a recording of this session
from Dubai-based The Greenroom Group, which features an interview with i4cp CEO
Kevin Oakes as he discusses the importance of leadership, purpose, and empathy
during the pandemic, and how that will result in a stronger employer brand.
transcript of the video is below:
HOST: Harry Glaysher (partner at The
Greenroom Group): Kevin, thank you for joining us this evening.
GUEST: Kevin Oakes (CEO and Founder
of I4CP, Institute for Corporate Productivity): Thank you for having me
Harry: A warm welcome to all of our guests. We hope that today, in
someway or another, can support your businesses and operations during the
COVID-19 pandemic. As a brief introduction, my name is Harry Glaysher. I am the
Co-Founder and Partner of the Green Room Group, which is a talent consultancy,
by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Today is the first of 6, COVID-19 related
webinars, through which we hope to provide coping mechanisms for business and
their operations in any region during these unusual times. The webinars are
going to be talented related, with a concentrated focus on one talent vertical
at a time. We start today with employer branding, which will then be followed
by other webinars focused on the following themes, the order may change, based
on speakers availability: employee experience, managing a multi-generation work
force during a pandemic, COVID-19 talent mobility, culture adjustment for
COVID-19 and finally, the notion of people analytics.
I am very pleased to introduce our first
quest speaker, Kevin Oakes. Kevin is the co-founder and CEO of Institute for
Corporate Productivity, also known as I4CP. For those of you who are
unfamiliar, I4CP is the leading talent research and data centre for developing
human capital practices. Kevin, why don’t you tell elaborate on I4CP for our
Kevin: Thanks Harry and welcome everybody. To answer your question Harry, the
company is a fairly old company. We started back in the 1960s, when we founded
what was then known as the Human Research Institute. I took over around 12
years ago and rebranded it as the Institute 4 Corporate Productivity. Today we
are doing more HR research than anybody on the planet, always looking at what
high performing organizations are doing differently with its people and practices,
versus low preforming organizations. Fortunately, we work with a lot of very
well known, global companies. The size of the organizations that we work with
ranges from corporations as large as Amazon and Walmart, all the way down to
Harry: We had a brief discussion about the focus of your business taking a
turn from, performance and identifying how to become a higher performer, to now
providing guidance on how to survive and cope in these times. How have you
Kevin: Well I am very proud of our team. We started researching COVID-19 back
in February when it hadn't really affected a lot of the world at that point. We
then pivoted the focus of the entire company in late February, to helping
organizations through this pandemic. To do so, we felt that one of the best
things that we could do was convene these organizations so that they could talk
to each other. One of our best ideas to date was becoming a convener of HR
executives. We allowed them to share their experiences and their innovations,
share what is working and what is not. We have had tens of thousands of
organizations flood to these daily and weekly calls, to our site and to our
Harry: Great. For those tuning in, you can access the resources that Kevin has
mentioned on his website at, i4cp.com.
Kevin: I should mention that all of those resources are free and open to
everyone. We made that decision very early on as we just want to be in a
position to help.
Harry: Did you receive any push back from the companies submitting strategies,
in specific, concerned that the public are accessing their data?
Kevin: No, not at all, we have noticed that people are just trying to help in
Harry: The importance placed on culture and brand has always been key, however
you are a believer that it is now more important than ever. Please explain why
Kevin: I think this pandemic has put a microscope on leadership in a lot of
organizations. I have had this conversation with several heads of HR, where
they have seen true leaders emerge through this pandemic and also seen leaders
who were not prepared for this. Mark Cuban is one of the leaders who has
really stepped up and has been very visible during the pandemic. Mark has had a
lot of really interesting things to say about the subjects of employer and
corporate brand. We spoke on email a couple of weeks ago and he said, ‘how you
treat your employees today will have more impact on your brand in the future
than any amount of advertising or anything else’. And I completely agree.
Harry: What words would you give to companies looking to foster compassionate
leadership during these times?
Kevin: Empathy is critical. We have seen that some companies show no empathy
with furloughing or laying off employees, often laying off thousands from
within their corporation via a Zoom call. There was a great example set a few
weeks ago by the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, who had to lay off 25% of his
workforce. He sent a wonderful email that I encourage people to read. What I
think has been interesting Harry, is this pandemic has effected different
companies incredibly differently. We have had a number of organizations in the
hospitality or food industry, who have had to do furloughs and layoffs on a
huge scale. However, other organizations such as Walmart or Amazon have been
hiring during this pandemic.
