peer or mentor supports an employee to find their own answers. Neuroscientists say people retain this type of learning longer than simply being told what to do. Also, overcoming difficulties builds efficacy and learning agility—two attributes increasingly associated with senior executive high performance.

Professor Joseph Campbell, a mythology scholar, popularised the concept of the archetypal Hero’s Journey. He proposed that humans yearn to experience adventures that challenge and teach, and that learning experiences progress as follows:

1. Departure: The hero lives in the ordinary world and receives a call to embark on an adventure.

2. Initiation: When the hero enters the new world, she faces tasks or trials, either alone or with the assistance of mentors. She encounters people, tasks, challenges and obstacles that threaten to thwart her goals. These are opportunities to learn and develop.

3. Central crisis: The hero reaches the central crisis of her adventure, where she must use her newly acquired skills to overcome the main obstacle to achieving results.

4. The return: The hero must then return to the team with her learning. She is transformed by the stretch assignment and has gained wisdom, which she is ready to impart to a new hero.


 Photo credit: Rawpixel

Photo credit: Rawpixel

Optimising each of these stages of the learning journey and aligning them with millennials’ aspirations is the new objective for workplace learning and development specialists.

It’s now possible to plan, track and measure transformative employee journeys from the very first touchpoint in a job advertisement, to interviews, onboarding, orientation, stretch assignments and mentors. Rather than leaving career development to chance, technology can help plan, communicate and schedule learning experiences and provide access to relevant mentors, on everyday connected devices.

Learning platforms today feature algorithms that impartially match employees with missions, stretch assignments as well as suitable mentors. Real-time notifications alert mentees when their mentor is nearby. Team leaders can set development goals, assign mentors and schedule meetings. The platform also prompts users for feedback. It captures data and analytics at each stage and touchpoint of the learning journey to unlock further opportunities to optimise the learning experience. WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform embeds learning and development into everyday work practices on connected devices.

Forward-thinking organisations must satisfy the learning needs of today’s workforce while preparing employees for tomorrow’s business challenges. Workplace learning technology can provide the infrastructure to enrich employee journeys and experiences. Technology can meet learners at their point of need, and align development opportunities with their aspirations as well as business challenges. Connected devices can engage learners through platforms and everyday connected devices they’re familiar with.

Technology can make new team members a hero in their own career story.

Episode 16: WERKIN with Marcus Glover on the intersection of venture capital and social justice.

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What do cage-fighting, storytelling, meditation, and social justice have in common? They’ve all shaped Marcus Glover’s journey as an entrepreneur, advocate and mentor.

In Episode 16, we’re WERKIN with Marcus Glover, cofounder of Southbox Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund. In Hayley’s interview, Glover discusses how a more thoughtful use of venture capital can create a fairer, more equitable world, “venture capital has this hand in producing the next iteration of the world we live in.”

On any given day, Glover hears loads of ideas for the next big thing, but it’s about more than ideas, “great ideas win business, poor execution loses it.” Giving a more diverse field of entrepreneurs a chance through venture capital isn’t only growing businesses, it’s creating a platform for more perspectives across industries.

“I wake up every morning and think ‘what are the ways that I'm going to help women and people of color?’ Part of my job is to help rally awareness to socialize that there are different points of view and different ways of achieving our goals of creating fairness in the world.”

Beyond Southbox, Glover dedicates his time to mentorship, “I make myself available to women, people of color, who often have great ideas but are in need of areas of expertise that they may not have in their traditional career path. I really believe in the power of mentorship. It's not only in providing expertise, but just in providing resources, introductions in all types of opportunities that can help growth.”

Glover’s main advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs that he mentors is to tell a story, “I think if there is a central core to successful entrepreneurship, it is to harness the power of story. So I am always trying to uncover the story that people are trying to tell, either individually or through their venture.” What stories do the entrepreneurs he works with tell? Glover has coached and invested in businesses ranging from aquaponics farming to social justice-grounded cannabis dispensaries, as many US states move towards legalization.

From Glover’s perspective, bringing in more entrepreneurs, particularly millennials, into the mix also means reassessing established institutions,

“I think the power of millennials is to take a fresh look at things that don't work and abandon existing institutions and create new ones. So it's the power of the youth to say these things don't work and now they have access to tools and technology to do that. Millennials in particular should harness that strength.”

To hear more about how entrepreneurship is like entering a cage-fighting match and the power of meditation as a business strategy, listen to the full interview on iTunes or SoundCloud.

3 Ways Reverse Mentoring Can Build Products People Want

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Learning and development has traditionally focused on corporate education such as onboarding, performance coaching and software updates. In the era of digital disruption, learning and development is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage. Organisations that listen to customers, learn and adapt will thrive. Those that bury their heads in the sand, will fail.

 World Economic Forum 2016

World Economic Forum 2016

Walmart’s Managing Director in India—the third biggest consumer market in the world—sums it up like this,

“We have to stay close to the younger generation because they have ideas that can cut down on the time taken to serve customers. The reverse mentoring concept is important,” said Kris Iyer.

