Age at Work trend report & webinar

Business Perspectives trend reportOur latest Business Perspectives trend report looks at our current topic of Age at Work focusing on Multigenerational workforces: leading and managing in a new age. The report considers the wider world of ‘4G’ working, looking at flexibility, environment, mindset, future workforce and learning

The pace of business has never been so fast, which is why this summary has been designed so it can quickly inspire you at home, in an airport or on the go. You can download the report now, absolutely free.

Download the report

Continue the conversation with our free Age at Work webinar, focusing on managing in multigenerational organisations and how you can leverage age diversity. Our free one hour webinar will take place on Wednesday 25 February 2015 at 19:00 (GMT).

The online webinar will introduce video highlights from the Business Perspectives masterclass, held in London on Thursday 12 February. During the webinar, we’ll draw on contributions from our masterclass and further develop these discussion points. You can contribute via our live online polls and Q&A forums.

Register for the webinar

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

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

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

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.

The Power of Trust Masterclass

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.

How to effect culture change in financial services

Guest bloggers:

jill traffordnatalie wharton

Jill Trafford (left) and Natalie Wharton (right) are consultants within Deloitte’s change practice

The financial services industry has been dealing with significant change following the banking crisis in 2008

Since then, close scrutiny and countless internal reviews and economic and regulatory reform has result in a wave of change activity across the sector.

Banks specifically have been adapting to a changing – and more challenging – market, with greater consumer awareness of financial performance and new banks competing for customers and employee talent. Those banks that haven’t yet considered their ability to adapt and change in this market will struggle to survive.

cc by EU Social

When the need for change is so significant and immediate, companies often react by looking at their internal structures and processes – in effect the tangible solutions. This has proven to be an effective short-term fix for many, but it has not been addressing the underlying issues that contributed to the financial crisis: culture.

Organisations now realise that sustainable change, which will have a real impact on a company’s long-term reputation, can only be achieved through changing the underlying culture that inspires people to think, act and make decisions.

We only need to look at the banking industry to see how culture can negatively impact a business, both in terms of profit and consumer reputation. While cultural change is a familiar concept, it is often difficult to imagine and implement real and practical steps and measures to encourage change. There is a perception that culture (and therefore cultural change) is somehow intangible and, as a result, many organisations are wary of committing the time and effort to something that they cannot see delivering definite, substantial and financial results. This often translates as something that is not worth doing, since it simply does not lead to immediate cost cutting and improvement in profitability.

Traditionally, boards have relied on internal employee satisfaction surveys to provide them with insight into how employees think and feel about their company and the culture of the business. The actions following such a survey often lack impact and ability to drive real change. This is in large down to managers viewing the activity as a ‘tick box’ exercise, the actions being deemed too difficult to manage, or outside a manager’s sphere of immediate control.

Any culture change programme must start with a clear understanding of the outcomes the organisation wants to achieve and the impact – good or bad – that the current culture is having on its performance. Organisations can define a future culture through breaking it down into specific categories and assessing or understanding where they would like to be against each one.

These categories can be across a range of areas including; appetite for innovation and transformation, the level of external focus, the style of leadership, the exposure to risk and regulation and the infrastructure or process requirements. A session to identify the culture vision would help any organisation identify the type of culture they are striving to achieve and the journey they need to take to get there.

After a new future culture has been articulated and visualised, and it’s fully endorsed by leadership teams; companies face another challenge: how do you make culture change tangible? How do you know it has worked?

Our experience on large change projects in different organisations and across industries has enabled us to develop definite ways in which companies can make culture change tangible:

  1. Developing organisational values and behaviours that are then embedded across the entire colleague lifecycle or employee value proposition including recruitment policies, development interventions and talent and performance management processes. The focus will then be on how the leadership population implements and executes the values as part of these people processes, and being ultimately held account.
  2. Analysing the business and identifying the critical moments that drive disproportionate value for the business, such as the first point of contact for a customer, or the security check for a cold caller. Then, identify the skills, knowledge and behaviour required to execute these and streamline the delivery of the business strategy to improve performance.
  3. Identifying a specific area of culture change to focus on first; responding to risk and regulation, developing innovation and transformation capability, defining clearer control mechanisms or defining how performance is managed. By focusing on one area, and using this as the catalyst for change, organisations can implement initial quick wins and employee engagement whilst developing longer term change to drive deeper change across the business

Organisations, especially those in the financial services industry, have recognised their part in the financial crisis and are engaging in the process of change to win back the trust of consumers. They must find a different way to transform their businesses to succeed in this new environment. Cultural problems have many causes and therefore there will be no single ‘silver bullet’ solution. However, changing the way they manage their people and therefore how their people behave will be the driver for success. The key change necessary for financial institutions to prosper will be cultural, and this is ultimately in the hands of business leaders.

This article was originally published under HR Magazine on 25 June 2013.

Business Perspectives event: Change Management Masterclass

“Putting it into practice: the acid test of strategic change”

Thursday, 11 July 2013. DoubleTree by Hilton, Tower of London.

cc by marsmetn tallahassee

The OUBS is delighted to announce the fourth event in the Business Perspectives series – a Change Management Masterclass. Led by David Wilson, Professor in Organisation Studies and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at The Open University Business School, the event will explore change implementation and what brings about the best and worst from individual and organisational performance, during periods of alteration.

