Taking the Leap

HR and organisational processes have moved leaps and bounds beyond the workplace time clock and allocated smoko breaks. Organisations are taking a more sophisticated approach to creating great cultures through training, development and change management programmes. Helping to drive this evolution in the Asia-Pacific region is Capability Group, which is redefining and transforming workplace learning and cultures with the latest in learning technology, leadership development, and change management.

Their mission is to help organisations in the Asia-Pacific region become outstanding performers by building capable and confident people. Teams who are ready and relevant for the changes the future will throw at them.

We talk to Capability Group Director Drew McGuire about this mission, Leap – their new diversity & inclusion product and creating a wave of change.

You have such a diverse client base. Are you finding there are some consistencies at the moment in terms of challenges that organisations are facing?

One of the reasons we collaborated with four of our clients to build out Leap, our diversity and inclusion product, was because over the last couple of years this has become a massive issue across many industries. Just about everyone we talked to was trying to figure out how to deal with it, so we jumped in so we could be part of the solution.

I think leadership capability is also quite a big issue in organisations. There is a tendency to think that it is a personal capability issue and there are no doubt some mindset and behavioural issues and there are people in organisations that need to shift to be more adaptable and agile as the world evolves. But I do also think there are a lot of systemic constraints within organisations that get in the way of leaders truly being able to lead in the best way.

Organisations should be looking to address both those things; the context and the constraints within which their leaders work, and what we need to change to be able to support our people to lead in the way we need them to lead.

Could you give us some examples of what those constraints might be in an organisation?

Innovation and agility are two words that are bandied around a lot. We get asked to look at how we can build more agile mindsets and behaviours aligned with that. More and more leaders are encouraging their teams to be more innovative and are working with their teams to build their agility so that they can evolve. But it is also important to address every aspect of their operating model to become truly agile. People is a part of it, but it’s not everything. For instance, a company might have an absolutely tortuous procurement process, or sign off process around projects; they’re just not agile in their processes around those things. Other companies have huge constraints around how they manage projects across the organisation.

Can you become too agile?

Every organisation needs checks and balances. But organisations also need to be agile. How do you manage those two things sitting alongside each other? It’s a real challenge and there are ways of doing it. You’ll see a lot of big banks heavily investing in start-ups. They’re setting up part of the business with multiple startups as a mechanism to support the mothership being more agile, so that ideas and thinking from those startups might flip over into the mothership.

Going back to what you mentioned about diversity and inclusion becoming a focus over the last couple of years, what do you think is driving that?

The biggest issues that our clients are dealing with are around more diverse workforces.

You get more diverse age groups working within a workforce now than you ever have before, with quite different mindsets. There was conflicts and issues related to that. How do they bring all of these people together? How do they deal with the specific issues they’ve got with different groups within the organisation?

Another element to that was organisations feeling they were just not getting the thinking and the ideas and what they believe they could be getting out of their people that can feed into the development of their solutions, services and products for their customers.

We know customers are changing rapidly. We know technology is changing rapidly and we’re just not nailing it. We haven’t got systematic in terms of how we innovate or how we harness the diverse perspectives in organisations.

How do we do that?

This is both a mindset and a behavioural thing that is about every employee in the business. That is our design challenge. How do you design something to create mindset shift and behaviour change across every employee? Not just leaders, which is where lots of diversity and inclusion programs are focused.

How have you achieved that?

What I didn’t want us to do was be a bunch of organisational development and learning people sitting in a room designing a fabulous learning product and then pushing it on people. What I wanted to do instead was get a deep understanding of the mindsets and behaviours that were present across all sorts of different organisations.

We collaborated with four of our clients; NZTA, Briscoes Group, Waste Management, and Vector. Waste Management has got 900 truck drivers, a bunch of people that manage landfills, a bunch of people in call centres. Briscoes Group has got about 90 stores around the country, including Rebel Sport, Living and Giving, and Briscoes. They’re in just about every community around the country. They’ve got people working in stores closely with customers. Then at NZTA, they’ve got engineers and project managers. At Vector, you’ve got a bit of the same with a whole bunch of call centre stuff. It’s all very different.

We were looking at picking up on the nuances and how issues around diversity and inclusive practices played out across those different organisations. We took a design thinking-approach and ran an ideation workshop with all those organisations participating, and then we seamed up all the outputs of that and applied all of our learning design principles that come out of evidence-based research. We then built our full-blended online/offline learning solution, and piloted it with each of the organisations.

We got feedback, tweaked it and then built out the full thing, and now we’ve launched. They’re now all using it in slightly different ways. We have made it a real pick and mix thing as well, because every organisation is somewhere on their journey with diversity and inclusion.

What advice can you give for organisations in respect to culture and structure?

There is a well-proven process now through which you can engage with your people to get clear on what needs to happen. That also gives your employees the opportunity to be part of the design process. Through doing that, they feel a sense of ownership of whatever the programme is that comes out of that, and then you’re more likely to get the change sticking.

It’s taking a design thinking-approach to your culture change initiatives. Start with some detailed desktop research, whatever information you’ve got around strategies, what your challenges are, what’s happening with your customers, and what’s happening in your sector.

Use that to design an ideation workshop and involve as many of your employees in those ideation workshops as possible. It’s about being simple and smart in your engagement of people, so that you’re getting their participation. Have your D&I team, your HR team, and key managers involved in the design process. And then pilot and evolve the product over time.

The phrase we use, is ‘All in,’ rather than ‘Buy in’. That’s the approach to use with driving culture change. Engage your people in the design of what you want the employee experience to be, and what you think your culture should be. If you engage with them, they’ll feel a strong sense of ownership. They’ll be waiting with anticipation for what the outcome is, and they’ll be fully supportive.

What do you think are some of the hurdles to diversity and inclusion?

I think the “tick box” thing is a big hurdle. People are not taking a holistic, integrated systemic view on how to drive that culture change and the mindset shift that you want to create across your business. It’s not mysterious. There are tried and true, evidence-based participatory processes, like design thinking, that can make a massive difference.

I think in large organisations, there is a way to do that, but you won’t necessarily get to engage everybody at the outset. They’ll come on board with the journey and there is a way to design for that. I like to think of it as a building wave.

Find out more about Capability Group: leap.capabilitygroup.co.nz/