How the FuelX Conference inspired us.

Now, before we start…don’t judge me but I have realised how much I miss attending conferences! 

I was invited to attend #FuelX as the guest of the speaker and panel expert Robin Erickson.  The event was hosted by Fuel50, a purpose-driven and progressive talent platform founded by Anna Fulton.

All things talent, engagement, learning and retention were discussed and in particular how current challenges could be addressed with more forward-thinking ideas and practical solutions.  We were treated to case studies from giant corporates such as Johnson & Johnson to the world-changing United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Who, as a side-note, have an internal learning & HR team of just three people.  Three! 

I’ve distilled what I heard and what I found insightful in this article.  I will say up front, I was really impressed with how each case study showed how they had shifted not only the approach to talent & learning but also their culture and mindset by engaging a purpose-driven platform (and no, this is not a #ad for Fuel50!).

The key discussion areas of the day

  • Talent:  great resignation, attracting & retaining, encouraging & growing the right peole AND the right careers
  • Skills:  what do employees, what do organisations need and how do you get those two things aligned
  • Culture, culture, culture:  organisations can make or break any of the above if the culture works in direct opposition to progress. Bias-breaking culture is what’s needed

Here are my top take-aways:

Talent:  gaining it, retaining it, inspiring it

Robin Erickson spoke brilliantly about an organisational ‘talent mindset’ and about how you may be unaware of how your systems ‘filter’ talent before it even gets to you.  For example, do you know for certain how any talent recruitment process (internal or external) filters for education and gaps in employments? 

She challenged the room to be conscious and deliberate with thinking about your talent pool and challenging mind-sets around the more traditional CV expectations.  It is limiting to think about the best candidate being the most educated.  What is wrong with someone taking an employment break? 

Our focus over the past few years on well-being, breaking bias and focussing on the individual means organisations (and their processes) need to shift to reflect this. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What comes to mind when you think of the talent you want to attract? 
  • Who are you ignoring based on out-dated modes of thinking?
  • How is your platform & process supporting or hindering the scope of the talent pool you can accesss?

Robin gave an inspirational example of how the formerly incarcerated have been given work-opportunities in the US (Robin is from Chicago) and have proven over and over how their attitude and motivation often outstrips those from other traditional routes.

Finally and most importantly, think about your bias-driven language when you want to attract (and retain) people.  How well are you speaking to your audience or is it also limiting your reach?

Skills – the ones you want to acquire, retire and inspire

(that phrase is unashamedly stolen from Nick Holmes @ Fishawack Health)

From the different case studies and the panel-expert discussions one theme came through loud and clear:  we need robot-proof skills!  Which skills do people want to grow (acquire), recognise can be left behind (retire) and are not even aware of yet (inspire)

Once those are defined, how do people get hold of the skills and shout about them to enable their career development?

This was an interesting discussion:  getting an organisation to shift from experience-led (eg: roles) career development to skills-led career development.  That’s quite an organisational mind-set shift but no different or less important than the shift needed for acquiring or retaining talent, as mentioned above. 

The shift is to no longer place absolute priority on ‘have you done the JOB’ and to move to ‘have you got the transferrable SKILLS?’.  There is always the argument for technically specific role experience (think doctors, scientific roles) but that argument is too often used across other parts of an organisation where it’s less necessary.

Again, this means a shift in organisational mind-set eg: culture.  I’m coming to that one next.

What are those all important robot-proof skills that will help growth, career development and organisational innovation. This is not a definitive list but the themes that were mentioned more than three times:

  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Collaboration
  • Intellectual curiosity

What are some of the ideas around developing these skills.  What I heard as the most exciting part of the case studies was the ‘gig assignments’ – essentially setting up the opportunities for people to work on a project, in another department, to develop specific skills.  Amazing collaboration and idea-sharing not to mention the innovation and creativitiy that came from some of the unlikely partnerships across an organisation.

Culture, culture, culture – is it eating itself?

This topic is bigger than 15 lines in a blog but here is what I heard and what I can definitely identify with, in my experience.

  1. Compassionate, curious, forward-thinking:  this is the culture that supports people and grows an organisation and yet we know processes and attitudes can drive the very opposite outcomes.
  • Leadership play a critical role and the focus on recognising and rewarding leaders who grow and ecourage high-performing talent not just high-performing teams.  Having leaders that are expected to show how and where they have grown talent not how they have protected and retained (at worst, stifled) their team’s talent & career. 
  • Platforms and systems that remove bias, show skills gaps and talent pools, internally.  So the challenge can be laid at decision-makers and those who influence the culture at all levels.

One speaker challenges his leadership team to think continually about their organisational mind-set by asking three questions;

“With this approach can our employees say

  • Can I trust you?
  • Do you care?
  • Are you committed to me as a person?”

It’s not so much that the answers always need to be ‘yes’ to those questions but have you paused and checked on the culture you’re driving with your actions.

And finally, the ‘Great Resignation’ needs to be seen as a cultural opportunity to offer a ‘Great Renegotiation’.  What does this organisation need to offer and renegotiate to ensure they are future-proofed for their people.

Thankyou again to Anne Fulton and the team at FuelX – it was a great day and I have two books to read along with trend reports.   I’ll finish as I started:  don’t judge me, I’ve missed conferences!

You can learn more about the conference by clicking the link below.

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