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Employee Engagement

How to build an inspiring workplace

Written by
Suzi Archer

Key Insights from The Workplace Inspirathon ’23 

If you looked back a few years, the workplace was predominantly a place for optimal productivity and not much else.

Now, however, workplaces are starting to realize the benefits of creating people-first workplaces, and how they can inspire, motivate and retain employees.

It’s no longer about creating a production chain of worker bees but creating a community to thrive.

This is something we, at Huler, have prioritized over recent years, resulting in us being named a Global Top 100 Inspiring Workplace earlier this year.

But what is an inspiring workplace, really? And how do you build one?

The recent Inspiring Workplace Inspirathon brought together experts from various fields to share their insights and strategies to answer just that, and below you’ll find our key takeaways from the event to help you build an effective strategy of your own  

Employer Brand

Martina Quinn from Alice Public Relations presented a great session on building and promoting your employer brand.  

It emphasized the significance of an employer brand that resonates with your team, sharing some core principles to consider:  


An authentic employer brand means celebrating what truly matters to your team, all year round. This can include supporting progressive causes like LGBTQ+ rights and other issues close to their hearts. 

Purpose and values 

Your employer brand should closely align with your organization’s purpose and values, which means regularly visiting them to ensure they remain meaningful and tangible. It’s important that you avoid any discrepancies between your consumer and your employer brand.   


Recognize that your employees have lives outside of work and aim to accommodate their personal responsibilities. 


Empower your employees by trusting them to make significant decisions and contribute to the company’s growth. 

Passion Projects 

Encourage passion projects, such as supporting charitable causes, and provide time during work hours for employees to contribute. 

“Organic endorsement from your team is the most valuable asset for your employer brand.” 

Boundary Setting

Rachel Pipan’s (Maneuvre) session entitled “Why I banned my team from responding when offline – and why you should too” shared key insight around setting boundaries in a world inundated with communication tools.

Reactivity (the need to reply straight away), and communication tools were creating lots of distractions leading to fragmented, unfocused work.

As a result, they decided to implement an ‘Offiline Response Ban’.

This was essentially a company-wide policy that banned responding to messages when offline.

This decision was driven by the drain of 24/7 communication, which was stifling creativity and focus whilst affecting employees and their ability to recharge during the holidays.  

As a result, the policy included turning off notifications and clearly defining criteria for what is classed as ‘urgent’ and would require a response.  

The team did have some issues with implementation which led to some key learnings: 

Clearer definitions  

There was some confusion about what ‘offline’ meant, and why going offline was essential for both employees and the business so they worked hard to clearly define what ‘offline’ meant, such as vacation time.  

Breaking free of rewarding fast responses 

Employees often found it challenging to break free from the engrained reward system, where quick responses, at all hours of the day, prove dedication to the role and their value, rather than focused work, so work was done with managers and teams to break free from this culture, re-educating how to reward teams and when. 

The “Why Chart” 

To address misunderstandings, a “why chart” was created, identifying blockers and misconceptions which helped to clarify expectations.  

Enforcing Boundaries 

Addressing issues such as siloed communication, clients’ expectations of ultra-fast responses, and the need for employees to find information independently, the company successfully enforced clear and effective boundaries that worked for the needs of the business.  

Engaging Gen Z Talent

Helene Williamson from All Saints shared their challenges in retaining young Gen Z talent, and why making their careers meaningful was paramount.   

Typically, they were seeing high volumes of young talent leave the business which was costing £2500 in lost productivity per departing employee, so it was clear they needed to reduce this cost by investing in a talent retention strategy.  

They mapped out a clear strategy, which included:

Creating a talent utopia 

All Saints aimed to create a workplace that would build a strong connection between talent and the brand through effective communication, fostering a sense of belonging, feeling valued, appreciated, and interconnected. 

World-class working environments 

They initiated something called ‘Project Amazing’ which involved creating a world-class working environment that treated time off as an investment in talent retention and offered things like shift patterns, regular face-to-face time, store visits to build connections with frontline employees, and creating development opportunities.  

Upskilling leadership  

Clear generational gaps were identified, particularly in leadership’s approach to collaboration. As a result, every team member was encouraged to share a common purpose with their leaders, and leadership responsibilities were no longer confined to one specific individual.   