1. Change mental models

According to Oxford Economics’ 2017 Digital Transformation Executive Study, only 3% of US retailers have completed a company-wide digital transformation. These digital leaders have already earned higher profits and revenues and achieved more competitive differentiation than their peers.

They also expect to earn 23% more revenue growth from digital transformation in the next two years than other companies in the study.

Key to their success has been changing their mental model. Rather than simply viewing technology as a tool, they have successfully implemented a digital mindset, envisioned an entirely different business future and harnessed cross-organisational connectivity. They view customer experience as fundamental to digital transformation. They are finding new ways to serve customers in the ways they want to be served.

2. Recognise the role of social learning

Those companies that implement organisation-wide training in addition to technology change are more likely to achieve success. Lack of appropriately skilled staff has stalled many digital transformation projects to date.

Just as the rate of change in the business environment is much faster now than in previous decades, learning must also adapt and integrate much more with the flow of the workplace and become a key capability. Learning must also become much more experiential and rooted in the context of the work the organisation does.

Traditionally, learning in the workplace has been passive and sedentary, one-way communication. Employees absorbed standardised, online or facilitated content that may or may not be relevant or immediately useful. Formal learning is also costly.

Social learning, to facilitate digital transformation, is:

·      Situational, ready to access and implement in the moment

·      On-demand

·      Self-directed

·      Infinitely customised

·      More enjoyable (when the user experience is good)

·      Leveraged from within the organisation

·      Peer-to-peer

·      Bottom up or top down

Social learning increases employee engagement and information retention. Experts say 80% of workplace learning is now informal and gained on the job.

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3. Engage millennial talent

In 2014, AXA launched a digital reverse mentoring program with two key objectives:

  1. To bring digital to the attention of AXA’s top managers and help them gain a deeper understanding.

  2. To enable AXA managers to spread digital transformation and the right mind-set throughout the business.

AXA’s Reverse Mentoring program comprised more than 1,000 participants in the first year. The program breaks down silos and allows ideas and insights to cross boundaries and span three to four generations. According to AXA, building a community of mentors develops a willingness to share knowledge, harnesses passion and drives organisational learning.

Frank Koster, CEO of AXA Belgium said this about the program:

“The reverse mentoring program has changed my business perspective in a fundamental way. It has helped to put me in the shoes of customers in the modern day and age. Not just young customers, but digitally able customers.”

A reverse mentoring technology platform

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform facilitates reverse mentoring on everyday connected devices between head office and retail staff. Team members create digital profiles of their skills, experience and achievements. Algorithms impartially match senior executives with junior retail staff and multi-disciplinary teams. Learning and insight sharing can occur from the shop floor and flow directly to the most senior executive levels.

Reverse mentoring is an effective way of facilitating rapid, in-the-moment social learning in large, dispersed organisations. Encouraging managers to listen to insights and digital trends from younger employees enables organisations to learn and adapt to changes as they happen. Listening to the perspectives of younger staff members also helps organisations engage with fresh ideas, spot upcoming trends and get to grips with new technology. Reverse mentoring is helping businesses build cultures that support digital transformation. Social learning creates organisations more focused on customers, resulting in more customer-centric products and services and increased future profits.

How Reverse Mentoring Can Drive Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation is disrupting every industry in the world today. Online retailers are driving customers away from brick and mortar retailers. Digital disruptors use data analytics to find out what customers want, when they want it and how they want it. In the next two years, the majority of consumers (60-70%) will be millennials. Yet the majority of retailers won’t survive if they don’t learn, grow and adapt to their needs. Companies need to create the right products and customer experiences to appeal to this growing demographic.

However, many large established retailers disagree:

  • “Our customers want to touch and feel our products before they buy.”

  • “They want to make sure our products fit and feel right.”

  • “They are loyal to our brand.”

  • “They don’t want to wait for delivery of their purchases, and then wait again for an exchange.”

  • “They like to come in and take a look around and talk to someone face to face.”

Will millennials feel the same way? Or will they value the convenience of online shopping more?

Industry experts predict retail stores in the next 10 years will become smaller and more tailored to customer needs. Stores will become shopper-centric, concerned with creating valuable in-store experiences. The seamless integration of online and offline media channels, will also be a major focus.

How will retailers learn what their customers need and want?

Integrating millennial insights

One retail company that successfully navigated the digital precipice is English luxury fashion brand Burberry. When Angela Ahrendts started as CEO in 2006, Burberry was struggling with a brand that had lost its product focus. Recognising that 70 per cent of her employees and customers were under 30, Ahrendts launched The Strategic Innovation Council. This monthly reverse mentoring forum connected the next generation of great thinkers with the Senior Executive Council. The council allowed ideas to flourish. The executive team turned the best ideas into brand-enhancing initiatives.

