Creating a high-performance, humane workforce for the future

Vlatka Hlupic, award-winning thought leader and keynote speaker for Relocate’s Think Women event explores how our attitudes and behaviours at work can have a bigger impact than you realise.

Professor Vlatka Hlupic
Relocate Magazine Spring 2020 issue thumbnail image
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine – the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition, read all of the articles on our website, or order your printed copy.
Making simple changes to the way you talk and act in your job can make a significant difference to the success of your team – and your company. The ripples you create with your positive behaviour will have an inspirational and energising effect on your work colleagues.That’s the message from Professor Vlatka Hlupic, international award-winning thought leader, author and our keynote speaker for the Think Women workshop and lunch on Friday 6 March. At our celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), she will be talking about 'Creating positive ripples: the few affect the whole' and how organisations can survive the huge technological changes that are taking place by adopting a new approach to management and valuing the contributions of each of their employees.Leading academic and inspirational speaker, Professor Hlupic argues that we are all part of the process of change and those companies that don’t make the switch from the old “command and control” management models to a business that is more collaborative and inclusive, will fail to thrive in the future. “The majority of organisations are still using leadership approaches from the first Industrial Revolution,” she explains. “Back then, management was about dominance, standardisation and command and control. It worked well for its time, when efficiency and productivity were key. However, it is very detrimental for work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where we are focusing more on social and environmental responsibility, and where people and organisations seek to be more purposeful.”

The big shift starts with you

As defined by the World Economic Forum, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions.Spring Issue 2020 out nowIn this brave new world, technology and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the workplace and change many traditional roles. In this new era, different skills will be needed – communication, collaboration, innovation and purposeful engagement. Organisations that fail to adapt will be unable to sustain their business models long term.The change starts with individuals, Professor Hlupic says. “People need to recognise their own power,” she says, citing the example of Celine Schillinger, founder of We Need Social and former Sanofi Pasteur global quality head of innovation and engagement. “A big shift can begin with one person. Ms Schillinger saw all around that there were white men in power and sent an email to the executive team asking them about diversity. It started a whole social movement. She now has 300,000 followers and has created a new job for herself as an independent consultant.”
Related articlesFind out what happened in 2019:
In the past, women may have held back from applying for senior management positions or accepting international assignment roles. The ripple effect would see more women moving towards executive roles and becoming role models for others.Professor Hlupic’s work helps leaders and organisations worldwide to shift to a higher level of performance and profit, while creating more engaging, purposeful and happier workplaces that do well by doing good. 

A mindset shift in the workplace

While the changes start with individuals, the companies they work for also need to change in order to survive. Professor Hlupic has studied hundreds of different organisations and interviewed C-suite members to identify what makes a successful business.She has observed that in business, there are five different levels of engagement among employees and workers. “We need Level 4 management, leadership and culture in order to make a difference,” she says. “There are five levels and to achieve them you need a shift in management and culture at each level. This involves new language, thinking patterns and culture.”
  • Level 1 – an organisation is lifeless, apathetic and ruled by fear and blame
  • Level 2 – employees do the minimum they can get away with each day
  • Level 3 – people are told what to do and are micro-managed. An estimated 85 per cent of companies are operating at Level 3, Prof Hlupic says.
“Level 3 has problems with engagement, performance, innovation and profitability,” she explains. “In this new world, it is not a sustainable way to do business. In order to move from Level 3 to Level 4 requires a big shift of mindset.”Level 4 is an organisation where people are enthusiastic, the culture is collaborative and where there's trust, transparency and social and environmental responsibility. “It yields an increase in performance, engagement, innovation and profitability.”Level 5 is “a limitless mindset” and can be found at X Development (formerly Google X) the semi-secret research lab that created driverless cars, Google Glass, high-altitude Wi-Fi balloons and glucose-monitoring contact lenses.In her best-selling book, The Management Shift, Professor Hlupic examines 35 case studies across four different sectors and identifies start companies in each sector:
  • Public: Innovation Norway, a government organisation supporting entrepreneurs and the City of Glasgow College
  • Private:, an American cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco; Morningstar, the global financial services firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, United States; and Unilever
  • SME: La Fosse associates, a technology executive recruitment
  • Not for profit: Buurtzorg Nederland, a Dutch home-care organisation, which has attracted international attention for its innovative use of independent nurse teams.

The importance of collaborative leadership

A key characteristic of organisations that enjoy a Level 4 mindset is that they have a leader who recognises the importance of getting the best out of staff. There is a focus on purpose, values, wellbeing and personal development.“It is all about moving away from the hierarchy,” says Professor Hlupic. “These progressive organisations distribute decision making on the basis of knowledge and skill, not formal job titles, they allow trial and error, they enable employees to try new ideas and they tolerate mistakes and failure. That is the only way to foster innovation.”In a Level 4 organisation, people share ideas, celebrate and praise success, and there is a decentralisation of decision-making. The purpose of the company is aligned with individual purpose.

