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165: Building a People-Centric Organisation from Katy Conway of RGP
21st July 2023 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:50:33

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How can organisations create a positive and inclusive work environment in the era of hybrid work?

In this podcast episode featuring Katy Conway, Chief People Officer of RGP, she highlights the importance of listening to employees and incorporating their feedback into decision-making processes. RGP focuses on building strong relationships with both clients and employees, prioritising open communication and empathy to overcome challenges. Katy emphasises the value of creating connections and learning opportunities in a hybrid work environment, recognizing the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. By actively involving employees, fostering connections, and promoting inclusivity, organisations can navigate the challenges of hybrid work.

RGP's approach involves adapting onboarding processes for remote work, utilising a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and providing support to employees in their professional and personal lives. They also prioritise regular feedback and collaboration, organising town halls and breakout sessions to facilitate connection and vulnerability among employees. Additionally, RGP places a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, establishing a dedicated DE&I council and partnering with clients on relevant initiatives. By listening to employees, valuing their input, and prioritising their well-being, organisations can create a positive and inclusive work environment in the era of hybrid work.

Further points throughout include:

- People-centric organisation with an emphasis on listening and feedback

- Trust-building and open communication

- Challenges in project assignments and course correction

- Successful implementation of a hybrid working model

- Effective onboarding strategies for remote and hybrid environments

- Focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives

- Creating informal channels for employee connection and support

- Incorporating employee sentiment in decision-making

- Commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement in DE&I efforts.


“Last year, we conducted a global total reward survey. Tell us what's important to you and what's meaningful. And we were really clear up front and said, look, there's going to be 3 inputs to forming our evolving total rewards. One is going to be competitive benchmarking data. We are going to look externally at what our peers and the places we compete for talent are doing so that we understand that. The 2nd understandably is going to be affordability because we are a for-profit business that's trying to grow. But the third equally important input is going to be employee sentiment. What's important to you?”

Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!


Connect with Katy:

https://rgp.com/

Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/

Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:

https://happieratwork.ie

https://www.impostersyndrome.ie/

Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/aoifemobrien

Twitter - https://twitter.com/HappierAtWorkHQ

Inst - https://www.instagram.com/happieratwork.ie/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/happieratwork.ie

Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm0FKS19I5qSlFFmkx1YGqA

Transcripts

Aoife O'Brien [:

I have a question for you what are you doing to support women to leadership positions in your organization? From all of the work I have done with both individuals and organizations, I have compiled my learnings on this issue in my new guide, 15 Ways to Support Women in Leadership. You can download it for free at happieratwork. Ie resources. The guide address us not only the individual responsibility of us as women looking to get to those leadership positions, but also the challenge of creating a supportive environment. A reminder of that, address happieratwork. Ie forward slash resources. You're listening to the Happier at Work podcast, and I'm your host, IFA O'Brien. Through a combination of solo episodes and interviews with some incredible guests, we bring you the insights and practical tips to create happier working environments for you and your teams. If you enjoyed today's episode, consider sharing it with a friend or a colleague and leaving a rating or review on your favorite platform.

Katy Conway [:

Last year we conducted a global Total rewards survey. Tell us what's important to you and what's meaningful. And we were really clear up front and said, look, there's going to be three inputs to forming our evolving total rewards. One is going to be competitive benchmarking data. We are going to look externally at what our peers and the places we compete for talent are doing so that we understand that. The second understandably is going to be affordability because we are a for profit business that's trying to grow. But the third equally important input is going to be employee sentiment. What's important to you? And I would tell you more than anything that informs prioritization.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Hello, and welcome back to the Happier at Work podcast. I'm your host. IFA O'Brien. My guest today is Katie Conway. She is the chief people officer of resources, global Professionals or GP. We have a really interesting conversation. We go in a lot of different directions, but we're talking primarily about the human centric approach to organizations. We're talking about Trust at work empathy, katie's approach to hybrid, or rather orgp's approach to hybrid, what's working for them, some of the challenges around that as well and how has created a listening organization. We also talk about the importance of connection and some of the de I strategies that they have there at RGP. As always, I will be doing a synopsis at the end, so stay tuned for that to listen to some of the key points and key takeaways and what actions you can take as a result of listening to today's podcast episode. As always, I would love to know what you think do find me on happieratwork. Ie and I'd really love to hear from you what you thought about today's episode. Katie. You're so welcome to the happier at work podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself to listeners?

Katy Conway [:

I would, and thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. I've gotten a ton from the episodes I've listened to. So this will be a fun opportunity. I'm Katie Conway. I serve in the Chief People officer role for resources global Professional. We affectionately just referred to as RGP. And RGP is a global professional services firm that's really kind of bringing consulting forward in a modern way, in a somewhat different way. Our tagline is Dare to work differently because we are serving our clients and the consultants who work for us in a bit of a different approach.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And what is that different approach that.