The results were dramatic. Over the next 8 years, Burberry’s global revenue rose from £743 million to £2.3 billion.

What is reverse mentoring?

In 1999, Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, popularised the concept of reverse mentoring. He paired 500 of his top executives with junior employees to learn how to use the internet. Reverse mentoring connects experienced managers to learn from younger, less experienced staff members.

Since then, many global companies have leveraged the power of reverse mentoring to develop insight-driven cultures. Examples are Target, HP, Coca Cola and Cisco. Retailers that place learning about the customer at the core of everyday practices are better suited to adapt to digital disruption. Using customer insights to discover what customers really want and creating new ways to engage is how disruptors triumph over established organisations.

Capturing insights

Retail staff interact with customers all day long. Contrast this with a saturated online environment. Marketers work hard to make sense of masses of data. Retail staff converse with customers about their needs, wants and concerns face to face. They can ask questions, observe changes in buying habits, trends, preferences and likes and dislikes.

Sharing these insights with senior executives in a reverse mentoring relationship from the shop floor is now possible with technology. Creating an insight driven culture can align businesses with the current and future needs of customers, ensuring retailers survive.

Learning and development in the retail environment

Studies estimate millennial employees will comprise 50% of the US workforce by 2020. Surveys show that most millennials place learning and development high on their reason to stay with an employer.

Although many retailers do offer online store management courses, new mobile led experiences are more effective. Staff can step away from customers, speak with a mentor on a connected device and return to the floor quickly. They aren’t required to sit at a desk to complete online training. Retail staff can still serve customers. There’s also no longer a need to upskill at headquarters.

A reverse mentoring technology platform

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform facilitates reverse mentoring on everyday connected devices between headquarters and retail staff. Team members create digital profiles of their skills, experience and achievements. Algorithms impartially match senior executives with junior retail staff and multi-disciplinary teams. Learning and insight sharing can occur from the shop floor.

The long-term success of any retailer depends on adapting to changing customer needs. Studies show using insights, diversity and collaboration drives innovation and profit. Listening and learning from younger generations who reflect customers expands senior executive perspectives. Reverse mentoring is creating a cultural shift in many global companies towards more vibrant, digital and profitable futures. WERKIN's reverse mentoring platform can bring together diverse perspectives and encourage a flow of customer insights from the shop floor to senior executives. Knowing what customers want drives powerful retail transformation and can ensure retailers survive and thrive through digital disruption.

Episode 15: WERKIN with Inga Beale on closing the gender pay gap

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What does Inga Beale, Lloyd’s of London’s first female CEO think it will take to close the gender pay gap? Transparency, good data and a genuine commitment by companies to reflect and act on achieving gender parity at all levels of their businesses.  In Hayley’s latest interview, Beale emphasises the need to improve the seniority of women in organisations, leading to women attaining more of the highest paid top positions now predominantly occupied by men.

Looking at her own company, Lloyd’s of London, Beale talks about the need for flexible working environments,

“Very often it's the woman who might use or need to use part time flexibility. They might have caring responsibilities that they need to attend to, and often that falls more on the women. We're encouraging firms to do more of that and have a very flexible approach, looking at things like equal shared parental leave. Anything that brings balance and equality into policies and practices.”

In leading policy change to support women to advance in their careers, Beale thinks back to her own challenges with confidence,

“I think of my younger Inga, that rather timid tentative soul who actually said 'no' to her first promotion, I can't hardly recognise that person. But now if there's anything I can do to encourage women, because this is a slightly gender biased topic in that more women than men lack confidence, I found. Anything I can do to spur the younger women on to put their hand up. Be confident and go for those roles and take on those opportunities.”

How can companies be better about encouraging women to pursue leadership positions? By adopting mentorship and sponsorship programmes. Beale describes a sponsor she had, who went above and beyond the advice and support of a traditional mentor,

“She actually helped me make decisions and take career steps in the company that I was working in and would make sure my name was on lists. She would put my name forward she was a great reference for me. I was able to reach out to her and use her influence to help me progress my career in that firm.”

Through her success in the insurance industry, Beale struggled with bringing her whole self, a bisexual woman, to work.

“We need role models, I need to be a role model, to encourage others because I saw the power it gave me at work and I felt that I was much more productive… It's still important to be that role model to encourage others to be yourself at work because I see what it does and how it can inhibit you and affect your enjoyment and your feeling of inclusion or exclusion at work.”

As a leader at one of the world’s most successful firms, what does success personally mean to Beale?

“To empower women in business gives me an enormous satisfaction. Now it's become even broader than that and I want to empower all sorts of people who might feel slightly in the minority. I think of the LGBT community and how they're not feeling part of the mainstream workforce or not accepted yet, or people of colour, perhaps feeling still on the outside, particularly in the professional services financial services sector. If I've done something to empower those people and give them the confidence and courage to aim high and take all of those  top jobs, those senior jobs, I will have been personally successful.”

