25 May 2023

5 takeaways from the HR Leaders Conference in Dubai

The fundamentals of great leadership, the importance of meaningful human connections, and what exactly being ‘future-ready’ means

In early May, our Client Director Nicky Clark and Head of Consultancy Rika Banerji attended the HR Leaders Conference in Dubai. As platinum sponsors of the event, they had the fantastic opportunity to meet an abundance of HR leaders from across the globe.

As Nicky and Rika watched presentations, attended roundtables, and spoke to experts in hospitality and leisure, finance, healthcare, education and more, a pattern started to emerge. We’ve compiled the top 5 of these common themes right here, which explore the fundamentals of great leadership, the importance of meaningful human connections, and what ‘future-ready’ means to the HR leaders of today.

 1) Fitness and rest are rewarding

It’s said that there at 6 pillars of leadership: fitness, confidence, discipline, connection, competition and rest. To be a true leader, you need to have a blend of all six.

Confidence, discipline, competition and connection all go without saying, but keeping yourself fit and healthy whilst having down time, are just as important.

Fitness helps to moderate stress, bolster self-esteem and build resilience, whilst rest keeps morale and performance levels up. Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that we get stronger when we sleep? In fact, if you have less than 7 hours of sleep for 2 consecutive nights, your performance depreciates by 12.1% (And no, sleeping extra over the weekend won’t make up for the lost time come Monday morning!).

Whilst these leadership traits aren’t something that we measure historically or equate to success, they are more important than anything else. Leaders working overtime will under perform versus leaders who take the proper time out to take care of their body, so remember, fitness and rest, are rewarding.

 2) Foster human connections

There’s no underestimating the power of human connection. Statistically, those who are connected at work earn more, and even live longer lives! Plus, if leaders themselves are connected directly to their people, they’ll also make more profit. According to Gallup, these leader could earn up to +23% more.

That’s why it’s critical to know and understand your people. Managers who are close to their teams and their lives, know their challenges and what’s happening in their world will get more out of their people.

Human-centric experience is all about putting your employees at the heart of every decision you make. You should treat your employees as you would any client or customer and be present in the big moments that matter throughout their careers, and everyday lives. By doing this, leaders will build stronger connections, increase happiness levels, and reap the business benefits of increased retention, productivity and profitability.

 3) Two ears, one voice

Many people are quick to ask questions, but don’t actively listen to the answer. The action that follows on is important for true engagement.

Picture this, for example. A hotel mystery shopper stayed at a hotel. From the outset, they are made to feel like a VIP by every member of staff, from the front desk, security, and even the cleaner. As they moved through the hotel, everybody says ‘Great to see you again!’. It made the mystery guest feel appreciated and valued, but how could the staff possibly know that he had stayed there before? It’s simple. The hotel had a different coloured key for repeat guests. An easy but genius solution, created not by brand or marketing executives, but the front of house team.

This is a perfect example of truly listening to your people. Everyone within an organisation is important, and often the very best ideas come from those closest to the customer, the manufacturing process, or in technological development.

Never underestimate the power of these people. Set up listening groups, innovation labs, and suggestion boxes. Encourage sharing. They will feel more empowered, and ideas and innovations will flourish when people are truly listened to.

 4) Create connections and time with tech

HR leaders are the glue behind any brilliant business, which is why their time is so precious. Technology can join the dots to identify common challenges that can be fixed. It allows you to take a step back and view your business at a macro level.

As a HR leader, you have the remarkable and rare power to create an environment of healthy and happy people. Bringing innovative technology into your business will help you to reclaim HR time, so that you can focus on this, and foster the right culture for business performance.

Your people are your most valuable asset, so being connected to all areas of the organisation is critical. Embrace technology for good, and it will allow you to both save time and connect everyone with ease, therefore giving you more time for the human element of HR.

 5) Make strategy simple

Strategies can be big, lofty concepts for many employees to grasp. As HR leaders, it’s our role to communicate corporate goals to every employee, and keep them engaged and make each individual focussed and proud of the big picture.

Take for example this small anecdote. In 2003, the foundations for the Burj Khalifa were underway. As the architects visited the site, they observed a fence being erected around the excavation. When the architects asked the workers what they were doing, they all began to reply in the same way: “We’re building a fence”. The disappointed architects returned to their cars, but as they did so, a person approached them and asked “Can you please ask me the same question you asked my colleagues?”. So, of course they did. The response? “I am building the tallest building in the world!”. Now that’s what the architects were hoping for!

Many employees have access to the CEO and board through events and employee comms. It’s harder to access middle management and quite often this is where most problems sit. It’s easy to access those serving, from shop and factory floors, to flight crew, to the reception team. Why not ask them if they understand their role in achieving business goals?

Understand the world of your employees, and find ways to make the connection to strategy easy and relevant. If employees grasp their role, purpose and ultimately their connection to the strategy, you will have more engaged and motivated team members who feel a sense of pride in what they do.

Is the culture you have, the culture you need?

Ask yourself this question. Is everything the best it could be? Could you be doing more, or changing your culture completely?

Culture is an ecosystem of both tangible and intangible customs, cues and codes in an organisation. It’s that ‘how we do things around here, and what it feels like’ feeling. Companies with strong culture have four times greater revenue growth than those who don’t. So, understanding yours is vital.

Take the time to know your culture, identify what makes it great, and the things you could improve on. Take the first step to explore your organisation’s culture, using our ’10 Levers of Culture’ diagnostic tool.


Want to learn more about how we can help you?

Get in touch with Nicky Clark, Client Director at  nicky.clark@mccannsynergy.com  and take your first steps in diagnosing your organisational culture.



Similar Articles

22 August 2023

Top Employer Branding Trends for 2023

Employer branding has made the cut on the list of strategic business priorities for many…


24 July 2023

Inspiring Diversity and Inclusion: Key Takeaways from the D&I Leaders Event

What we’ll cover in this blog:How sustainability, purpose and inclusion can all work seamlessly togetherThe…


20 July 2023

Building an Authentic Employer Brand: Overcoming Challenges and Maximizing Impact

What we’ll cover in this blog:The key challenges to building an authentic employer brandQuestions to…


4 July 2023

Key take-outs from the Internal Communications conference in London

We were thrilled to be part of the Internal Communications Conference which took place in…