Katy Conway [:

You'Re using for our consultants? And I tend to focus on that very heavily from my chair. From the consultants perspective. It is an organization that allows people to opt into opportunities so they can pursue consulting in a professional services path in a way that gives them a lot of autonomy, flexibility, choice in the engagements that they're working on, which is different, I think, than most traditional consulting firms, where there's a bit more of a scheduling or an assignment kind of focus. So this allows us to really understand what's important to people, certainly from a hard skills perspective, technically functionally, but also listening and understanding about how they want to drive their career forward, whether that's from an industry vertical perspective or a functional perspective or quite frankly, even just a lifestyle perspective. And because we go about it that way, we find that we have very strong referral of talent from that group. We have strong retention redeployment among this group and it seems to show up with our clients a lot. They comment for us that they get strong expertise, but they get that in a way that people seem to really want to be on those engagements and they're excited and passionate about them.

Aoife O'Brien [:

That's actually a really interesting approach. Before we go any further, I'd love to dive into that idea of the consulting. So are these people employed by you? They're not contractors, are they actually employed?

Katy Conway [:

They're employees. So they're our W, two employees. Now, we operate globally, so in some countries around the world you'll see a little bit heavier mix of independent contractor where that is more governed by the requirements or regulations in that country. But the vast majority of our business runs on an employment model. And so the easiest way to kind of think about it is we're trying to offer the benefits of gig employment where you're selecting and opting in and choosing what you want to do with the benefits of full time employment, professional development, enrichment benefits, all of those pieces.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, I love that as a model. I think it's really interesting, especially what you're saying about client satisfaction. Because if I think of traditional consulting firms and I think without naming anyone and that's probably who you're referring to, but it's this idea of where exactly, like you say, people get assigned onto these specific projects and whether they like it or not. Or they might have to deal with clients who are a bit tricky or subject matter that they're not familiar with or whatever. It might be really intense periods of working on projects. And I know certainly from I'm coming from an agency background where we're working on clients, not necessarily on projects, on ongoing contracts and servicing those contracts. But it's a really interesting model that people get to actually choose the types of engagements that they're involved in. Do you want to talk to me a little bit more about how that came?

Katy Conway [:

Sure, sure. And listen, I am talking about those traditional global consultancies and they're near and dear to my heart. I was part of one for many years before joining RGP and so it's quite different to me when I came into this environment. But I think brilliant and I think one of our largest draws for talent. So for global firms, the traditional consultancies we're familiar with do great in my opinion. They attract top talent, they invest in that talent, they grow and develop it. They have usually very collegial and collaborative environments. So a lot to be really proud of. I experienced it in my time there. We have really tried to foster the same and I am biased, but I would tell you I think we've done that. We hear it on our satisfaction surveys and sentiment from employees. And yet the piece that was missing in those traditional models was really when you looked at why are people leaving? And they were leaving with affinity for the organization and sharing positive feedback. So then why are you leaving? It was typically it is not quite flexible enough for me in some regard that it fits for me anymore. That could be lifestyle and the number of hours you're working. It could be where you're working. Another common sentiment was my firm has invested a lot in me and I've become a specialist in X, Y or Z. However, I'm starting to feel pigeonholed in that area and that's what I get assigned on again and again. And so it could even just be from a development and growth perspective that it feels a bit inflexible. So for us, we said, look, if we could solve that problem right, then we can start to really create and foster an environment that has the good in it plus kind of this autonomy, choice, flexibility. So in practicality here, the hard part of that is really managing the supply side of it, right? So when you look at your skill sets that we are trying to deploy to clients, the X factor that we have to get a little bit better at is that preference piece. It's easy for us to look at a skills inventory and understand, okay, we look deep enough in these areas that match the demand our clients are bringing that. But the part that's a little hard to account for is what happens if someone doesn't want to get on an airplane and go to that client or those are dynamic choices that change for people at different parts in their lives. So it's something we have to keep a constant pulse on so that we're really understanding how to align people to opportunities. And I will say if there's one silver lining, that for us work wise that came out of work changes as a result of the pandemic and people operating a bit more hybrid, in a more hybrid fashion has really benefited our consultants further and our clients because we can deploy talent, we call it borderless talent. We can deploy talent in a much more agile way than we did before because people are not requiring on prem work five days a week. Right. And so what it means for the client is you have a broader talent pool from which to choose and for consultants it makes and for my team at RGB, it makes deploying those consultants to meaningful work according to their preferences a bit more open, which is helpful.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, that's really interesting. So is this shift, this isn't necessarily a model that you had pre pandemic. This is something that came about as a result of the pandemic essentially, is it?