To hear more from Hayley’s interview with Inga Beale on the role of inclusivity in building a successful company listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.

How to Accelerate BAME staff into Senior Civil Service Leadership

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The civil service aims to become the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020. Their 2017 diversity and inclusion strategy A Brilliant Civil Service articulates this bold vision:

“We want all civil servants to feel that they can be themselves at work, valued for the distinct perspective that they bring, and able to go as far as their talents will take them – irrespective of their sex, gender, identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, faith, age or socioeconomic background.”

Research shows diversity encourages value creation, challenges groupthink, drives innovation and ensures decision-making aligns with the needs of the community. Yet only 5.2% of current Senior Civil Servants (SCS) are an ethnic minority.

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According to The Green Park Leadership 10,000 2017 report, FTSE 100 companies are doing a little better than the UK Civil Service. Looking at ethnic representation in senior roles by sector, it is clear Health and Consumer Goods are leading the field with 15.3% and 11.7% BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) representation respectively.

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According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 64.6 million people live in the UK. In mid-2014, 12.8% were BAME. If the UK government wants to create a senior civil service team that truly reflects the communities they serve, then at least 12.8% of senior civil servants must  identify as BAME.

A Brilliant Civil Service outlines seven Ethnic Diversity Programme Priorities to build a sustainable talent pipeline for the future:

  1. Demonstrate commitment to becoming the most inclusive employer by 2020 and role model leadership on race equality

  2. Provide assurance, accountability for progress and establish a benchmarking tool

  3. Build ethnic diversity throughout the talent pipeline

  4. Recognise and capitalise on the value of staff networks to business delivery

  5. Provide a centre of expertise, innovation and best practice on increasing ethnic minority representation

  6. Increase data transparency and opportunities for innovative approaches to increasing ethnic minority representation

  7. Amplify the strategic impact of visible ethnic minority leadership

Accelerating development

A 2014 report into the barriers preventing BAME staff progression in the civil service found that cultural and leadership conditions are the main obstacles.

The qualitative survey of more than 200 BAME staff at all levels, reported staff do not feel they work for an organisation that is open, fair and inclusive. Lack of BAME role models at senior civil service levels is disheartening for those who want to progress in the civil service. According to the survey, many feel progression occurs only if their ‘face fits’. This bias is undermining the government's vision to become the most inclusive workforce in the UK.

The Civil Service Race Forum is calling on senior leaders to offer more mentoring and sponsorship to BAME colleagues.

Democratising career development

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform democratises peer-to-peer learning and development. Team members create digital profiles of their skills, experience and achievements. Algorithms impartially match employees with mentors, stretch assignments and multi-disciplinary teams. Taking human instinct out of the mentoring process reduces unconscious and conscious bias.

Studies show that unconscious bias training doesn’t work. The human brain is inherently biased. According to Dr Iris Bohnet, a Harvard behavioural economist, the only way to support the development of underrepresented groups in the workplace is to change systems and processes.

There is no doubt the UK government is committed to building an inclusive workforce with ethnic representation at the highest levels. However, implementation of their priorities could be more consistent, coordinated and driven. Otherwise, talented BAME staff will leave and find work elsewhere. Advances in technology can embed best practice mentoring into the daily activities of the civil service. WERKIN can democratise mentoring and measure and report outcomes. If the UK’s civil service wants to double its ethnic representation at the senior civil service level by 2020, then they must consider research-based innovations that reduce bias and amplify career development for future BAME senior civil servants.

How One-to-Many Mentoring Accelerates on the Job Learning

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Theresa May’s vision for the NHS includes a commitment to career development and alternative routes into healthcare roles. Recruitment, retention and engagement are her focus. More than 35,000 nursing vacancies, questions surrounding the impact of Brexit on the NHS and the end of the tertiary bursary are a growing concern. Widening access for care assistants and apprentices to enter nursing is a national priority. Yet providing quality on the job learning in an environment known for its lack of resources will be a challenge.

Mentors shape future nursing professionals and the potential of the nursing profession. However, mentors face challenges that make it difficult to fulfil their role. Time constraints and a lack of support are hampering mentoring effectiveness in NHS workplaces. In the UK, nursing students must spend 2,300 hours in a hospital, surgery or other practice before they can qualify. Up to 1,000 apprentice nurses could join the NHS each year. Yet the UK uses a one-on-one mentoring system, where other nations have moved to a one-to-many model.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, the most promising nurse mentoring models are peer and team based. One-to-many clinical facilitators drive this model, within a supportive organisation.

Collaborative Learning in Practice model

The University of East Anglia & Health Education England East of England is piloting Collaborative Learning in Practice (CLiP). This one-to-many mentoring model supports nursing day-to-day learning in practice. The approach is student-centred. Based on coaching principles, up to 20 students work together in one learning environment.

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In this mentoring model, a cluster of roles facilitate on the job learning:

1.    Clinical educator

This pivotal new role will directly influence the quality of the learning environment. Clinical educators oversee a maximum of two wards or practice areas. They provide on-site support and guidance to coaches, mentors and students.

