More than 150 senior professionals from real estate, facilities, HR, technology, executive management, architecture, design and professional advisors attended the event held at Cisco headquarters to listen to global thought leaders and share best practice and expertise.

Welcoming WORKTECH22 attendees, Managing Director of WORKTECH Events, Isabel Dewhurst-Marks, said: “Never before has the workplace, and the way we work been so high on the agenda for organisations looking to improve productivity, attract and retain talent, and increase business return.”

The conference focused on bringing cutting edge ideas and inspiration to the workplace community to enhance creativity and move thinking forward.

Alongside the conference, the WorkTech Academy knowledge hub explored the future of work through six key themes: people, place, technology, design, culture and innovation.

Stephen spoke to attendees at the conference in a talk titled Using Inclusion and Equity to Solve Workplace Dilemmas.

The topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has been a hot topic for many years without much understanding of what it is and how it looks in practice in the workplace.

In the era of work-from-home (WFH) and hybrid working, many companies are worried about staff retention and ensuring that colleagues stay connected.

Stephen focused on different issues faced by employers, including colleagues not coming into the office and how to build engagement in a remote working team.

He said: “The answer is simple – treat your colleagues like people, and not ‘staff’. How to do that? Inclusion and equity, of course.”

Explaining further, he said: “There is general consensus that organisations will need to codify flexibility into their strategies, noting that colleagues will continue to demand retaining the choice of working wherever is convenient. With this in mind, there are still no unified ‘best practices’ and everyone continues to be in the midst of a giant experiment and needs to make sure the innovation engine doesn’t stop.

“Information sharing and collaboration continues to be a requirement so that we can learn from the work of other, but we must be careful to not simply replicate efforts.”

Stephen spoke about himself openly and honestly, explaining the importance of recognising the “whole human being” in the workplace.

“Everyone on my team brings a similar level of diversity of thinking and perspective with them to work all the time,” he said, adding: “You have all these things too. You are not just a role or an image, you are a whole human being. That’s really important to consider when we’re creating workplaces of the future.”

He explained how D&I competence has an impact and how its importance in the workplace is accelerating in the same way as technology.

“You have to take risks and put yourself out there. You have to be vulnerable in order for this to be successful,” he said.

Stephen explained what diversity, equity and inclusion are and the difference between these terms, before offering an example of how MovePlan attracts and retains top talent.

He told the audience that when applying for a job, women will respond to an advert if they meet 100 per cent of the specifications, whereas men will apply if they meet 60 per cent.

“We therefore have to think, if we’re looking to attract top talent, are the adverts inclusive and representative of the actual position,” he said.

However, he warned that attracting talent is the easy part, whereas retaining is harder.

“We keep our people because we treat them as human beings,” he said.

He continued: “What we have found is by building relationships with our employees and colleagues and understanding who they are as individuals, by knowing a person on a personal level, you start to feel more closely connected to them. We need to do that with our team.

“The difference between work and personal has changed during the pandemic. As managers we need to be more conscious of that so we can keep the connection.

“At MovePlan we’ve always been hybrid. So, when we went into the pandemic, we continued doing what we’ve always done. We have a distributed workforce and I have to try to motivate colleagues to go into the office and meet with people.”

Explaining how this is achieved, Stephen said it all comes down to trust.

“If we’re going to start recognising the differences in everyone and see them not as challenges but opportunities, that’s what we have to do.”

— Stephen Fountain, MovePlan

“I have to trust my colleagues. They have a job and responsibility to deliver a job and I know they’re going to get that done. They don’t want to get fired, they don’t want to let our clients down so they will come to the office when they need to, and I have to trust that.”

He added: “If we’re going to start recognising the differences in everyone and see them not as challenges but opportunities, that’s what we have to do.”