Today’s learning landscape – how L&D is supporting democratisation, creativity & innovation, leadership & change 3

Sue Parr

Guest blogger: Sue Parr, Head of Executive Education at The Open University Business School looks at the business challenges behind the buzzwords.

This content first appeared on HR Magazine, an online HR publication for people-focused, forward-thinking, business leaders who want insight into, and examples of, business-contextualised HR to develop high-performing organisations.

Many managers are recognising that they have to adapt to new ways of working to meet the expectations of their employers and their employees.  New behaviours and ways of working are being driven by changes all around them, but what changes can be supported through developing capability and skillsets?

Complexity: Today’s managers contend with the complexity created by the many different perspectives of a multi- cultural, cross- functional, often geographically dispersed workforce spanning as many as three generations. In fact, there are more generations in our workforce than at any other time as those previously of retirement age extend their working lives.

For example, in areas of manufacturing companies who are increasingly aware of the benefits of sharing best practice and collaborating to drive innovation, in surprising ways, but ultimately to the benefit of all.  Commercial sensitivity is being nuanced and boundaries pushed.

Creativity and innovation: We’re not talking about being good with colour here!  We are talking about turning problems around, not going for same old safe solutions because ‘this is the way we’ve always done it ’. Organisations need their people thinking more broadly.  For managers who had stages 1, 2 and 3 of their career in a technically specific function, creative practice techniques can start to get them thinking more holistically about their whole organisation, the needs of their current market and exploring opportunities in new markets.  Although these tools and techniques can be learnt, but the prospect can be daunting for those who have bought in to a self-image of not ‘being’ creative.

Change: The themes of leadership and change have always been high on the management agenda but the focus of these has changed. As organisations recognise increasingly that what is needed to stay competitive is to be more responsive, agile and comfortable with increasing ambiguity, they are investing in their middle managers. As a result there has been a democratisation of management and responsibility. Where once the focus of executive education was on the most senior of senior teams, today’s companies recognise the need for developing leadership excellence at every level.

Connection not Control: The traditional workplace had a top down structure, hierarchies where orders were given and carried out. As more organisations use project teams spread across locations, remotely connected, the skills of influencing become much more important. Managers need to learn how to influence people to achieve outcomes where they don’t have direct authority or control.

Career Development: As the economy gets back on track the scales are tipping and businesses need to make the effort to retain good people. L&D has a proven track record as a powerful retention tool. Generation Y workers are much more likely to move onto new jobs quickly. Restless for new experiences, employees need to see a development pathway within their organisation or they will be tempted to move on. A structured, embedded talent management programme can help employees visualise their personal growth plan.

But on top of this, the managers on-the-ground, are expected to satisfy this quest for knowledge, development and progression. Coaching is a skill that can meet many of these needs, but how much should, or can, individual managers be ‘expected’ to fulfil this role?

(l&d) Centricity: Increasingly HR departments are embedding elements of leadership in learning and development right from the start of employees’ careers. Advanced organisations are incorporating leadership development and L&D at the centre of their organisational strategy. The leaders of these organisations act as ambassadors for this approach, realising that when L&D becomes a part of the DNA of a company it is much more successful.

We worked with a large UK-based retailer who wanted to change the whole way people accessed L&D and highlighting at every career stage, why it’s important. This cultural shift led to a company-wide holistic approach that supported the company’s strategy and goals.

(bite size) Content There is a definite shift towards a blended learning approach to executive development. Rather than taking people out of their workplace for long periods of time, face-to-face delivery is being supported by shorter chunks of online learning and interaction.

In the past executive education frequently included an online facility – a library of content. However this approach often wasn’t successful.  People simply didn’t use the library.  Now online is used to prepare for, and follow-on from, face-to-face learning.It’s all about making people more responsible for their own development, learning at their own pace and accessing information when they need it.