Reconnecting to Purpose 

The team recognized that they were in the ‘business of feelings’ and aimed to make employees feel empowered to create meaningful experiences for their customers. 

Whilst there was some resistance from executive teams, mostly because of generational gaps, the positive results they’d seen from this work proved the return from initiatives like this and the importance of adapting the workplace for the talent of the future. 

Employee Wellbeing

Jessica Badley, from the British Society for Rheumatology addressed the delicate balance between well-being and productivity. 

They found that employees who are often passionate about their work struggle to say no to additional work and projects, or struggle to allocate time for personal development which often leads to burnout, and in turn, poor productivity.  

To resolve these challenges, the company spoke to employees and managers and found that there was a strong lack of understanding around expectations.  

To resolve this, they delivered capacity planning training, implemented capability check-ins, shifted their focus from being activity-based to impact-based, and empowered trust and autonomy.  

Development Initiatives

Nurturing talent through development initiatives can have a significant impact on your workplace, something that Kirsten Mayer at Cielo emphasized.   

Through feedback surveys, Cielo were able to better understand the requirements of their employees and develop a combination of internal and external development initiatives.   

Internal programs focused on organizational alignment and talent and development, such as goal tracking.  

Whereas their external programs involved tools like Country Navigator and Social Talent to develop a global cultural competence.

Effective communication was crucial to their success, as well as taking the time to truly understand employee needs and equipping leaders and employees with the tools required for success.  

Leaders, for example, conducted performance discussions to delve into development goals, whilst employees were given ownership of their goals and aspirations.  

To achieve maximum impact, they measured the success of the initiative using a variety of metrics, including retention rates, goal achievement, industry benchmarking, online reviews, and industry recognition.  


Lucy Wilson from ‘Home’, delivered an inspired session that shared the key focus areas for improving their overall employee experience and creating a happier workplace.  

After conducting some initial surveys, and listening to their employees they identified that many employees felt leaders weren’t transparent or employees were unheard.

They identified 6 key areas of focus which they created initiatives for purpose, vision, listening, leadership, well-being and belonging.

Lucy did emphasize, however, that when it comes to employee experience, listening should always be your starting point because it becomes your map and allows you to shift your culture effectively.  

Similarly, creating meaningful work that showed a clear impact had a significant impact on employee well-being. 


Lastly, Phil Burgess and Felix Koch from ‘WITHIN’ presented a session on the importance of connection, and provided some practical strategies to build a culture of connection.  

Connectivity had a direct impact on their engagement levels, motivation, creativity, and overall productivity, but alarmingly, 65% of their workforce felt less connected as a result of the pandemic. 

To combat that, they created five steps for building better connections:  

  • Teach people how to connect effectively  
  • Prioritise connectivity 
  • Repurpose regular meetings for coffee connections 
  • Create rituals to enhance better connection 
  • Bake connection into the existing corporate infrastructure  
  • Keep things personal

    Creating a positive employee experience significantly influences engagement and retention rates within an organization, and is something we’ve experienced first-hand at Huler. In my afternoon session, I shared how we humanized and personalized each stage of the employee journey and the impact that this had on engagement.

    Humanize HR 

    Personalizing and humanizing things like policies and company handbooks to reflect our brand helped us to set the tone for who we are and our values.

    By infusing things like guides and policies with relatable, approachable language ensures that employees feel a strong connection to the company’s ethos, helping to foster a sense of belonging.

    Utilizing technology 

    Using technology to personalize your processes and experiences is a great way to create consistency and make your employees feel valued and integrated into the company.

    For example, using technology to create personalized recruitment and onboarding journeys so that they have access to information and content most relevant to them and their role.


    By looking holistically at every interaction, policy, system or procedure your employees encounter to identify ways you can personalize the experience to your company and your employees is fundamental in embedding the company’s culture in every aspect of their experience.

    This continuous humanization, whether through technology or policy, ensures that the organization’s values remain at the forefront, positively impacting employee engagement and retention rates.

    The key takeaway

    Creating an inspiring workplace requires a multifaceted approach.

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution because every workplace is different, but what was clear, is the success of these workplace transformations was in their ability to take things back to basics and listen to their employees. That way, they were able to truly understand the needs of their employees to identify appropriate strategies – whether that be nurturing talent, prioritizing wellbeing, setting boundaries, or fostering connection.

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