Joining David will be Phil Smith, CEO of Cisco UK & Ireland who will share his professional expertise and outlook on change management.

Also contributing will be Dr Ben Hardy, Lecturer in Management at The Open University Business School, plus we’ll hear from other inspiring speakers from industry who will share real and relevant business insights into this topic.

The masterclass will blend presentations with group activities and Q&A sessions enabling participants to take practical tools and techniques back to their own professional environments, allowing you to improve your own change management processes and abilities.

Leadership in Tough Times: Confronting Complexity and Inspiring Hope

Jean Hartley, Professor of Public Leadership, The Open University Business School

Jean Hartley, Professor of Public Leadership, The Open University Business School

I’ve recently moved to the Open University Business School as Professor in Public Leadership so this blog invites you to an OU masterclass I am hosting on 25 April in London, and also gives you some information about what I am up to at the OU.

The OU runs a series of events for alumni and the wider business and government communities, called Business Perspectives. Our next event is on April 25 which is on the theme of Leadership for tough times: Confronting complexity and inspiring hope. Leadership is a bit of a buzz word in management circles at the moment, but our aim is not to be fashionable but to explore in some depth the role of leadership at a time when many organizations and their employees in the UK are finding life very tough.

What is the role of leadership in confronting the complexities of recession/economic flat-lining, public sector cuts, greater stress and anxiety in the workplace and a loss of a sense of direction in society? Can leadership inspire realistic hope for the future – not Pollyanna optimism but a real sense of finding a way forward in spite of the challenges?

In a mix of academic and practitioner inputs, I will be joined by some inspiring leaders and commentators, including Caspar de Bono, Managing Director B2B at the Financial Times; Sue McAllister, Director General of the Prison Service, Northern Ireland; Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of the London borough of Lewisham, and Lubna Haq, of the Hay Group. With these speakers, along with contributions from participants and the facilitator, Dr Caroline Ramsey, we will debate and discover aspects of leadership in a tough climate, how to lead for growth in challenging times and how to engender emotional resilience and build realistic hope within organisations and communities.

I hope you will be able to join us there. Click here for further event information and to book your place.

You might also like to contribute to conversations on this topic already taking place on this blog. It would be helpful to think about the following questions prior to the event:

• What is the biggest leadership challenge facing your organisation?

• During tough times what should a leader’s top priorities be?

• Which leader(s) do you find inspirational and why?

• How do leaders develop their skills to lead organizations against the odds?

• How is a focus on leaders different from a focus on leadership?

Here is a bit of background about me. I arrived at the Open University in February this year, after 16 years at the University of Warwick. I was attracted to join the Open University by its interests in public leadership (for example, in the Public Leadership and Social Enterprise centre in OUBS) and also the opportunity to work with colleagues with interests in public leadership and management, such as John Storey, Rob Paton, John Clarke and Siv Vangen. The Open University’s commitment to high quality research and teaching which makes a practical impact on the ground was also attractive. I know I have made the right move.

My research and teaching interests are in public leadership and in innovation and improvement in public service organizations. I undertake research across both private and public sectors (for example, political astuteness skills for managers), but public services interest me particularly because of the need to set leadership and management in a democratic and policy context. As well as bringing a number of research projects and people to the OU, I have also recently joined the Berwick Advisory Group, which is following up the Francis Report on Mid-Staffs NHS, in order to provide advice to the Prime Minister and the NHS on how to enhance patient safety across the NHS. We have a listening event in mid-April, and watch out for our report in July this year.

Strategy quarter summary report

strategy summary reportWe are pleased to publish the second Business Perspectives summary report, which concludes the strategy quarter with cutting-edge perspectives from around the globe.

We invite you to download and share the report and send us any comments.  A similar summary report will be available following the leadership quarter. If you would like to contribute your perspective towards the leadership theme, please contact our Business Perspectives Editor using the web-form in the Leadership Masterclass post.

Click here to download the report.

The many faces of leadership

Guest blogger:

Professor John StoreyJohn Storey, Professor in Human Resource Management at The Open University Business School, and Chairman of the Involvement & Participation Association (IPA)

The subject of this quarter’s Business Perspective is at once important, simple, complex and controversial.

In one sense, the promise (or problem?) of leadership is fairly straightforward. Leadership is often readily regarded as the ‘answer’ to many if not most major organisational problems. Numerous major reports which identify huge challenges for public services (police, education, health, local government etc.) in the UK and other countries have come to the conclusion that ‘leadership’ is the critical factor and that ‘something needs to be done about it’.

©ThinkstockIn the private sector, the stock market value of firms which replace their chief executives (especially if with new blood from outside their firm) tend to rise considerably in response. This suggests direct monetary value riding on one individual.

Likewise, the BBC’s recent mishandling of a paedophile celebrity case was duly investigated and the resulting Pollard report attributed the ‘chaos and confusion’ to a ‘lack of leadership’. Top leaders were told to get a ‘grip’. Similarly, multiple reports into massive failings in the NHS also traced the source to a problem of leadership. Again, ‘grip’ was paraded as the missing ingredient.