Harry: Employee well-being and employer brand, let’s touch on the connect
between them. Do you capture the attention of the people? Do they want to come
and work for you? Do you retain talent? You've mentioned that there is a
stronger connection between the two, now more than ever.
Kevin: Definitely. We are going to be seeing much more about employee
well-being in the future. We did a recent study on holistic well-being that not
only looks at the physical and emotional aspects of well-being, but the 6
components to holistic well-being: physical, emotional, mental, financial,
community and career and social health. These 6 factors are what companies are
putting a lot of work and research into. As I talk to organizations who are
returning to the office, naturally the conversation is around the physical
aspect. How are we going to make sure people are healthy? Are we going to keep
the work environment safe for our workers from a physical standpoint? Although
such questions are important and need to be asked, is it the mental and
emotional aspects that I think are very important factors that companies need
to consider. Many workers are not necessarily excited to go back to the office
and are scared and nervous, therefore psychological safety is going to be just
as important as physical safety in the long term. Numerous companies are
recognising that their ability to deal with the mental and emotional side of
their employees health is not great. In fact, our research shows that only 15%
of companies feel as though they do a good job when approaching such factors.
That means 85% of organizations feel they have room for improvement around that
side of the equation, which is very significant.
Harry: How can we get companies in the MENA region to put that in effect. They
will go to your website, download the resources and they will tick them off one
by one as the employees start to come in. It could be seen as a refreshed
on-boarding process, which talks to them about their fears and how the company
plans to lessen them.
Kevin: Communication is critical here. You should make sure that employees
encounter no surprises when returning to the office. As many people have been
working from home, they need to know very clearly what the rules are when they
return to the office. Although this information should have been passed on to
them before they even step foot in the building.
Harry: For many of the younger generation coming into the workplace, this is
going to be the first really big hurdle since 2008. In addition to trusted
referrals and positive portrayal of the company in discussions outside of the
office, what other measures can companies put in place?
Kevin: They will put incentive plans in place, but I think the key is to
communicate. We have found that over 60% of successful organizations simply
communicate their expectations clearly, of what they are looking for as an
organization. That being said, many companies will put in cash and other forms
of incentives to help instill employee referrals.
Harry: In terms of monitoring how each department is performing in
referring employees, if you see one is preforming well and another is not so
much, is there a way to do cross-functional mentoring to increase performance?
Kevin: I would say you probably have more underlying issues there, which I
would explore first. For example, if in one company you had a division that was
referring a number of candidates internally and another that isn’t at all, my
immediate guess would be that you have a cultural issue, which would be
the first thing I would explore. Are there issues that are keeping people from
being engaged in their work? We have a technique and a tool set called
'Organizational Network Analysis'. ONA looks at the communication and work flow
inside an organizations. It essentially assesses who is talking to whom. This
is a process that has really been championed by a professor in the USA, Rob
Cross. ONA can really uncover who are the real influencers and
energized/motivated people in your culture, versus who are the ones that are
detractors and people who are generally not communicating.
Harry: What sort of opportunities do companies have to emerge out of this
pandemic with a stronger employer brand?
Kevin: There is a lot of
innovation happening today, which is something that employers need to embrace.
The pandemic has given a lot of the workforce large amounts of time to think
and reflect. Many companies are recognising that life won't be the same once we
come out of this crisis, therefore we have to be prepared for a world that will
be a little bit different. A while ago, we did a study called culture
renovation, which looks into how companies have successfully changed their
cultures and what they did to do so. One of the early things that one of these
companies did, for example Microsoft, was paint a vision for the future. You
don't want to change your culture by citing all the things that were wrong in
the past or your financial woes. You need to look to the future, keeping
everything aligned to your vision. This has a huge impact on employer branding
Harry: Kevin, thank you so much for talking the time to talk to us, great to
have you on. Hopefully we develop more work in the future together.
Kevin: I appreciate that, thank you Harry. I encourage people to take
advantage of the resources on our I4CP website. Or if you have any 'Next
Practices' that you would like to share, we would love you to send them in to
us. We are trying to highlight all of the many innovative things that companies
are doing to try and help others through this pandemic.