Why gender balance matters

“We know that many companies are not gender-balanced,” Professor Hlupic says. “While it may be equal at the recruitment stage, at the higher levels of management women are under-represented. Even with targets, the representation is 20 or 30 per cent at best and progress is slow.”Yet 60 per cent of graduates in the UK are female. “We have a well-educated female population and 80 per cent of purchasing decisions are made by women,” she says. “The customer base is female, but companies are mostly run by men. The discrepancy does not make economic sense.”The ripple effect is, therefore, something that women at work can use subtly to start to change the very fabric of the organisation – for the better. “With our brains, we pick up the moods and emotions of people around us. If we create positive ripples, that grows. The better it is, the better it gets.”These small changes can help move your team towards a Level 4 mindset, make your organisation a better place to work. Prof Hlupic says, “As more organisations become Level 4, the whole of society will start to shift.”So how can we begin this peaceful workplace revolution? The first steps are to start using the language of Level 4 organisations – a language that is positive, inclusive and working towards a common purpose. “As an individual, you need to be at Level 3 and you need to use the language of the level above,” she explains. “At Level 3, people talk about I, me, mine, whereas at Level four the language is we, us, team.”The next stage is to involve your team in tasks that require collaboration, thus creating conditions for people to interact and spark ideas off each other. And it is not just women who can benefit from this shift in mindset. “The ripple effect works for all genders. If women are surrounded by colleagues who have Level 4 thinking, this can benefit them. Plus, we need more Level 4 women at the top of organisations.”Finally, a company needs to create a culture where staff trust their leaders. “Trust makes a big difference to an organisation. Trust and transparency make the glue that binds Level 4 teams together, but it is not always easy to create that type of culture.”

How the ripple effect can help recruitment and retention

A lot of companies are bogged down by complacency and a lack of awareness of how to change. As the shift starts to happen, it can gather momentum. “People get a flavour of how much better it is to work at Level 4 and how you get more done with less effort,” Professor Hlupic explains. It is not a quick fix, though and people have to be ready for change because it is not easy. “When we face change we see it as a threat in our brain, causing stress and anxiety at the fear of losing status or the privileges that we have.” Making the changes can create a much more attractive workplace, which in turn means it will be easier to recruit new staff.If a company can change, it can attract new workers and retain its existing staff. In a global economy that is suffering from a skills shortage, this is a distinct competitive edge. “People can even come back and work for a lower salary if the company fits with their values,” she says. That explains the appeal of start-ups, particularly among Millennial workers. “Many startups are Level 4 with an element of Level 5.”They have big ideas and they are not afraid to experiment. “Larger organisations are more like super-tankers. They are more difficult to change. When I work with organisations, I help leaders to change one department at a time. It takes six to nine months to see a shift. Then other parts of the company want to emulate this and it starts to have an effect across the whole of the workplace, even though change happens more slowly in large organisations.”

Read more news and articles about Human Resources and Leadership & Management.

The first step is to have a leader who is willing to go on the journey and who supports collaborative, informal ways of communicating and who welcomes innovation and new ideas. With so much change happening so quickly in the wider economy, organisations that ignore the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution do so at their peril. It’s also encouraging that change can take place on a granular level, by each one of us taking steps to create a more positive culture where we work.The message of IWD and our keynote speaker is that we can all make a difference. Our language, positivity and willingness to change the culture creates a ripple effect that benefits ourselves, our fellow workers and our organisation, and leads in time to a shift in society as a whole. At a time when the world is facing huge uncertainty, this is a positive message to embrace and be inspired by.

More about our Think Women keynote speaker 

Professor Hlupic is the world's top 11 Most Influential HR Thinker, an international award-winning thought leader on Leadership 4.0, an activist for humanising management, and an author of a ground-breaking book The Management Shift - How to Harness the Power of People and Transform Your Organization for Sustainable Success and her latest book, Humane Capital.She is a professor of leadership and organisational transformation at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, visiting professor in the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, visiting faculty at Cass Business School – City University of London, visiting faculty at the University of the Arts London, a former adjunct faculty at London Business School, a consultant for Said Business School, and former professor of business and management at the University of Westminster. 
Think Women International Womens Day
Think Women lunch will be held on 6 March at the Institute of Directors, London as part of the celebrations for International Women’s Day. Hear from, and network with, inspiring women and men. Support women and girls to progress in international careers. Relocate Think Women Networking Event Book EventbriteSimilar Think Women events will be held in EMEA, APAC and the Americas later in the year and virtually. Contact us at to find out how you can be involved in your area. 
Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

Related Articles