Change, Culture, and Collaboration in the New World of Work
Change, Culture, and Collaboration in the New World of Work

As the MERITS Summit and Awards vol. 1 is behind us, what are some of the lessons learnt? After two days of eye-opening keynotes, interactive workshops, and impactful case studies, let us highlight the major themes explored by our speakers.

The MERITS Summit and Awards continues in September 2021, when even more thought leaders and inspirational guests will convene in Lisbon, Portugal for a much-anticipated face-to-face conference. We look forward to welcoming you in person.

Embracing the changes to come in the next decades

“Change” is one of the words that will be associated with the past two years for a long time to come. Yet Covid-19 did not start anything new. The pandemic amplified what was already happening as 2019 kicked off the global crisis, said Dr Mark Esposito, Clinical Professor of Global Shifts and the Fourth Industrial Revolution at Thunderbird School of Global Management. He highlighted eight global trends that will continue to have an impact on the world until 2035. Among them are the increasing reliance on real-time data and AI, the jump in automation, and the hybridisation of work.

How do we come to terms with these shifts? In short, people do not like change, as Professor Stefano Brusoni, Co-Director EMBA – ETH Zurich and University of St.Gallen (embaX), noted. But the good news is that we can work on our attitude to change. The need for change is obvious and this is why it is so important to understand how we can overcome resistance to change on an individual level. He went on to suggest several design principles L&D programmes should implement.

Learning to treat culture as a metric of success

Hani Nabeel, Chief Behavioural Scientist, iPsychTec, looked at culture as a living organism, which has the power to profoundly impact how people in organisations behave. He examined the importance of a healthy organisational culture for driving customer satisfaction, digital transformation, and innovation. Yet almost everybody neglects creating an organisational culture plan, he pointed out. We need to start treating culture as any other metric of success – financial or operational.

Facilitating virtual collaboration and empathetic leadership

PeopleSmart’s Chris Pether, CEO & Founder, and Michael Banks, Principal Consultant, empowered workshop participants to explore psychological safety, collaboration, and smart leadership. Together, they came up with strategies for ensuring psychological safety at work. Some of the best practices include leaders sharing their mistakes with their teams, nurturing mistake tolerance, one-on-one sessions backed by action, and creating an environment where asking for help is possible. They also touched upon difficult topics such as burnout, which has been amplified as a result of the pandemic.

In another interactive workshop, Brandy Aven, Associate Professor at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, dived into the field of people analytics. She went over its basic components, insightful industry cases studies, and relevant tools. With people analytics, Brandy Aven emphasised, the key is starting to think of your employees as customers. How do you serve all their touchpoints with the organisation in a way that maximises their experience?

Executive coach and author Peter Ivanov discussed the set of factors that fuel the power of virtual teams. As work from home (in some cases 60% or more), rotation, and hybrid models are currently in place, the leadership challenge now is how to support individual productivity and enable collaboration, communication, and co-creation. Building a solid foundation of psychological safety, structuring the communication, igniting and maintaining the winning spirit – these are all essential elements of the puzzle.

Finding inspiration from initiatives in organisational, leadership, and people development

In 2021, MERIT is introducing the MERITS Awards – a new, exciting opportunity for leaders in HR, Talent, L&D, and Executive Education. The awards are designed to recognise achievements and impactful initiatives in organisational, leadership, and people development. Has your organisation developed a learning programme that deserves recognition? Submit your entry to be included in the awards shortlist.

During the online conference, attendees already learnt about some of the initiatives that will compete for the MERITS Awards.

Charlotte Boujassy, HR L&D – Manager European Talent Development at Daiichi Sankyo Europe, presented the European Top Talent Programme (ETTP). What was designed to be a typical hybrid programme with fancy onsite workshops had to adapt to Covid-19.

Tiffany Poeppelman, Director Business Leadership Program, LinkedIn, introduced attendees to the Business Leadership Program (BLP). It was created in 2013, but needed more flexibility in light of the pandemic.

For Martin Barner, Head People & Organization, Sandoz AG, Novartis Campus, the initiative started in 2018 when Novartis created a year-long journey programme called the Unbossed Leadership Experience.

Yannis Koutroulis, Senior Leadership and HRD Consultant, Deutsche Telekom, contributed another fascinating case study called Digital Escape Rooms. Starting with design thinking and ideation workshops, his team was able to develop the initiative – a gamified light learning format.

Driving engagement and wellbeing in times of uncertainty

With her closing keynote, Diana Sonnenberg, Associate Principal & Director Client Experience at Gallup Germany, ended the conference by presenting the latest research on wellbeing at the workplace.

The harsh truth is that most people are not actively engaged in their jobs, she had to point out. Yet expectations towards the workplace are changing. It is not just millennials who are looking for purpose in their jobs, it is everyone. Employees also expect to have a performance review more than once a year. They want coaching, ongoing conversations, and feedback.

Diana outlined some of the most important management tasks in times of crisis. For example, it is important to be crystal clear about priorities and expectations. People also need to be free from unnecessary stress. One of the biggest drivers of stress is not having everything needed to do the job well, Diana highlighted. Finally, great managers help people see why they matter within the organisation.


The MERITS Summit and Awards vol. 1 was full of spectacular insights, revelatory L&D initiatives, and optimistic notes for the new world of work. It made us look forward to Volume 2, when we will finally be able to meet again in person. Join fellow HR and L&D thought leaders on 8-9 September 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal and share the inspiration.


By Zornitsa Licheva