2.    Named mentor and sign-off mentor

Students spend a minimum of one hour per week protected time with their sign-off mentor (as recommended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Standards to Support Learning Assessment, 2008).

3.    Coach

On each ‘shift’, a coach supports two to three students to provide total care to a group of patients.

4.    Day coach

This new role is suitable for any registered nurse who works within the practice area. They support student learning.

5.    Students

The model is student-led and focused on peer learning. Students have no more than three patients allocated to them. These are linked to their developmental stage, level of competency and the complexity of the patient’s needs.

Students who have completed the program report they are becoming more confident in practice. They say the mentoring models provide a supported and safe environment. More importantly, patients have noted they are enjoying helping students to learn.

Consistent mentoring is key to effectiveness

Anne Corrin, Head of Education at the Royal College of Nursing, agrees delivering a consistent standard of training in a hospital environment is difficult.

‘There are some challenges in quality assurance when training is delivered through an apprenticeship, because some workplaces are not the best learning environments. Employers need to think carefully about how to make health and social care settings good learning environments for all learners. That will be a real challenge,’ she said.

Managing on the job career development opportunities

In under resourced healthcare settings, facilitating quality on the job learning opportunities is perplexing. Technology can assist by managing, measuring and scaling mentoring programs.

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform accelerates peer-to-peer learning and development. Algorithms digitally match students with mentors, stretch assignments and multi-disciplinary teams. WERKIN’s mobile application prompts students to join teams and meet with mentors. The WERKIN app schedules meetings, tracks results and prompts mentees to rate their experience. This dynamic approach is time efficient, measurable and scalable.

Creating a supportive and productive learning environment for nursing students is critical to the future of the NHS. Technology can support best practice mentoring programs in high pressure, time poor workplaces. WERKIN can accelerate on the job learning by applying the latest advances in technology to the unique needs of healthcare workplace settings.

Latest WERKIN with podcast episode: Elizabeth Nyamayaro on leading as an impatient optimist

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Thanks to years of tireless activism, advocacy, and modern data collection and analytics, never before have we been able to get a clearer picture of the degree to which gender inequality permeates every part of society. Each day, new reports emerge of how far we are from gender parity across industries, education, and access to healthcare. Given its reach, Elizabeth Nyamayaro, founder of the UN’s HeForShe movement wondered why, for so long, it had been labelled as a “women’s issue,” an inequality left primarily to women to discuss and solve. Having worked at the World Bank before becoming Merck’s head of policy and affairs for the African region, Nyamayaro accepted a position with the UN to consider a new approach.

“Naturally the question was if we are going to do this, what is the best way that we could reapproach this issue of gender equality which has often been seen as a woman's issue? And so we created the HeForShe movement, recognizing that men are part of society. In fact they are one half of society. And yet, at the same time, they also hold the majority of the world's power.”

For Nyamayaro, her career has been defined by asking the questions others were unwilling or unable to ask. Asking how men, who hold most of the world’s power, can become more involved led to the global HeForShe movement. Since 2014, the movement has grown, counting heads of state, the world’s most powerful CEOs, and of course, Emma Watson among its leaders and advocates. So what is HeForShe?

“It was really a call to action for men to say gender equality is your issue too. Please come to the table. Let's work on this in the true sense of solidarity.”

Beyond a call to action, the movement is defined by Nyamayaro’s personal brand of leadership, “my grandmother always used to say that being a leader doesn't mean being in the front, it means removing obstacles so others can lead.”

As governments and global companies commit to achieving gender parity and equal rights, Nyamayaro emphasizes HeForShe’s role as a facilitator, connecting decision-makers with proven policy solutions.

“We are looking at the emerging proven practices and documenting what's working and what isn't working. The ultimate goal for us as a movement is to be a solutions driven movement. There's a huge appetite. People want to change the world. People are looking for solutions on how to change the world and how to end gender inequality.”

Four years in, what proven practices have emerged? In South Africa, a commitment to HeForShe translates into HeForShe Taverns. Local taverns demonstrate their commitment to gender equality by hosting anti-gender violence dialogues, providing regular public health screenings, and prohibiting any form of gender-based harassment in their space. So far, nearly 144 taverns have signed up, engaging more than 4,000 men in anti-gender violence training. In Iceland, all companies with more than 25 employees must receive an annual equal pay certification to operate in the country.

According to Nyamayaro, the key to sustainable change is supporting communities to formulate their own solutions,

“We recognize that cultural transformation happens when the top and the bottom half move at the same time. So it isn't just good enough to say that we have the head of state engaged or the president engaged. We also have to engage the communities. It's empowering the community, letting them create the movement and solve the things in the way that they see fit.”

A commitment to gender equality also means transparency for gender parity data, encouraging accountability and competition among those who participate in HeForShe, “We have a non-negotiable commitment [for organisations] to release their gender parity data. When the data is all out there, they look at each other's data and they say, ‘well I can do better that.’”

