UNLEASH 2019: Engagement and team agility to be explored

Last year's UNLEASH World Conference & Expo in Amsterdam.
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The role technology can play in driving more efficient and rewarding work will be a key theme at next week’s UNLEASH Conference & Expo in Paris. We spoke to some of the speakers ahead of the event to find out why their sessions are not to be missed.

Kim Atherton, CEO and co-founder of Just3Things and former chief people officer at OVO Energy

Software firm Just3Things helps organisations become more agile by bringing together staff with the right skills to accomplish more. CEO and co-founder Atherton will be taking part in a panel discussion on the topic of organisational agility and high performance work teams on day one of the conference.

“Digital disruption is forcing companies to rethink their organisational design and move toward structures that offer enough adaptability to keep pace with the rate of change in customer expectations,” she says. “A cross functional team-based foundation is one way in which organisations are achieving this.”

Although team output is now a major focus for organisations, Atherton believes almost all HR processes are based around individuals rather than teams, which means they are driving the wrong behaviours.

“Take performance appraisal and bonus systems as an example; if you are trying to create an innovative team based structure, rewarding people for their individual contribution based on concrete successes is a sure way to kill all of your efforts stone dead,” she says.


The UNLEASH World Conference & Expo takes place on 22 and 23 October at the Paris Convention Centre. Tickets are available now.

“I think that the key is to rip up the rule book and start again asking questions like ‘how do we contribute to the strategic goals of the organisation’? ‘How can we empower and equip our people to do their best work’?”

On day two of the conference, Atherton will also be sharing what OVO Energy has been doing to prepare for the challenges artificial intelligence will bring.

She advises organisations looking to invest more in automation to base their hiring decisions on underlying capability, rather than experience, to ensure employees have the distinctly human skills they will need in future.

“By looking at an individual’s growth mindset and learning agilities we were able to find people who could flex and grow as the business grew. I believe that more organisations should take this approach so that they have a more adaptable employee base,” she says.

Mike Ettling, CEO of Unit4

Unit4 provides HR software for service-focused organisations, helping their staff free-up more time to focus on more meaningful and purposeful work. CEO Mike Ettling, will be looking at how HR can drive business value through engagement-based performance management over the next five years.

“My session is about the future of HR tech over the next five years. Not enough companies are giving their workforce intuitive and simple to use tools to support their progression,” he says.

He suggests that over the past decade the HR tech world has seen the rise of “talent suites”, engagement tools and the shift to cloud-based platforms, but these are not improving the employee experience with many companies “lacking the modern systems to support and nurture their employees to create a day to day work experience that ensures their highest levels of productivity and commitment”.

To create a more engaged workforce, organisations need to create a more connected work environment where staff interact and coach each other on a regular basis, he advises.

“If people know in the moment what they have done well or how they can improve, faster learning and development comes as a result. Staff are recognised for their great work and have clear expectations,” says Ettling.

He advises HR tech buyers to “stop looking at software as a functional HR or finance tool to optimise processes” and instead “start giving individuals the platform they need to curate, control and add value to their professional experiences across the spectrum of business operations”.

“It’s about using technology in a way that creates smarter working environments without reducing human interaction. Just because we are streamlining the way work gets done, that doesn’t have to mean that employees feel less valued and engaged, in fact the opposite,” he says.

Ettling will also be judging the HR tech startup award, take part in a panel discussion around the employee experience and speak at an HR tech “open mic” on the Startup Stage.

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