So what were the trends that the byrne·dean team picked up on in 2017 and are they on the way 'out' now that we are in 2018?
The year began with an emphasis on inclusion and the barriers to creating a truly inclusive culture. People told us they were disappointed! Many organisations had had poor experiences of running unconscious bias programmes - often e-learning but sometimes face to face. People told us they were disappointed with the learning experience, the delivery method and/or the engagement in the subject matter.
They said that their people had been blinded by science and had left the room (or the screen, having done their Sainsbury's shop at the same time ...) none the wiser. There's no doubt learning about the way we are wired as human beings is fascinating but equally, there is no doubt that we humans need help and guidance to turn that knowledge into something meaningful. What does "inclusion" mean when we walk into a team meeting, when we listen carefully to someone's contributions (let's hope we are listening to everyone and not just those who's contributions we think are 'better"), or when we choose someone to represent us at a pitch, a meeting or on a task. In short, making this stuff mean something in practice on a Thursday afternoon is the hard bit. Our clients wanted ideas and help.
So, much of our time in 2017 was doing just that, working closely with an organisation, sitting down listening to their people about the extent to which the posters by the lifts saying "we care and we are committed to ensuring you feel valued here" were actually translated into practice. Then we used that granular and deeply personal information to challenge their leaders to look at their treatment, their decisions and their behaviours. The common response? "I had no idea my decision could have impacted someone that way".
The second half of 2018 was influenced heavily by the press coverage of the Hollywood and parliamentary scandals. It prompted many of our clients to turn inwards and ask themselves difficult questions about how their people behave. Most of our work when byrne·dean began in 2003 focused on workplace behaviour and the critical importance of strong leadership and role modelling. It felt like we were going back in time, it felt like the needle hadn't moved at all. Depressing.
I'm not sure I feel quite that way anymore - delivering sessions on the specifics of sexual harassment again and in progressive or some might even say "liberal" workplaces simply underlines the fact that the obstacles such as power, influence and success remain as constant as ever. People see that - they get it - they don't discount it quite like they used to in 2003 where they might have put it down to one bad egg in the basket.
What people in our sessions still struggle with is just how to speak up - they know they have policies and processes which say all the right things but they feel less certain as to how much support they'd get in practice. Just how do you challenge the behaviour of senior successful people? The themes for 2017 for the byrne·dean training team were clear and were linked. You work with leaders on how they demonstrate they are open and approachable, on ways to work on their levels of self-awareness, and on techniques enabling them to look at how they are perceived by others. And then you work with the majority - ensure they understand that permission is given to speak up, to help them think about how to challenge effectively - who, when and how to do it.
My mantra in so many training sessions last year was 'rattle the cage" - and I told leaders that if they were paying us to deliver training sessions, they'd better be ready for that cage to be rattled by their people once we'd left!
2018 looks like we are still in the eye of the storm - the work continues and we love doing it. We can't see the climate changing too much. The disclosures arising out of the gender pay gap reporting in April are likely to cause some interesting headlines. Questions will be asked about the lack of senior women and the impact that has on the public reporting. But there are a few other things on the horizon that we're talking to clients about too.
Brexit, of course, keeps us alert. Relocations and reorganisations never get any easier and the uncertainty of the next few years will create further strain on overworked and under-resourced teams. Keeping your people engaged and thriving takes effort, understanding and compassion.
The General Data Protection Regulations might cause a yawn in some circles but will create real challenges in terms of the use of personal data. Your managers had better be equipped for this - there's more accountability and ownership than before.
Then there's the extension of the Senior Managers Certification Regime to all FSMA authorised firms -including insurers, investment firms, asset managers, insurance and mortgage brokers and consumer credit firms. This will bring around 47,000 additional financial services firms and 200,000 individuals within the scope of the SMCR. Firms will need to identify the populations, submit individual applications for approval of individuals to the regulator, and importantly train those populations on the regime and the relevant conduct rules.
Oh and let's not forget the abolition of the tribunal fees .... it looks like the number of claims have gone up already. What will this mean for the early resolution of grievances and the effectiveness of mediated disputes? It's likely those disciplined for misconduct, inappropriate behaviour or a breach of a rule or policy will see no reason not to challenge their employer in the public domain. Your managers and disciplinary and grievance panel members will need to be ready to be able to defend their decisions that they have treated the person in question "fairly". I've spent the last 15 years of my career talking to people about what fairness means - but I'm not sure I'm entirely clear on that yet!
At byrne·dean we remain committed as ever to our mission to help create kinder, fairer, more productive workplaces ..... we'd love to help you in 2018.