Katy Conway [:

It is, I would tell you, pre pandemic the minority by a long shot, exceptionally. Our clients were hosting virtual work and now it's certainly the majority. Many of them either fully remote and they're comfortable with that, or some kind of hybrid arrangement that may mean going on site once or twice a week, it may be twice a month. It kind of varies by client and the nature of the work, but it has really opened the pipeline and the connection opportunities of the best talent for that opportunity and connecting that to the client just been great.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, I mean, it seems like a really great opportunity for me. So what you're saying with being able to connect people with the right opportunities as well and this issue on, like you said, the supply side. So if you're giving people the choice as to which clients they want to work on and they don't want to necessarily travel too much for work, depending on what their lifestyle is like, this opens up a whole new area of opportunity. And it's really great to see that the clients are open to that type of engagement as well. That they're not kind of demanding you to be on site with them.

Katy Conway [:

That's right. And we have certainly seen a gamut. Right. So we have seen some clients make a move back to on premise, although I would say the majority are not doing that full time, particularly now that it is more visible and palpable to them. The benefit they receive by being able to go out to a larger talent pool where you don't have geographic boundaries and select best fit for your particular engagement.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, I love that idea. And anyone who's listened to the podcast for a while knows that I'm a little bit obsessed with this concept of fit. I talk about it more from a happiness at work perspective and an employee employer perspective as well, and finding that best fit for people and organizations rather than client. But I think the same type of thing applies in the client situation as well.

Katy Conway [:

Agreed. Agreed. And I share your obsession. It's a good one to have. I kind of feel like it's everything, particularly for the topic that you're hosting your podcast on. But we actually went through a branding exercise a couple of years ago, and so we talked to the people who work for us, and we talked to our clients and said, what stands out about this organization to you? And they really talked about that getting the fit right, the technical and the hard skilled, certainly the harder part being the culture fit, integration with the team, right. That's really the more difficult part. But we ended up with a branding that spoke to the power of human, because we do want to take a human centric approach. But it wasn't long enough. And I thought it was kind of fun that when you shorten that and you say power of human PH, it's really that chemical. It's that chemistry, right? It's that fit. That is kind of the secret sauce that makes a difference.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I love that. And I suppose I'm intrigued by this idea now because running my own business, the idea is that you get to choose the clients that you work with. And I know in a lot of cases when I worked in corporate, we didn't necessarily get to choose. Certainly at the level I was on, you don't choose the clients that you work in. Going back to what you said earlier, you're sort of assigned onto the clients that you work with, and it wasn't always necessarily a pleasant experience. And I'm reading a book at the moment. I won't mention the name of the book. It's a little bit of a rude title, but I'll put the link in the show notes. So I won't mention the name of the book. But in it, the man talks about it's. By Robert Sutton. I don't know if you know the book that I'm referring to, so in it, he talks about this idea of it's not just thinking about people in your organization and people being toxic. It's thinking about applying that in a client situation as well. So I'm wondering whether maybe it's kind of both sides, but from your perspective, is it attracting those clients who are also human centric, or is it seeking out clients who are human centric and saying no to ones that maybe you perceive are not aligned with your own company values?

Katy Conway [:

That's an interesting question. I think certainly there's a draw for clients that understand the value of the bright chemistry or fit of a team right to execute and get their most important initiatives done. Now, they may all approach that a little bit differently, right? For some it's going to be a very human centric approach. For others it may be a much more pragmatic, result oriented approach. But I do think the other shift we are seeing, and a lot of data points to this coming out of the pandemic is people understanding the criticality of empathy at work, at work, even leaders that and you see differences generationally by workers, right? Even groups that are not going to be wired or talk use language that's about human centric or human first. I think that in business what everybody can appreciate is we have imperatives, pretty important initiatives we need to bring across the line, we need good thinking on those, but we need strong execution and quite frankly, return on those projects. And so getting the right team and mix of people I think increasingly is becoming a focus for organizations to understand how important that piece is. And so I think clients approach it differently. We have a lot of clients and I'm super grateful for this, that do take a very human centric approach. But even those that might look at it a bit differently, much more outcome based, I think when you're in a global talent shortage and doesn't look like we're going to be out of that anytime soon, I think people are starting to have an appreciation for the importance of being focused on people, right fit, making sure people have what they need to work well, hopefully being able to show up authentically at work and be seen and recognized for their contribution. All the pieces that are important, all.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Of these things that we're seeing, I think recently they're getting a lot more airtime, I think recently. And some people might think it's flash in the pan or it's something that's just a temporary thing. But for me I think it is the future of work and we're starting to see that already. Leaders being more authentic and showing their level of vulnerability, their humanness in their interactions with people. I think it's really important. Coming back to this idea of the right team and the right mix. How do you go about getting that right?