Nyamayaro also emphasizes the need for diverse role models and mentors for young people,

“We obviously need to have more female role models for young girls to look up to because you can't be it if you can't see it, but at the same time if you are hoping to create bigger change in the world, if you're hoping to fully realize the leader you want to be, then you are going to need a lot of different skill sets. I've learned different things from different genders.”

For Nyamayaro, she counts empathy as the most important tool for tackling inequality,

“It's having empathy for humanity and recognising how intertwined we are and in trying to approach relationships in a less simplistic way. It isn't a women versus men issue. It's very complex and we have to have compassion and humanity to understand that. It's not them versus us, we're in this together.”

For more from Hayley’s discussion with Elizabeth Nyamayaro, including her first experiences with inequality while returning to her home village in Zimbabwe, listen to the full interview here.

How Tech-Enabled Mentorship Can Accelerate Career Development at NHS

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In June, Prime Minister Theresa May outlined her vision for the future of the NHS. She announced an increase of £20.5 billion in funding by 2023-24 to deliver core performance standards. Prime Minister May called for a “workforce that is empowered to deliver the best possible outcomes, flexible enough to adapt to new models of care and valued for their commitment to NHS”, emphasising career development for NHS employees. She called for alternative routes into medicine and healthcare roles to drive employee recruitment, retention and engagement.

Industry experts have criticised the NHS for its lack of workforce planning. They claim short-term strategies, such as recruiting qualified professionals from overseas, have neglected the careers of existing employees.

In July, Health Education England (HEE) published a draft Workforce Strategy for NHS to 2027. The strategy outlines six principles for NHS workforce decisions. Providing broad pathways for careers in the NHS will be a key principle. Another will be increasing NHS performance by creating high performing teams with skills mixes that benefit productivity and safety.

The NHS has committed to increasing the number of nursing associates and physician associates in response to a projected shortfall of 190,000 employees by 2027. Both new roles provide a work-based route into nursing and medicine for existing staff who may not be able to study full-time at university.

Accelerating on the job career development opportunities

In busy healthcare settings, there often isn’t time to step out of the workforce to attend training full-time. Managers can provide employees with on the job learning opportunities. Enabling trainees to shadow experienced staff and engage a mentor facilitates onsite learning.

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform accelerates peer-to-peer learning and development. The technology prompts employees to create profiles of their skills, qualifications and experience. Algorithms digitally match employees with mentors, stretch assignments and multi-disciplinary teams. The technology prompts employees to join teams and meet with mentors. This dynamic approach is time efficient, measurable and scalable.

Skilled multi-disciplinary teams benefit patient outcomes and help individuals to achieve their full potential. They also provide performance support to staff learning new skills. It’s now possible to build high performing teams with the right mix of skills. WERKIN’s nudge technology helps managers to be more effective mentors, accelerating on the job learning for career development.

WERKIN is a technology-enabled mentoring platform. The platform helps global organisations manage, measure and scale mentoring programs. More than 20 financial institutions use WERKIN worldwide. WERKIN is accelerating peer-to-peer learning in large organisations.

How Technology Can Drive More Diverse Leadership at NHS

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Last week, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at NHS, shared his vision for a more technology-driven NHS. His goal is to achieve better patient outcomes and improve the working life of staff. In his speech to the NHS Expo 2018 in London, Minister Hancock stated a digital transformation of this size required a cultural change. He claims this will only be possible with stronger leadership and management.

Earlier this year, the NHS published the results of their annual 2017 NHS Staff Survey. It is the largest workforce survey in the world. 487,727 NHS staff responded to questions about perceptions of their workplace. Staff responded positively to questions about learning and development opportunities. Yet 15.6% said they didn’t feel the NHS acted fairly in relation to career progression and promotion in relation to ethnic background, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. The survey reported there has been a steady increase of this perception each year since 2013. The result in 2016 was 14.6% and 2013 was 12.5%.

The lack of diversity in NHS senior leadership is a persistent issue. The proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff in Bands 8a-9 and Very Senior Managers is still only 10.4%. However, the NHS frontline workforce is more diverse, on average, than the UK's working population.

Increasing diversity among NHS staff is important. Evidence shows that diverse teams improve the quality of care for patients. Research also shows diverse leaders and managers increase innovation and organisational performance. Yet the survey results show barriers prevent underrepresented groups from achieving their potential.

Technology that democratises career development

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform accelerates underrepresented employees into senior roles. WERKIN’s behavioural research-based nudge technology prompts employees to create profiles of their skills, qualifications and experience. Algorithms digitally match employees with mentors, stretch assignments and projects. WERKIN scans employees impartially for capabilities. The technology reduces bias by taking human instinct out of the selection process. Employees receive push notifications to meet, learn and contribute.