The virtual academy, or online campus, gives people the opportunity to access the content they need.  This can be particularly helpful for senior managers who are often expected to have achieved “sage status” or business “omniscience”.  The virtual academy provides a safe environment for them to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.

Overall, managers are expected to have a much broader repertoire of skills, often earlier in their careers: effective management will require highly developed communication and interpersonal skills, capability building though coaching and mentoring, problem solving through creativity, networking through social media savvy.  The pace of change is heady and the combination of developing hard and soft skills at all levels to enable individuals and organisations to adapt and thrive requires a commitment to professional development for a career-lifetime; both from the employee and the employer.

The Power of Trust webinar now available online Reply

The Power of Trust webinar took place on 12 June. If you missed it or want to watch again, the webinar is now available to view on demand!

Listen to what our speakers had to say about why trust is key to long term competitive advantage; learn how to repair and build trust and how to understand its dynamics in your own organisation.

Our webinar panellists included Dr Diannah Lowry, Lecturer in HR Management at The Open University Business School (OUBS) and Kelly Drewery, Director at Talent Glue. Facilitating this virtual event was Associate Lecturer Peter Wainwright, host of our previous Business Perspectives webinars.

Watch the webinar on demand.

You can also see what delegates had to say about the event on Twitter, and get the latest updates on events, offers and thought leadership pieces by following us @OUBSchool #OU_BP

Video highlights from The Power of Trust masterclass on 22 May Reply

Creating and maintaining trust in organisations
Professor Ros Searle, The Trust Hub, Coventry University

Building trust from the bottom up: a workplace strategy
Anne Sharp, Chief Executive, Acas

Trusting you, trusting me – An exploration of trust in the recruitment and selection context,Volker Patent, The Open University

Can trust be managed? Ann Francke, Chief Executive, CMI

Further video highlights from Dr Steven Chase, Director of People, Thames Valley Police; Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Relate and Dr Diannah Lowry, OUBS are showcased via The Power of Trust webinar.

The Power of Trust summary report & webinar 2

The Power of Trust summary reportHere we introduce you to our seventh Business Perspectives summary report in the series. This report takes a look at the wider world of Trust and the latest trends relating to social media, content, personalisation, responsibility and work and culture.

It also showcases highlights from the masterclass in London which focused on The Power of Trust within the workplace. If you missed it, you can watch video highlights and join in the discussion with The Power of Trust webinar on Thursday 12 June at 7pm (BST).

We invite you to download and share the report and send us any comments. If you would like to contribute your perspective towards future themes, please contact our Business Perspectives Editor at

Click here to download the report.

Click here to register for the webinar.

The webinar will conclude The Power of Trust quarter.

4 ways to build trust: A billion ways to lose it. 7

Richard Byford
Guest blogger: Richard Byford, Open University Business School MBA alumnus and Director of Stablebridge Ltd, a company specialising in business resilience and repairing broken business relationships.

It used to be that you could build your reputation or brand simply by spending money on advertising and clever PR. As long as your name didn’t make it into a scandal story on the television or newspapers, you could buy a reputation as easily as writing a cheque.

Now, however, everybody with an Internet connection is waiting to take a poke at you for no other reason than that you have annoyed them. Last week I spent an interesting day at the Open University Business School’s Business Perspectives ‘The Power of Trust’ event, learning how trust is won and lost in a world where you can be demonised by a single tweet. It was a good day to pull together all my thinking about the subject:

1. Be capable

People trust people and brands who consistently deliver what is expected. Don’t promise a product that doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Don’t promise services you can’t deliver. Meet or exceed peoples’ expectations.

2. Be benevolent

It is not enough to ‘do no evil’; you need to actively do good. People will only trust you if they know that you are acting in their interests. No amount of words will compensate for being caught doing something bad. Make sure your staff fully understand that you expect them to ‘do good’ as well. Align your reward systems to ‘doing good’ as well as meeting KPIs.