Katy Conway [:

Yeah, it's tricky for sure. And so I would tell you our process has really been it starts with understanding what's important for our client and again it feels, and this is not always true, but it feels that the easiest part of that to qualify and satisfy are technical and functional skills. The harder part of that is that chemistry and that mix. So for us, when we're talking to a client and we're trying to understand what it is that you're trying to achieve, what does success look like? We're talking about that pragmatically in terms of outcomes but we do start to drill into how teams work together, what the values of that organization are. Tell us about what success looks like when you have a group of people working together. Tell us about some of the pieces where you've seen that challenged and if you can get a good understanding of that, it helps us to not only qualify how we should create that team that's going to be deployed on that engagement, but I think it also really helps us set the expectations of the consultant going on to that engagement. So I like people to go in eyes wide open and really think about fit and is this going to make sense for you? Are you going to be happy in this type of an environment? This is how the group communicates, these are expectations, this is how deliverables milestones, et cetera are communicated, how do we handle challenges? Because every project is going to have them, right? The hope is not we don't have them. The hope is we can work, breathe them pretty seamlessly as a team and like each other at the end.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yes.

Katy Conway [:

So we try to transfer all that as we go in and really quite interesting, I think the more forthcoming you can be with people about that and the more you understand it, I have found in my experience, people will self select, right? They will opt in out and say that's not probably how I ideally like to work and that's good for me, let's look for the next one and we'll get there.

Aoife O'Brien [:

But it's really great that they have that opportunity and they have that visibility and that you test for these specific challenges. And like you say, it's not that you're wishing that there's no challenges at all, but that you come out the other side and you're still speaking to each other and maybe that you've learned a thing or two about working together or working in a team or the client or handling difficult situations, whatever it might be. I'd love to know if you're open to sharing, if there's any times where maybe you've got it wrong, let's say, or someone has put their hand up for an assignment and maybe it hasn't been a great fit.

Katy Conway [:

For sure. I mean, it's the people business every day have the little unplanned adventure but we have for sure. And so the way that we try to approach that is of course, first to understand, seek to understand and where can we course correct? And that's typically not on one side, right? So are there some ways we need to interact among the team differently from an individual perspective, but certainly with our clients as well? When you can have kind of radical candor around that and really talk in a way and there's trust, right? There's a way that we're doing that so that we can make sure we're going to deliver and execute on this project. But how we get there and the impact it has on every team member is also a pretty important decision factor for us or consideration for us. So a lot of times through that dialogue things get course corrected. There are times where they don't and sometimes it's a fit issue. Sometimes of course, in the people business something personally happens in someone's life when they're not going to be able to see an engagement through. And that's why these relationships both with client and with consultants are so important. It's really just the trust is critical to work through that and we've been able to. So I think about an instance I worked through recently where somebody had just a really difficult, something very difficult happen in their personal life and understandably needed to step away for a period and that was on a project and it had really critical and tight time deadlines on it. And so we were able to get the consultant, our employees of support as they stepped away and dealt with the personal issue and at the same time do a handoff with a new consultant who would come in, help that person ramp quickly. The client was great, understood we were going to need to take a quick beat to get that person up to speed. The whole team, both client and other RGP consultants rallied around them and then we jumped in and continued to carry forward. So it's definitely not a one size fits all in terms of how we approach them. It's pretty situation specific. But I think again, if you enter that with empathy, solution orientation, what's going to solution that fits multiple parties, the consultant, the client, RGP kind of usually it's always the three pronged approach that we have think through. We usually get there, love that like.

Aoife O'Brien [:

You'Re saying the people business and having to take into consideration all of these different aspects. But it's really great to have those relationships with your clients that they are accepting of that and they're by the sounds of a majority people focused and human centric businesses. So they kind of get it when someone needs to step away for personal reasons. I think it's really great. The other thing that we touched on a little bit earlier and we talked about it a little bit before we started recording Katie was this idea of hybrid working. And it's a question I get all the time, and a lot of people I speak to are looking to find the solution, maybe the one size fits all as to what's working in hybrid and what the future is now. My response generally is, listen to your own employees. Don't be looking to what other people are doing. But I think it's always interesting to hear what's working in other organizations. So when you have to go through this seismic shift, let's say during the pandemic where suddenly everything is done remotely and now you're moving more towards this hybrid model, what are the big challenges and what do you see as working for you?

Katy Conway [:

Sure, yeah, it definitely was a curveball for me and for the organization when that's just turned on a dime. But I will tell you what's working for us is firstly starting from a place of I too wish there were a silver bullet to this solution and there's not. I've come to accept that. And so it's a real learning opportunity and growth opportunity for us. We tend to really want to be a listening organization. We're a human capital firm so the sentiment of our people is at the heart of it. And so it was really in early days taking cues from both stakeholders, clients and consultants about how we were going to navigate this unchartered territory and so we started that. Thankfully we had a lot of collaboration tools already in place so we didn't have to scramble as much as some organizations did to get zoom and to get teams and other things in. We had already been kind of pursuing early days of a digital transformation and so that we're very grateful for that. As we learned in very early days, we had to work with our people to find best practices around how to work across those collaboration tools. I don't know if you found this in your work or your team, but it felt a bit overwhelming at first. So what felt like a lot of email and phone traffic, now you've got chat traffic and now you've got collaboration tools. Boy, I don't know if I can keep up with all the forums. So really finding out how you rules of engagement at each different project about what are we going to use, how are we going to use it, let's make sure we make this useful and not more of a burden as we all have to figure out how to work a little bit differently. We started to pulse our people to really understand preferences as we got into, I would say midway through the pandemic, what is feeling right, like the right mix for flexibility for you? Is it partial on site, is it fully remote? And as you would expect with people, it was all across the board for different groups but it was helpful to understand where we had critical mass and it was also this feels like a really common sense learning but we had to step back and say these are dynamic preferences, right? So for a lot of our workers, maybe being partially remote and partially on site was great. September through May, but maybe in the summer if I have school age kids who are at home all the time now, maybe I want to be a little bit more on prem because it's hard to work with everybody in the space. So it was dynamic even among people and so taking a regular pulse and watching that data was important for us. I think there were quite a few learnings even as we hired and onboarded people. That was an area of great learning because all of a sudden you can't necessarily be in the office and sitting side by side with somebody new to the organization. So we really leaned on something that's been serving us well for a while now, user centered design. And just started by asking a lot of questions of new joiners and recent joiners, what's working, what's not, what are the pain points, and designing around that. And a really important part of the user center design is constant iteration and that has been super beneficial to us. So every cohort that we put through our onboarding program gives us feedback along the way. And across a group of more than 20 cohorts since 2020, we have gotten great feedback and the program just gets better and better, gets high satisfaction ratings. And it wasn't anything smart we did, it was them telling us, here's what's working, here's what's not, and then pivoting around that.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. And I think oftentimes companies maybe try and overcomplicate things again by looking to see what other people are doing rather than asking their own employees, well, how do you think we can fix this? Because oftentimes the answer is in their own organization already. So it's really great that you're there listening to what people are actually saying and then taking action on that feedback as well, that you have the ability to be able to pivot and change how the onboarding is delivered. How is that being delivered currently? Because I think a lot of people can maybe learn from this as well.

Katy Conway [:

For sure. It's been great learning for us and I'm happy to share it. So we learned that some of the important features and we're doing this with global cohorts, you have a whole assortment of time zones, kind of like you and I do today. A whole assortment of time zones and languages and all the complexities. But what we found is that having a mix of synchronous and Asynchronous was super important. Because remember, the other complex part of this is that everybody in that cohort may be on a slightly different flexible arrangement, their version of hybrid, or you may have some people that are on prem all the time. So what became important was we can give you a schedule when you join that's going to have some pieces where we join. Synchronously by Zoom so we're going to be virtual, but we all get to come together, and you kind of get as best you can. That theming. Atmosphere, culture. Let's meet each other. Let's make some connections. It feels a lot less lonely when there's somebody you can reach out to that you know is in that same 1st 30 day period. And then we really started creating phases. So there were portions of it that were synchronous where we were doing kind of quote unquote live classroom training, albeit virtual. But people got the benefit of questions, they got connection. And that connection, I would venture, is almost as important as the learning. The learning is going to come, but you've got to kind of set the stage right. And so that was really helpful. That was mixed with here's some coursework we're going to ask you to do, or some learning, often by video, some kind of live interaction. But you get to do on your own time asynchronously wherever you need to. And just kind of when we come together in these cohort training, we'll be talking about these topics that you could move at your own pace. You kind of knew when you needed to be ready for that, so that you could talk and get the most out of that conversation, ask questions, do some role play, get comfortable with it. And that was quite helpful. Again, I think having the tool was a big piece of it. We ended up structuring our onboarding. So the first part of it, which we call acclimate was really around that formalized learning and connection. And then the second part that we call Accelerate really went into how do you embed some on the job training with this? So our learning and development team, whom I'm so proud of, they were an amazing group, really stayed close to the hiring managers for the people in the cohort and would get feedback. This is where this person is really acclimating quickly. They have great practices to share. This is maybe where they seem to be a little bit stuck. So here's what we're doing about it. And it allowed that one on one manager, or that hiring manager when they were having one on one meetings with the person and just the normal course of business to focus on the areas where that person needs a little bit more reinforcement, right, to give some extra support. Again, going back to, I guess the theme of today is it's not one size fits all. So what is my higher need and how can I help? And that learning and development group could just get quick cues to that so that I knew what was happening over here in their training and could relate it to their day to day job. So that was a huge important piece. It's kind of not letting learning sit in a silo, but embedding it in the business so it's meaningful to them.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Boy, it's really interesting, really important that if I think from an onboarding perspective, if you're receiving that feedback to say here's where you're performing really well, I think it's important to get that feedback when you are on the job. It's maybe disheartening to hear here's some of the challenges, but I think if the managers approach that from the perspective that I'm here to support and help you and provide the resources for you to be able to do a better job rather than we're here to judge you and this is what you're not doing. Well, I think it makes a huge difference to that onboarding process.