Increasing diversity among NHS senior leadership and management is critical to driving cultural change. Yet biases can prevent many employees from achieving their potential. WERKIN’s technology-enabled mentoring platform democratises career development, accelerating underrepresented groups into senior leadership roles. Building a leadership team that mirrors the community it serves is key to improving patient outcomes.

WERKINs technology-enabled mentoring platform helps global organisations manage, measure and scale mentoring programs. More than 20 financial institutions use WERKIN worldwide. WERKIN is accelerating peer-to-peer learning in large organisations.

New Survey Reveals Gap in UK Finance Work Practices is Hampering National Productivity

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The UK Department of Education has released their 2017 Employer Skills Survey results and reveals only 12% of Financial Services companies in the UK incorporate two thirds or more of 21 of High Performance Work Practices (HPWP). The sector ranks 4th behind Public Administration, Education and Health and Social Work. Research shows HPWPs improve financial performance. Given the UK’s long-standing productivity gap compared with international competitors, the survey recommends more businesses adopt more HPWPs.


Based on phone interviews with more than 87,000 UK employers, the biennial survey is the largest of its kind in the world. It captures data on skills needs, skills use and skills development in UK organisations. Along with previous years, this survey included questions about High Performance Work Practices (HPWP) and discovered the proportion of employers utilising HPWP has stagnated. Only 12% of UK Financial Services companies adopt between 14-21 HPWP and 38% incorporate only 1-14 tactics. 50% use none. The survey recommends that those workplaces between 1-14 tactics adopt more tactics to increase business performance. This will in turn improve the UK’s long-standing productivity gap relative to international competitors.

What are High Performance Work Practices?

High Performance Work Practices (HPWP) are people management tactics that increase business productivity and profit. These practices have been shown to increase employee engagement, support high performance and productivity and in turn, increase financial return. High performance practices are grouped across five areas: training planning, organisation, skills, rewards and autonomy. In particular, high performing work places identify talented individuals and create strong project teams that make the best use of their skills.

HPW organisations look for potential and invest in employee development through career development, mentoring programmes and other high performance work practices. They develop people who are uniquely skilled to tackle their business challenges. 

Technology that identifies and develops talent

WERKIN’s mentoring platform prompts candidates to create profiles of their skills, qualifications and experience on their mobile devices. Algorithms digitally match employees with mentors, projects and business challenges. By scanning employees impartially for capabilities, the technology reduces bias by taking human instinct out of the process. Employees receive push notifications to meet, learn and collaborate. WERKIN enables organisations to identify their most qualified candidates for teams and projects, facilitate their development and achieve their full potential.


WERKIN's tech-enabled mentoring platform helps global organisations manage, measure and scale mentoring programmes. Professionals from more than 20 financial institutions use WERKIN worldwide. WERKIN is accelerating peer-to-peer learning in large organisations.


WERKIN with Adam Hale on scaling a company with gender parity

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When asked about his role in taking an HR software tech start-up from 13 to 200 people, increasing its revenue by 1,000%, and its acquisition by Sage, the UK’s leading people management company, for £110 million, Adam Hale describes a story of demotions. Having originally been brought on as a non-executive adviser to scale a promising, but teeny startup, Hale was quickly “demoted” from board member, to executive chair, to CEO.

Known for his hands-on approach and diverse career in technology and headhunting, Hale proved to have the perfect combination needed to scale an innovative cloud-based startup,

“At that point, [Fairsail] was about to switch from being kind of an interesting startup to being the beginning of scale up. We focused on four things. We focused on having a really clear purpose of what we did. We focused on customer success. We focused on great innovation. We focused on building a team. I do believe that great companies are made up of great people.”

Purpose, customer success, innovation, and people—these are the ingredients of a successful and scalable business, according to Hale. It’s not just any people, it’s the best people. Hale’s leadership at Fairsail focused on building a diverse team. Recruiting women engineers ultimately led to near-gender parity across the startup, including on the engineering team. This focus on gender diversity has translated over to Sage People, the company that acquired Fairsail and now has a nearly 50-50 gender balance.

“It’s about having diversity, not just gender diversity but nationality diversity, age diversity, you know, the 50s are the new 30s which we all know anyway.”

But getting to gender balance in engineering requires attention to be paid to computer science education, a personal interest for Hale.

“I’ve been in technology my whole life… just started to discover computers and programming when I was a teenager, then realised you could actually study this at university. I thought ‘why not?’ So I did a computer science degree.”

Hale observes that not all kids have the same support and encouragement to study computer science that he had,

“I am terrified by what's happening with technology education in schools, particularly. Last year 2017, 50,000 girls did Maths A-level [UK standardised testing]. Computing A-level, 816 girls. The lowest number of any A-level subject, repeat: any A-level subject.”

Hale believes that when more girls are encouraged to study computer science and have more access to STEM education early on, this translates into a more balanced pool of engineers powering the future of tech.

If achieving gender balance is part of what it takes to scale up to one of the UK’s largest startup acquisitions, maybe other rising tech companies should take note.