3. Be authentic

Have integrity. Know what your values are, propagate them through your organisation and make sure that everybody sticks to them – even when nobody is watching. Integrity is all about living your values. Making values explicit is a key trait of leadership.

4. Be fair

Be consistent and predictable in your dealings with everybody. Align your processes and procedures so that everybody knows where they stand all the time. Set peoples’ expectations and stick to the plan. People will trust you if they understand that justice and consistency is built into all your systems.



People tell us that trust in the workplace is a good thing… but let’s be frank, often it isn’t Reply

Kelly DreweryGuest blogger: Kelly Drewery, Director of Talent Glue and OUBS alumna.

In preparing a few thoughts to bring to the next Business perspectives Masterclass in London on The Power of Trust, I’ve been thinking about the value of trust for organisations and the people in them.

Trust sounds great for the organisation. It creates value in the form of goodwill – lots of people trusting the leaders, trusting the brand, trusting each other. We strive to build that utopian workplace through shared values, shared goals and an emphasis on integrity.

In the work I do, I often see the impact of distrust on people’s behaviours and performance. But I also see the impact of too much trust as people emotionally fall fowl of ambiguity, downsizing, personality differences, competition, etc. There is a good reason that there is an active industry of work-life coaching to support people in picking up their broken pieces… especially during an economic downturn.

So, I’m pondering on four questions for the masterclass next week:

1. Do employees and customers gain anything from showing trust in the organisation?

2. Do organisations take advantage of our goodwill?

3. Is it ethical for organisations to build trust and then break it?

4. During an economic downturn, does it matter if employees don’t trust you?

What do you think? And what questions do you want answered by the Trust experts next Thursday? We want to hear from you.

If you would like to attend The Power of Trust Masterclass, further information and details on how to register are available on our website.

This post was originally published via LinkedIn on the Open University Business School Postgraduate Alumni Network.

Best Practices for Creating the Culture of Trust in Your Organisation Reply

Ahmed BahwaGuest blogger: Ahmed Bahwa, Senior HR Manager, Al Bakio International.

This content first appeared on HRZone, an online HR publication dedicated to bringing science, opinion, analysis and insight to bear on the rapidly-developing HR function.

Culture plays the role of cement in binding the members of a group together. If cement is not good it malfunctions and affects the bond that exists between the members of a group. If the element of trust misses from culture then mistrust creeps in. Mistrust weakens the relationship among the members of a group. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to achieve a common goal in the presence of mistrust. Now look at mistrust in the context of an organisation. It weakens relationship among the members of an organisation. Employees feel vulnerable as they are always suspected. Workers do not give their best that affects production, services and sales. Organisational profits decrease. Issues of workforce engagement arise and employee turnover increases. Chances of cheating and deceit within organisation increase. Different studies have revealed that almost 60-65% employees of companies do not trust their leaders. Reason is absence of the culture of trust within organisations. Obscure agendas, concealing organisational aims & goals, dishonest and unbiased leadership, tax evasions, employee benefit cuts, lack of readiness at the part of organisational leadership to hear employee feedback, unclear performance goals and hidden employee performance measuring scales are some of the major reasons for the culture of mistrust in organisations.

After facing the consequences of the culture of mistrust now organisations are realising the importance of trust. Therefore, all around the world companies are trying to make cultural changes in this regard. But cultural change is not as easy as it sounds. It takes time, commitment and efforts to replace the culture of mistrust with the culture of trust. The following practices are helpful in building the environment of trust:

  1. Study the actual reasons of mistrust and learn about the damages it is causing.
  2. Always have clear aims & goals in front of you that what do you want to achieve by having the culture of trust in your organisation.
  3. Create a clear program in this regard. Have workers on board during the course of crafting it.
  4. Set performance measures to gauge the performance of the program. Satisfied workforce, low employee turnover and increased profitability can be some of the performance measures in this respect.
  5. Leadership must take the first step in this regard by being as role model. Cultural change travels fast from top to bottom.
  6. Leaders should reduce the say-do gap.
  7. Fulfil promises that are being made with the workforce.
  8. Make your workforce understand the importance of trust. Offer training and courses in this regard.
  9. Not just in their professional lives leaders must try to be honest in their personal matters as well.
  10. Bring in transparency in terms of organisational process, decision making, goals’ communication and financial matters.
  11. Do not over estimate your employees always assign those goals to them that they can achieve.
  12. In case of failure be polite and generous.
  13. Always separate dirty fish from the rest in order to avoid setbacks.
  14. Remember in many cases mistrust spreads due to unclear and biased programs of performance management in organisations. Create a clear and fair system in this regard and award rewards on the basis of performance.
  15. Tell inspiring stories to your workforce in regard of trust.

If an organisation is making cultural changes in terms of trust it does not mean that its leaders close their eyes and start trusting everything they hear, they must always keep their eyes open to avoid any setbacks. Keep it in mind that it takes time to clear the poison of mistrust from the environment of an organisation, thus be patience. Environment of trust takes time to grow. Leadership of an organisation plays the most important role in it.


The Power of Trust Masterclass Reply

Have you read our latest blogs on trust? Do you want to find out more about why trust is key to long term competitive advantage and learn how to repair and build trust? You can understand its dynamics in your own organisation and continue the discussion at the next Business Perspective Masterclass on The Power of Trust in London on Thursday 22 May 2014. Join a host of experts from industry and academia.

Further information on the programme and details on how to register are available on our website.

Paradise Lost? Trust and big business 1

Karen DruryGuest blogger: Karen Drury, Consultant, fe3 consulting.
This content first appeared on HRZone, an online HR publication dedicated to bringing science, opinion, analysis and insight to bear on the rapidly-developing HR function.
Trust, like love, makes the world go round. Academic writers and practitioners alike believe that it has significant benefits.

Trust can lower costs, as it removes the need for significant monitoring and controls.  It encourages customers to return and can give companies ‘the benefit of the doubt’ – and often precious additional time – when they make mistakes.  In the workplace, trust can make for a more co-operative workplace, leading to more altruistic behaviour, not to mention an attachment to the company itself.

Trust Image

There are a lot of claims for the impact of trust in the workplace, not many of which are unequivocally supported by hard data, but studies have shown an association between trust and increased effectiveness, lower turnover and – that Holy Grail of organisational effort – successful change management.

The subject is currently at the forefront of the UK psyche.  In recent years, we have had the parliamentary expenses scandal and the ‘sexed’ up dossier that led to war. We have seen the police changing witness statements to the Hillsborough disaster, financial institutions fixing the Libor rate, and members of the Metropolitan Police Service accused of fabricating evidence to force the resignation of a democratically elected politician.  This doesn’t even touch the sex scandals to come out of the Catholic Church in recent years, or the furore of pharmaceutical companies accused of marketing products illegally, or the newspapers hacking phones.

The key institutions of society – church, politicians, business and the police – have all played their part, their actions chipping away at the fragile structure of trust.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, a global study through 26 countries and which surveys more than 30,000 people, provides some evidence of this conclusion.  Although trust as an aggregated concept is apparently on the rise globally, it’s not that surprising that only slightly more than half of the respondents trust business and the media, and less than half trust in government.   Perhaps more interestingly, business is not trusted because it is seen as corrupt, supported by ill-conceived incentives which drive corrupt behaviour.  Governments, on the other hand, are not trusted because they are perceived as incompetent.

This echoes one of the (many) academic definitions I have come across – which considers the elements of trust to be benevolence (or concern for others), integrity (a form of morality) and competence – or being capable of doing something.

So according to the theory, the Government is seen to lack competence and business is seen to lack integrity, so trust is, if not impossible, highly unlikely.