Katy Conway [:

So true. I couldn't agree with you more. So I think it really does. It allows people to kind of pivot quickly to learn as they go to build some early success. That's really important. A lot of this is about confidence.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Especially when you're starting a new job. I think there's a few things to say about starting a new job. You feel really excited at the start. No one starts a new job wanting to do a terrible job. You might feel a little bit of impostor syndrome, you might feel a little bit afraid of the challenges that are coming down the road. But if you get that positive reinforcement early, especially coming directly from your manager, I think it's really important to build that sense of confidence as you're growing on the job.

Katy Conway [:

I agree with you and with this added twist that we're not all sitting in the same room together, I think it was having that cohort that you could reach out and talk to, even if they're on the other side of the world. We're in the same boat and we know that it just fosters some connectivity, some trust, some pieces that are so meaningful when you want to ask an off the record question or give me some honest feedback here, quite frankly, it just really promotes a growth mindset.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Katy Conway [:

The other thing that came out of both the onboarding learnings and just the learning of adapting to hybrid was can you from a cultural perspective, almost is going to sound corny, but replace the waterboard. And because we can't all walk down to the coffee maker together and shoot the breeze and really make some of those personal connections that we used to for ten minutes a day as we we take a break and then get back to it. Where does that come from? So we had to get better at that. Right. So I see teams around here doing some really fun, cool things where they may just gather for kind of a non work 30 minutes. Right. This is a connection time. Bring your coffee, your beverage, whatever you're doing right now, bring it. And we're going to be in a no work zone for 30 minutes and just connect with people. And that goes such a long way. I really believe those are pathways to people feeling comfortable enough to reach out on business topics, especially when it's a vulnerable moment. I'm struggling with how to present this to my client the right way or I'm struggling on this problem as I serve a brand new client. Whatever it may be, you don't have to suffer alone. Right. There's a whole group of people here who have been there before and help them and move you forward quickly, but you have to know them and feel comfortable reaching out. Those things were important and I think.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Especially during hybrid working or especially with people working in a remote situation, it makes that connection piece a little bit harder and even harder if you're joining in that situation so that you're joining a new company, you don't know anyone. You don't have that previous human to human connection with them necessarily. But it sounds like a really great opportunity to bring people together in an informal way that people want to connect with each other, they want to know who to reach out to when they're having problems. And like you say, it's kind of this informal channel. If you're like, I'm having this problem, or I need to find a different approach to this. How can we try and solve this together?

Katy Conway [:

Yes. And I find it's really circular, right? Like, if somebody does that for you and then you get that phone call six months down the road and you understand the importance of taking ten minutes to help somebody, it kind of perpetuates itself. And that momentum happens in a really helpful way. The other thing that we experienced, and I'm sure many organizations did, is that we've really been evolving our efforts and our focus on diversity, equity, inclusion over the last several years. And that has been important, just generally kind of period, hard stop. But it's also been really important to this hybrid work environment because the way it's played out here is one of our big goals is really to increase awareness and perspective. So we are looking at diversity as it's a competitive imperative. As a human capital company, if you want to offer your clients the best solutions and diversified thinking, then you need diverse perspective and experience to bring that thinking. So that's kind of the lens that we start from and with one of our goals being, okay, if we really want to bring in diverse perspective, we also need to create moments where people can foster learning and understanding. So we've had a couple of roughly every quarter or so town halls that I would just call town hall is probably not the greatest name, but it's just more of a learning opportunity. We typically bring in an outside speaker so that we can all just kind of hear a new perspective and learn whether that's been on unconscious bias or neurodiversity in the workplace or just a host of different topics which have been fantastic. And I have found those to be not just great learning opportunities, but again and again, we're hearing from people, I feel so connected. I feel like these are chances for us to be very vulnerable and talk to each other again like you might in that lunch setting or at the coffee maker. As you're getting to know a colleague in person, it at least offers us a bridge to do that when we can't be in person. So on those calls, which are largely attended, you have hundreds of people on them, which makes the personal connection tough. We've learned, okay, we can do Breakouts on Zoom and we can have small sessions where people are sharing only what they want, but their experience. And it has been so cool to watch. We've had a number of people totally on their own, say, reach out to the others in their small breakout, those other six people, and say, do you guys want to get together next Friday morning for 30 minutes, coffee at 10:00 A.m., virtually, and keep our conversation going. I love that it's very grassroots and organic that you see positive things like that happening.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, it's so nice. And I love that you're viewing De and I as like, this is something that we actually need in order to remain competitive. The way I always think of it is that the clients that you're serving should be reflected in your organization, essentially, especially at those senior levels as well. What kind of other initiatives are you doing around De I?