For more from Adam about taking Human Resources into the 21st century and what tech leaders can learn from pig farmers, listen to the rest of Hayley’s interview here.

WERKIN with WIBF Mentor Charlotte Livingston

WERKIN is powering the mentorship programme at the UK’s Women in Banking and Finance, a membership organisation for finance and banking professionals looking to achieve their full career potential, helping to bolster female contribution to the industry along the way.

 Charlotte Livingston,  Managing Director  at RBC and WIBF Mentor

Charlotte Livingston, Managing Director  at RBC and WIBF Mentor

In a recent Ask-Me-Anything, WIBF mentor Charlotte Livingston, spoke with WERKIN’s Relationship Manager, Alex D’Sa, before taking questions from mentors and mentees in the WIBF collective. In the Q+A below, Charlotte shares her journey as Managing Director working in the Institutional Client Management Group at the Royal Bank of Canada:

Alex D’Sa: Please give us an intro to you and an overview of your current job and roles and responsibilities.

Charlotte Livingston: I am a Managing Director working in the Institutional Client Management Group at RBC. I’ve been at RBC for 12 years, prior to which I was at Barclays Capital, before starting out at JP Morgan, where my roles have seen me move from operations, to middle office, then to RBC in the front office. In my current role I view myself as a client specialist, and a product generalist. I cover banking institutions in Spain, France, Germany and Italy. I work across banking groups covering the bank, the asset manager, insurance company, speciality finance subs and any other subsidiaries whilst liaising with C-Suite down to traders, with the aim to institutionalise relationships that RBC has or is targeting.

Alex: Now having a client-facing role, how has your skill set changed moving through operations, middle office, and front office in banking institutions?

Charlotte: Working with clients is harder than people give credit to, as one has to ensure that they are  served  correctly whilst spotting business opportunities. Being organised, at the forefront of thinking about ideas for your clients and immediately following up on requests stands you ahead of the crowd. The beauty of working with clients is that every day is different which I really like, however you do need to be adaptable and be able to think fast on your feet.

Today, especially where more products are becoming commoditised, and technology-driven, the focus on relationships and people is key. In the end, we are human and we like to work with people that we like and relate to.

Alex: What has been the one skill or personality trait that has helped you in your career?

Charlotte: Adaptability – it’s incredibly important throughout your career.

Alongside adaptability I would add common sense. Going with your gut rather than a textbook answer.

Tenacity is also incredibly important. I've learnt as you get older, when to be tenacious, and when to push and when to hold back. Don't be afraid to speak up but choose the right time to do so. Make sure that people know what you want to do and what your aspirations are.

With regards to tenacity, many people don’t follow up. It is not that difficult a thing to do, but not many people do it. Be the person to grab hold of things and run with them. Make sure you bring people with you, be a team player.

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Alex: How have mentors helped shape your decision-making and your career path?

Charlotte: I was very lucky, I had a couple of very good bosses who were mentors. They taught me the importance of being given freedom, and provided enough of a leash for me to see where my capabilities lay, what I could do and what I could be interested in. I work with many graduates who put pressure on themselves believing they need to know what they want to do, I suggest getting as much experience across as many different areas as possible. Don’t give yourself a hard time thinking “I don’t know where I should be.” I think your skillset, what you enjoy and what you don't enjoy actually come out the more types of jobs that you try. As you go up in management, it gets harder to make those moves.

The benefit of mentors is that they provide a different perspective. Getting mentors outside of your organisation or industry can provide a different view on how they would do things, and their own struggles.

They can provide guidance and counsel both from a personal and a work perspective. People can get very tied up in work and loose perspective of what matters and what doesn't matter. Mentors from outside my organisation know me well therefore I think they can be more brutal about what I'm not good at, or how I should hone my skills going forward.

Alex: Touching on that personal element, you've been on maternity leave and you’ve recently come back. What are some factors that supported you to maintain your career trajectory even as you started to family?

Charlotte: I came back after a year off and noted that my time away, whilst seemed long to me, was actually nothing from a work perspective. I got back my client relationships straightaway, and as these were relationships I’ve had for years, luckily they all welcomed me back! When going back to work after any time away its important to hit the ground running, however don't underestimate the difficulty of juggling it all.  It’s important to put the foundations and support network behind you to make sure that you can juggle a successful career with being a parent.

Everyone is different though and you need to consider your role and what you can make work. Since having children, I now get into work early, and as much as I can, I leave at 5pm to have an hour with my kids before bed. It’s not much, but I’ve made it a routine and my colleagues are now aware of my working pattern. I think I am more productive and more effective because I want to get home and see my children. Time is precious, you don’t get it back.

WERKIN’s tech-enabled mentoring platform helps global organisations manage, measure and scale diversity & inclusion programs in today’s workplace. Used in more than 20 financial institutions worldwide, WERKIN is accelerating underrepresented talent into senior executive positions.