The Future of Work Festival: mindful business

Held in the inspiring surroundings of Relocate Global HQ, the Future of Work Festival’s Hubs were wellsprings of rejuvenation and reflection, and a refreshing invitation to rethink current challenges creatively.

Michelle Berners Price and John Rason at the Future of Work Festival
It has been an exhausting few years for international managers, HR and Global Mobility. At the forefront of safeguarding employee wellbeing throughout the pandemic, many of us still now find little chance of respite during the working week as we bounce from Zoom call to Teams meeting and back again, at both ends of the day as we surf multiple time zones.As Relocate Global reports now almost daily, employee resignations, burnout and stress are at record levels. Yet as leaders in our sectors, we are now firmly front and centre of organisational transformations. Mobility, wellbeing and people factors are coming to the boardroom agenda. This highlights the value of what we do and the learning we can share with the rest of the business.The Hub conversations held in the beautiful gardens, marquees and spaces of Relocate Global’s offices, which also hosts the Centre for Global Excellence & Leadership, were an exciting and thought-provoking window on this brave new world – as well as an opportunity to nurture our own personal and professional wellbeing.

Competitive advantage and collaboration

In the week before the Future of Work Festival took place, the FT published a piece suggesting it is only a matter of time before an HR leadership role became a big step on the career path to CEO. Panellists on the Keynote Panel and winners in the Relocate Think Global People Awards earlier in the day also recognised how Global Mobility has gone from a niche that interacts with about one per cent of the global workforce to the whole workforce.As was evident in the afternoon’s Hub conversations – themed on the five interrelated areas of Wellbeing & Engagement, Leadership, Innovation & Agility, Global Mobility, Future of Work and Workplace, and Tree Marquee Leadership Workshops – employee-initiated relocation requests are matching employer-initiated moves as people seek flexibility.Employees across the business want the ability to go to new places for personal, business reasons or a combination of them both. It gives Global Mobility the opportunity to be much more strategic in the organisation and demands a different kind of thinking and responsibility.“It was really clear that it is a topic that everyone in the room is dealing with,” said Michelle Berners Price, Partner of KPMG UK, who co-hosted with John Rason, Group Head of Consulting at Santa Fe Relocation, a Global Mobility, Future of Work and Workplace Hub. “They are day-to-day trying to identify what they need to change in their organisation in order to play the role that will be fit for the future. “It’s interesting to see that in a lot of cases, it wasn’t a CEO or board-level requirement, but employees are put first, and everything should be done to allow flexibility. There is a feeling in the organisation that Global Mobility really needs to be accommodating this.“We talked about what that means from a mobility perspective, and what that means as a team and the role it plays in the future. About how it makes it really important that mobility can engage with a wider set of stakeholders, from HR and talent and different risk areas, to make these decisions as to what can be allowed.“But it’s also about connecting with the board to make sure that if you are offering flexibility, they are clear it comes with costs and risk: is this the approach our organisation wants to take? At the moment, mobility has a huge amount of work without necessarily having that additional buy-in or resource to be able to handle it.” 
More from Relocate Global's Future of Work Festival

Recreation and refocusing – the healing power of nature

With managers and boards seeking to extend their competitive advantage and looking to people management practices to achieve this, it means finding ways to co-operate and collaborate with the support of our supply chain partners, the wider sector and across the business. It also means doing this to the benefit of everybody in a way that builds resilience and our own sense of wellbeing.“It starts today,” agreed Kerwin Guillermo, Global Head of Employee Mobility for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “It starts with conversations and ideas that I can bring back into my groups. There’s a lot we can do and that excites me. It’s never been a better time to be in mobility. That’s why it’s important to encourage each other.”Responding to these significant developments in international management, HR and the Global Mobility supply chain, the Future of Work Festival was therefore a very welcome opportunity to re-establish and build new friendships. It was a chance also to make connections, have interesting and stimulating conversations, share ideas and best practice.In the Hub events led by expert speakers and facilitators, over 100 guests tackled the key topics facing their businesses in a very special spirit of active listening, mutual support and collaboration. The quality of the thinking and atmosphere were aided in large part by the verdant natural surroundings that promoted wellbeing, healing, recreation and clarity of thought. “What I’d love people to take away is the benefits a sense of spaciousness can bring,” said Sarah Rozenthuler, author, leadership consultant and dialogue coach, speaking at the event. “Having a space to relax is where we do our best thinking and build stronger relationships. It offers a tone of relaxation, spaciousness and generosity. I really hope that each one of you really takes that on and cultivates it going away from here. I’m truly grateful to Fiona and David to opening up their amazing home and garden to us.”At the beginning of what was pretty much a perfect summer’s day, Relocate Global’s Managing Editor, Fiona Murchie, invited guests to relax, reconnect and enjoy the surroundings and companionship of fellow attendees. “I’d really like to say to you, please enjoy this. It’s for you, and a present from us to the world to just re-start the batteries and kickstart your purpose, whatever that leads you to do. Please take the opportunity to collaborate and meet new people. Together, as a community, we can really make a difference.”