Katy Conway [:

We really feel kind of a whole untapped opportunity that we're going to try to tackle this year, which is partnering with our clients on some of the initiatives they're taking. We have established a De and I Council, which is a cross functional group of employees at all different levels, and we keep it fairly small. It's ten to twelve people who serve a twelve to 18 month term. And the purpose of this council is really to be kind of a conduit that the larger employee base can reach out to with any thoughts, concerns, ideas they want to pursue around De I. Again, kind of going back to that user centered design. Instead of me guessing what people want or my theme, just let us ask and you tell us. So that's how we came to what people really enjoy are these moments of connectivity and learning that's been a big one. Other things the council has been asked to work on by different people in the organization. Hey, we don't know what we like. I know what my small purview looks like from a diversity perspective, but what do we look like as a whole? The asking for can we publish those numbers a little more? We've been doing that, which I think has been something that gets people excited. It helps us understand where we want to push and have more growth, and it shows us a lot of things to be proud of. So we tend to have a very strong representation of women at RGP, particularly in leadership roles. And I think it's exciting for a lot of people to see that and to know that. So creating a little more transparency and visibility has been a big piece of it. We have hired just in the last six months, a Senior Director of D-I-A dedicated role to focus on this. And she's really working. She's doing a wonderful job helping us, again pull people and say, where are our priorities? There's so much we want to do, where are we going to prioritize? The thinking is we'll probably push this year on employee resource groups and offering, again, more connectivity, support, understanding for groups. And so right now, we're kind of architecting a process of okay, what's the process we want to go through to figure out what those first ERGs are going to be?

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, brilliant. Love that. And as someone who was involved in launching the kind of the Irish chapter of the Global ERGs in one of the organisations I previously worked in, it's such a rewarding experience, I think, to have that and to be able to show allyship to be able to show support for those underrepresented groups and just the promotion and knowledge and understanding and connection that you get from mean from our entire conversation. Katie, what's really coming across is that the organization is so good at listening to its employees. So it's not about leaders sitting around in a room and thinking I have the solution for this or let's try that. It's really about asking people, asking people who actually work there, asking people who will be impacted by the decisions what do you think we should do or have you thought about this or where should our priority areas be? That's really coming across from our conversation. So it's really brilliant to see that that's the stance the organization is taking.

Katy Conway [:

Yeah, I'll tell you I've become a big believer in it. I mean selfishly it's a lot less scary than trying to be ideal by yourself. I would never purport to have the right ideas but I've learned a lot even through that. Becoming a listening organization for example, you have to get the balance, you have to be careful of the balance. I'm not going to say get it right because I don't really know what right is but meaning let's not fatigue people, let's not wear them out with surveys we try to do it in different ways. Sometimes it's a more formalized, coordinated survey at a global level. Sometimes we do small listening circles within a team or a function. And the other key learning has been start with the end in mind of what it is you're trying to note that you're structuring those questions in whatever form you're going to ask them correctly and you have a way to capture and feedback what you heard to the organization. So I know personally speaking I'm happy to give somebody feedback as long as I know it's going to be considered and then I'm going to hear, I want to know that you heard me and then I want some accountability around what we're going to be able to do with it. That's been really important. So last year we conducted a global total reward survey. Tell us what's important to you and what's meaningful and we were really clear up front and said look, there's going to be three inputs to forming our evolving total rewards. One is going to be competitive benchmarking data. We are going to look externally at what our peers and the places we compete for talent are doing so that we understand that. The second understandably is going to be affordability because we are a for profit business that's trying to grow. But the third equally important input is going to be employee sentiment. What's important to you? And I would tell you more than anything that informs prioritization, because the reality is you generally want to do everything on the list. And that's not always affordable or not something that an organization can take on all at once. But we started before we ever asked for feedback by telling people that, and then when we shared the feedback of what we heard with them, again, this will be a multi year roadmap. And so don't expect that all these changes will happen at once, but do expect we will keep them squarely in view as we think about the changes we want to make.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah, and that you'll update people as you go along and inform them before the changes are made or let them know what's coming down the line. And if anything changes, then you update them again to say, listen, this hasn't happened because of XYZ reason, but at least you're kind of sharing that journey and you're letting people know, if I think back to some organizations that I worked in in the past, they might carry out a survey. We tell them everything as honestly as we can of what we think needs to change in the organization, but then nothing happens. There's no update about what the overall feedback was, what the consensus was, nor is there any sort of action taken to address any of the issues either. So it's really great to see this in practice, to see people actually listening to the organization, listening to employees about what's going on and what we should do. I'm kind of conscious of time here, although we could probably talk about this topic for a long time. I really appreciate your time today, Katie. The question I ask everyone who comes on the podcast, what does being happier at work mean to?

