OE Cam had the pleasure of speaking at the Ashtons Hays annual HR & Employment conference at Center Parcs on Wednesday 5th June.

The team delivered two interactive and live poll-powered talks.  Our first session was delivered by Dr Hazel McLaughlin on “Enhancing Diversity in Leadership” and our second session explored “Resilience & Wellbeing“, led by one of OE Cam’s Senior Consultant Business Psychologists, Toni Marshall.


Enhancing Diversity in Leadership

Hazel kicked off the day with some workplace truths about the makeup of leadership positions in terms of gender and ethnicity.  The diversity debate is often centred on women in leadership and the gender pay gap, however Hazel argued that diversity is about ‘working independently together’ and so there is a need to concentrate on a broader diversity & inclusion agenda. This agenda embraces diversity in all its forms; it goes beyond gender, age or ethnicity and includes difference in attitudes, beliefs and expectations. Culture and values matter and the quality of decisions is enhanced by embracing difference.

People tend to seek out people who are similar to themselves; not simply in terms of characteristics, but also in terms of identity, status, attitudes and beliefs.  However, if people in the team are too similar in outlook, they will make assumptions and may not challenge conventional practice.  They may co-operate well, but this may not lead to performance improvement, new ideas or business success.

“If people in the team are too similar in outlook , they will make assumptions and may not challenge conventional practice.  They may co-operate well, but this may not lead to performance improvement, new ideas or business success…”

When we review the psychology behind diverse teams we find that the outcomes are affected by how information is processed and the way in which the social and power dynamic works; how people view each other in terms of like-mindedness, status, power and position.  Only by having more diversity of thought within the team, can groupthink be challenged.

During the roundtable discussions, delegates had the opportunity to explore what was working well / less well for their particular organisation and shared best practice and new ways of working.  Practical interventions such as Unconscious Bias awareness training is a good place to start but it is not the whole solution.  To learn more, please see Hazel’s “Ten Top Tips for Enhancing Diversity in Leadership” and read Hazel’s latest article for The OE journal “Harnessing Diverse Mindsets: the Challenges and the Opportunities“.


Resilience & Wellbeing: Making the Most of Positive Psychology Interventions

After lunch, Toni Marshall took to the stage and began with ideas to harness the power of positive emotions at work as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.

As demonstrated by “Happiness Starts with a Smile“, positive emotions are contagious. With mental health related absenteeism on the rise, Toni explained that HR practitioners can improve employee wellbeing with the use of positive psychology techniques.  For example, encouraging colleagues to list ‘three things that have gone well this month’ is a great way to start team meetings.  Recognising what is going well and encouraging positive feelings helps develop the habit of ‘savouring’.  Positive thinking is also shown to open up the brain for greater innovation and creativity.

Positive psychology is a strand of psychology that aims to “understand, test, discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive” (Sheldon et al, 2000).  Instead of focusing on fixing the negative causes of stress within the workplace, positive psychology looks at the outliers as to why some employees are thriving and then builds on those factors.

What was particularly interesting in the debate amongst delegates today was the rise of ‘compassion fatigue’ – where Line Managers either shut down their own emotions or take on more negative feelings when dealing with particularly stressed members of their team.  Positive psychology techniques such as practising savouring or gratitude can help here” said Toni.

Toni continues “A holistic approach to wellbeing is really crucial. HR can support building resilience at the individual level but it’s also important to think about the content/control of workload and the role of leadership“.

For more information, please contact Toni Marshall at toni.marshall@oecam.com