Hubs and spokespeople – driving change

Alongside Management Shift author Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic’s leadership session was the Dialogue in Changing Times workshop. Led by Dr Claus Springborg and Sarah Rozenthuler, this explored in a highly impactful and experiential way how quality listening is fundamental for good dialogue."With high-quality listening you actually get to discover the message,” explained Dr Claus Springborg, leadership consultant, author and lecturer. “There is a co-creative aspect of dialogue. Good conversations are fundamentally co-created. They are also productive and fundamentally satisfying.”The Hubs took place within this spirit, leading to some breakthrough moments for the groups. Feeding back on developments in the Innovation & Agility Hub, Darryl Walker, Group Director of Distribution & Partner Network at edyn, talked around the challenges raised and solutions co-created around the table.“We covered trends, barriers and skills in relation to innovation and agility. There was a wealth of good stuff that came out of this. Some of the gems were from trends that people were going through a period of inflection in multiple areas, reassessing the way their businesses work to make sure it is fit for purpose.“Employment equity was one of the big things that came up: how do you enable everyone to benefit from some of this flexibility? Sometimes people in different countries don’t have access to the same flexibilities those in other countries have as standard.“We also talked about traditional management thinking blocking change by entrenched behaviours and processes, and effective leadership being essential to getting the buy-in to make change happen. We also talked about the barriers to sharing best practice and data so that everyone benefits, but also between teams in an organisation, rather than working in silos. “Then we talked about the skills that enabled some of this; adaptability and dynamism, and communication being even more important than ever given that you can’t always see a lot of the workforce. Sometimes it’s really hard to get a feel for when people are really struggling. They can put a brave face on in Teams meeting, but when that video goes off, they go back to struggling. When we can see that, it’s easier to support them. “Having a common purpose and shared norms and creating a place that feels like your tribe is also quite important. This means having emotional intelligence, relationship building, building trust and being an active learner and observer.”

Moving forward – next steps 

Sharing such learning under a big tent in the great outdoors reflected the inclusive and organic ‘festival of minds’ that will no doubt help spur good ideas for next year’s awards and benefit people on the move hugely in the future. The event is also planting our community’s globally gathered knowledge into the minds of boardroom business leaders. “It’s been a really interesting day,’ said Rosalind Smith from Mauve Group. “I actually found those two Hub sessions so insightful. Just to hear in the Global Mobility space things from a slightly different perspective with people who are maybe on the corporate side. It’s really energising.”Rachida ZahouaniAdmissions Manager of ICS London, agreed. “It’s been a lovely day and a really nice experience. I’ve met lots of people with loads of ideas that I’ll take back to our school and hopefully implement. It would be great to come back and do this all over again.”“This is already an unforgettable industry conference,” added Marc Burrows of KPMG International. “For me, I want to take away the hope and the possibility this future of work gives us. It’ll take us working together as an industry, and for those of us with large employers in particular, to get with it and take it onboard as an asset.“I think with an embracing of remote work, flexible work, we can crack the things that have been bothering us forever, like dual career families. There’s a chance for us to get more international experience into a more diverse and inclusive cross-section of the employee population, not just those willing to pack a bag and go and live in another place for a long time.” This is not going to happen on its own. This is why the Future of Work Festival and the Centre for Global Excellence & Leadership are so important for raising the profile of our sector and the role we have in helping to deliver thriving economies. It is also why continuing to work together with purpose to do what we all do best – responding to changing demands quickly and innovating with empathy – is critical.

Read more about this year's Relocate Think Global People Awards and the Future of Work Festival on our Centre for Excellence and Global Leadership page

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