Katy Conway [:

Oh, I love that question. For me, it is really understanding my purpose and how I can contribute and make an impact at the organization I'm serving. And doing that in a place that is supportive of that effort will invest in me. I can be very authentic as I show up at work about what's going on at work and home. Now that that's more blurry than ever. And I'm doing that with a group of people who have shared values and a real emphasis on the importance of people. What we do is just as important as who we do it with and how we get there. It's really kind of a combination of all those things.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Brilliant. I love it. And if people want to find out more about RGP and you personally, what's the best way they can connect?

Katy Conway [:

Oh, thank you. We would love to hear from them. And so Rgp.com has a lot of information about careers at RGP, about the kind of work that we deliver to our clients. So it's a great resource and I am on LinkedIn and would welcome people to reach out and I'd love to hear from them.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Brilliant. Thank you so much for your time today. Absolutely loved this chat. Really great to hear. Just some real insights from an organization that's actually listening to its employees and how it's coming about and the impact that that's having as well. So really, really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Katy Conway [:

I do too. Thank you for the opportunity and I love the work you're doing.

Aoife O'Brien [:

That was Katie Conway from RGP and I really hope you enjoyed today's episode and took a lot away from it. Before I get onto the synopsis and also my question of what's one thing you're going to do differently as a result of listening to the podcast today, I wanted to remind you to interact with the podcast where you see it on social media and you'll find all of my links on the website Happier at Work, ie. So Katie and I started by talking about how things are going for them and the transition, especially during COVID over the last few years. And we talked about the fact that her clients are working in that hybrid model as well, and this human centric approach and human first approach that they take at work, how empathy has become more and more important, how leaders can show up authentically and should show up authentically as well. Now, coming from that background myself, that kind of agency dealing with clients at a global scale type of situation myself, I was really curious about how to make that work and how they were making that work from the perspective of how do you allow people or how do you let people choose their own assignments. I mean, I think that's a really novel approach and really it's a really brilliant thing to see as well. So it makes sure that people are stretching themselves and they're choosing assignments, I think, where they can develop and grow and also where it's a good fit culturally from a client perspective as well. So I absolutely love that approach and understanding more about how to make that approach work as well. And from Katie's perspective, she was saying it's understanding what's really important to the client. So it's that chemistry and the mix. So it's not just focusing on the technical skills, but understanding what would be a good match or what would be a good fit from a person or as she referred to them, as a consultant perspective. So a consultant with a client of theirs as well. So the focus is not just on the outcomes, but it's on the outcomes as well as the values. It's about understanding what success looks like in that role and understanding maybe some of the challenges that might come about in that role and being really upfront about those challenges with the people who are looking for those engagements as well. I did ask about any times that it has gone wrong and when things have gone wrong. I love this approach. It's first seek to understand and then seek to be understood. So understanding what happened, understanding that it's not just about one person, it's about the interactions between people and using this model of radical candor as well. And she did mention that trust is critical and I love that. I really got that impression that it's an organization built on trust as well. And she mentioned as well that it's a three pronged approach. You need to be aware of the consultant, the client and RGP themselves as the overall organization. So consultant, client and the organization as well. Now we started talking about hybrid and I was really curious about what has kind of worked well in that scenario. So she mentioned it's about the learning and growth. It's about being a listening organization. So it's not looking to other organizations to learn from them, it's about listening to your own organization and your own people and trying to understand what's working for them. Katie mentioned as well about creating best practices and rules of engagement. And something that kind of court to me is about creating a communication charter. So suddenly you're bombarded with all of these different modes of communication but it's about agreeing as a team how we're going to communicate with each other. She also mentioned about doing Pulse surveys and later on went to say about not kind of overusing that type of methodology, but also that people's preferences may change. So during the summer for example, people might want to be in the office more because they can't get their work done if their kids are at home from school. We talked about hiring and onboarding as well during hybrid and I was really interested to hear about what she had to say in relation to Asynchronous and synchronous communication style. So having asynchronous training as well as synchronous, bringing everyone together at the same time through zoom, that it's an Iterative process as well. And that a huge focus of It is that connection piece and delivering feedback and showing people that they're having early successes in their new roles as well, providing that connection for the new cohort to reach out to each other, having that growth mindset as well, and really adapting to this hybrid model. She talked also about replacing that cool water cooler moment. So building in connection time where it's a work free zone. So having 30 minutes to connect with people, not talking about work, she was talking also about the De and I efforts that they have and the kinds of initiatives that they have in their place. And having a De and I council of ten to twelve people for a twelve to 18 month term to really hit all of the different areas within their organization. So, absolutely loved my conversation. Do get involved in it if you have anything to add. If there's anything that you learned from today, anything that you'll be doing differently, I would absolutely love to hear it. Happier at work. Ie. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast, and if you've made it this far, well done you. Thank you so much for taking the time out to listen to today's episode. If you did enjoy it, please consider leaving a rating, a review, or share it with a friend. I would love for you to get involved in the conversation. And also, if you'd like to know more about how can help you or your business, head on over to happieratwork. Ie.

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