In response to a lack of trophies, Roman Abramovich, tycoon owner of Chelsea football club since 2003, has sacked and appointed 10 club managers. This contrasts sharply with the situation at Manchester United.

Many other similar instances could be cited. Leadership is evidently seen by many as the solution to the most pressing of organisational problems.

Moreover, the nature and meaning of this cure-all happily also appears (at least at first sight) to be readily understandable. Gather any number of participants in a room and ask them to enumerate the key characteristics of leadership and they will without too much difficulty at all conjure up a familiar list. Leadership, they will say (and the flip chart will confirm), is about: vision, environment scanning, influence, motivation and the ability to condense complexity into some simple compelling messages. Such a list accords with most people’s idea of what makes an effective leader. The next step appears as equally obvious: how to develop such capabilities.

Thus, the importance of, the meaning of, and the constituent elements of leadership all seem to be easily identified.

However, dig a little deeper and one soon finds that there are also huge complexities and a minefield of controversies. These include debates about:

  • individual leadership (profiles of heroic and charismatic leaders) versus systemic and/or distributed and shared leadership
  • leadership versus management
  • the link between leadership and governance
  • context dependent and situational leadership versus the notion of generic leadership skills
  • levels of leadership and role-dependent leadership versus non-role-dependent leadership
  • leadership development and debates about whether leadership can be taught and/or learned and if it can be taught or learned (say through experiential learning or practice-based) then how is this best achieved?

Naturally, each of these areas of debate and controversy cannot be covered here. However, even just listing them serves to illustrate the complexity of the agenda. Some organisational cultures simply do not warm to the idea of a leadership and are suspicious of leaders and leadership; conversely, others are deeply wedded to the notion.

I want to stimulate discussion by picking out two issues which I see as important.

First, is the discussion about leaders or leadership? The former tends to be about one set of assumptions concerning individuals and their competencies. These typically include, for example, notions of clarity, integrity, authenticity, courage, etc., whereas, the idea of ‘leadership’ focuses on issues of process and relationships. If extended even further, this latter perspective embraces approaches which shift the focus away from individuals and more towards the organisation as a system. From this perspective, organisational development becomes the preferred approach rather than individual attributes. Yet, as we can readily see (and as exemplified above) there are deep-seated tendencies to cling to the notion of the criticality of the top leader.

Second, recent detailed research which I have conducted with Richard Holti into clinical leadership in healthcare service redesign (referenced below), found that leadership in this context was a process which required the application of multiple skills. There is space to only indicate the spread of these here. They include: the clarification of core purposes; achieving meaningful scope of authorisation to act; collaborating with service managers and winning resources; reworking professional roles and relationships and thus bringing clinical colleagues on board; investing time in understanding related support aspects necessary for change such as the financial and IT support systems, project management and analytical techniques.

John Storey is Professor of Human Resource Management in the Faculty of Business and Law at The Open University. He is also Chairman of the Involvement & Participation Association (IPA) and was a member of the government’s special advisory panel on Leadership and Management, which reported to ministers from the Department of Business and from the Department of Education. He has recently been commissioned by Routledge to be Editor in Chief of an international handbook on leadership.

He is author, with Richard Holti, of the recent NHS report on the role of clinical leadership in service redesign:

This same research was also reported in a recent Health Service Journal article:

See also: John Storey (editor) (2011) Leadership in Organizations: Current Issues and Key Trends, 2nd edition. London, Routledge. 

Business Perspectives event: Leadership Masterclass

“Leadership in Tough Times: Confronting Complexity and Inspiring Hope”

Thursday, 25 April 2013. Hotel Russell, Russell Square, London.


We are pleased to launch our third event in the Business Perspectives series, which focuses on Leadership. The event will explore leadership in the current climate, how best to lead for growth in challenging times and manage a team through cutbacks, loss and stress. We’ll discuss how leaders can inspire a sense of direction and moving forwards in difficult contexts, drawing on the insights and experience of our speakers and participants.

The event will be led by Jean Hartley, newly appointed Professor in Public Leadership at the Open University Business School, who together with leading practising managers will explore leadership in both the public and private sector.

We’re delighted to announce that joining Professor Jean Hartley at this event will be Caspar de Bono, Managing Director B2B at the Financial Times, and Sue McAllister, Director General of the Prison Service, Northern Ireland. Both of them are leading complex teams in challenging times and will share their contrasting experience and insights, alongside other leading field experts.

During the daytime masterclass, participants will be able to explore leadership best practice through action learning and workshops with peers. You will be able to take practical tools, techniques and ideas back to your organisation. The focus will be to explore the best and worst of leadership in the harsh current environment – is there a silver cloud amongst the gloom?

The stand-alone but complementary evening event will be hosted by the Dean of the Business School, Professor Rebecca Taylor and will include key notes from industry leaders.

The full programme will be announced in the coming weeks, however, to register your interest or to book a place please visit our website where you can find full details of costs and Alumni Early Bird discounts