A recent mindstretch® event, held with Lansons Communication, pulled together senior leaders from a range of organisations, including some of the financial big-hitters.  Their response from a corporate perspective was that yes, of course, trust is essential to organisations and for many, it’s absent.  Ask about their perceptions as consumers and customers and the picture becomes a bit more complicated.

While few people might put their trust in the institution or company, many who have personal contact with the organisation feel differently. So although you might not trust the bank, you would certainly place trust in your personal banking manager.  And because of that relationship, you’re unlikely to move banks, regardless of reprehensible behaviour elsewhere in the organisation.

Many academics believe that trust comes from social interaction – face to face, phone, or through correspondence or email. This seems intuitively sensible and it might lead you to wonder why banks are cutting back on so many front line staff.

This interaction has to be natural, according to our mindstretch(R) participants; and those representing the organisation have to be able to help you.  This brings us right back to the need for competency to develop trust.  Someone speaking to a script is enough to engender scepticism in the most generous of customers, because most of us can spot a practiced line at a hundred paces.  This is where you might assume that the person speaking on behalf of the company doesn’t really have your interests at heart because the script was written by the organisation – thus showing a lack of benevolence, essential for a trusting relationship.  Ironically, scripts also demonstrate a fundamental lack of faith between the organisation and their staff – they can’t be trusted to even speak their own words.

The shining exception to this is of course, First Direct, who at least TELL you when they’re about to go on script – but otherwise, their customer service staff are exemplars of what you really need to develop trust between customers and companies – real human beings.

This positive, human interaction might also help when things go wrong. One of our participants told a story about a department store who got things very badly wrong – but said that she remained a loyal customer because the organisation was “so nice”. As a First Direct customer, I feel rather like that myself.

However, when we get to the online environment, this fairly intuitive state of affairs seems to fall apart.  For here we have an environment where none of the verbal or visual cues on which we would judge someone’s trustworthiness are available to us – there is no personal interaction.  But millions of us will place huge amounts of trust and money in online retailer Amazon without thinking twice.  When you envisage the emotional investment in an occasion like Christmas, the delivery of a particular item to a family member or loved on, the very idea of entrusting that to a faceless, wordless transaction on a computer seems absurd. Yet we do it, year after year.  And here, the compensating factor is delivery – or competency. It’s no hassle to order, no hassle to return, and there’s a series of emails which manage your expectations at every stage of the purchase.

Looking at how trust is created in organisations between management and employees, the literature indicates that communication is crucial.  It is a major element of creating perceptions of procedural justice, which reflects perceptions of the fairness of how decisions have been reached. Procedural justice relies heavily on communication both outwards from the firm, and back to the firm in the feedback of employees, or their voice.

If you believe that trust is based on beliefs about the other party, then it’s obvious that those perceptions can be shaped through information.  The quality of communication by an organisation or manager – that is, that information is useful, relevant and timely – can have a positive impact on how trustworthy employees believe their organisation is.  Yet I’m constantly surprised at the low priority given to communication by senior leaders.  Many do not believe this is a management responsibility, they think it’s too time-consuming and leave it to someone else – either the internal communication department, or HR.  Yet their very lack of effort here could be undermining trust between the organisation and its employees because it undermines perceptions of organisational justice.

As for consumers – I wonder if we get the organisations we deserve.

For example, I wouldn’t leave my bank unless it really did something appalling to me. It may be that the financial sector is particular in this – it is easier to buy groceries elsewhere,  if one of the major supermarkets treated you badly, less easy to swap bank accounts, where standing orders and direct debits are woven through our lives like a very sticky spider’s web.

But really – do we have such low expectations of our financial institutions – banks in particular – that it would take something MAJOR to happen before we’d move? Perhaps we ought to be more demanding.  Customer inertia cannot be helpful when we simultaneously suck our teeth when misdemeanours come to light and tut disapprovingly.  If we are unhappy with the way in which business acts, then as customers we too need to act.  Being “good” in business needs to have both reward and consequence.  I’m not sure it does at the moment.