Through the sharing of valuable insight, know-how and best practice examples this year’s conference explored, ‘Inclusive Talent Management – towards a new norm’.

This year’s conference was fantastic with some amazing speakers and some great insights. If you were there then hopefully you are in agreement. If you couldn’t make it then keep an eye out for future events.


Highlights and key takeaways 

HSBC case study

Professor Sue Vinnicombe CBE, Chair in Women and Leadership, Cranfield School of Management

Professor Kim Turnbull-James, Chair in Leadership and Executive Learning, Cranfield School of Management

  1. It’s a mixed story. Women on Boards is on target at 29% but female EDs have flatlined at 9.7%
  2. Traditional approaches to dealing with improving gender balance include diversity websites, women’s networks, unconscious bias training and women’s leadership programmes. But we've got to have radical change and radical action.
  3. It’s a leadership problem, not a talent management problem.
  4. It used to be ‘think manager, think male’. Now it’s ‘think leader, think full time’. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Kim Turnbull-James shared an example of job share CEO role and the benefits of collaborative working.


Engaging men as allies

Professor Kim Turnbull-James, Chair in Leadership and Executive Learning, Cranfield School of Management

Dr Andy Wood CBE DL (DBA 2007), Chief Executive, Adnams Plc

  1. How do we develop and grow our business? It’s about the way we develop talent in a male-dominated industry. Adnams main board is 40% female.
  2. Andy Wood shared Adnam’s inspiring ‘Mop to the top’ story.
  3. What about middle managers? Leaders have to call the behaviours and have the difficult conversations, they have to be true to their, and the organisation’s values. Leaders have to put the work in, it doesn’t happen by osmosis.
  4. Be prepared to call out language that excludes in a non-confrontational way. It’s about adult-to-adult conversations.
  5. Adnams is consistently learning, and designing roles for people that want to work in different patterns – both male and female. "To be competitive we have to do things differently." - Andy Wood.


Talent: Too scarce to waste! Being a great employer for employees with disabilities and working carers

Professor David Grayson CBE, Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield School of Management

Alice Maynard CBE (DBA 2007), Director, Future Inclusion

Geoff McDonald, Former Global VP HR Unilever; International Advocate, Campaigner and Consultant for Mental Health in the Workplace and Co-Founder of Minds@Work

Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation, Carers UK

  1. The panel discussed why we should be more proactive in employing people with disabilities.
  2. Organisations that attend to employees physical, emotional and mental needs have more engaged employees and that results in reduced absenteeism, lower costs, and improved performance.
  3. People work better when they feel safe and well. – Madeline Starr
  4. Where are the big opportunities to improve the job opportunities for disabled people? “Make space for people thrive,” says Alice Maynard. But it’s not easy to do it well.
  5. “Billions on health and safety, and it all goes to safety – when should we apply it to mental health?” - Geoff McDonald
  6. The challenge is for organisations to able to say we know we are creating more demanding workplaces, we are going to show you a duty a care and put in support to help you maintain and enhance your mental health.
  7. If you can’t do the small talk with disabled people about disability in the workplace, you won’t be able to do the big talk.
  8. Business cases don’t move an organisation. It’s about an emotional connection and telling a story about their caring responsibility, mental health and employing people with disabilities that moves organisations.


Embracing the next generation of talent

Professor Emma Parry, (MSc Applied Psychology 1996, PhD Applied Psychology 2000) Professor of Human Resource Management, Group Head (Changing World of Work) and Director of Doctoral Programmes (Leadership and Management), Cranfield School of Management

Alexandra Goat, CEO, Livity

Hannah Owens, Programme Manager, Livity

  1. Emma Parry opened with, ‘How useful is it talking about generations?’
  2. Attitudes towards work are changing but the evidence suggests long-term trends in attitudes over time, not step-changes between generations
  3. Generational differences are very overstated yet many employers are changing practices based on these. Segmenting workforce by generation is not the best practice.
  4. The Western categories are not universal across countries, nor is gender or social class.
  5. It’s about life stage, not generation. Some things stay the same no matter what your age.
  6. Tips from Alexandra Goat and Hannah Owens of Livity: Avoid tokenism, act beyond a single vertical, invest time in outreach partners, focus on retention and move from flexible hours to flexible roles.
  7. Embrace the side hustle, let people follow their passions.
  8. Reverse mentoring, line management support and coaching, and collaborative projects let people go from having a voice to having their voice heard.
  9. Don’t open up channels of communication and then not do anything with them or the ideas they generate. - Alexandra Goat


Ethnicity on Boards

Doyin Atewologun (PhD in the School of Management 2011, MRes Management Research 2008) Visiting Fellow, Cranfield School of Management

Monica Chadha (Residential Executive Development Programme 2013) Deputy Chair, Queen Mary University of London

Ann Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute

David Tyler, Chairman, Sainsbury’s 

  1. Ethnicity on Boards is a complex challenge, not a complicated technical challenge.
  2. The panel discussed how are the ethnicity on Boards and gender on Boards agendas both similar and different? It’s similar in that it’s about broadening the scope away from the default, it’s about having conversations, and sponsorship. It’s different in that women make up 51% of the population, they are not a minority.
  3. Need to move beyond the nomenclature. We have to be sensitive about labels. Ask people how would you like me to refer to you? Have the guts to have the conversation. - Monica Chadha
  4. Whatever the background of the people around you, if you’re a senior person you need to create an open culture and not create barriers.
  5. Recognise that you need to make interventions and disrupt the system. Be willing to talk about it. Organisations need to make it OK for their people to make mistakes.
  6. Acknowledge ethnicity is an issue, we have an obligation to include all people in the conversation, otherwise, nothing will change. Embrace difference emotionally at work. – Ann Francke
  7. We are living at the right time. Create your chances, increase your visibility and establish your credibility. If you really want to do it, go out and do it. If you don’t, don’t. Be authentic. Do it because you believe in it. – Monica Chadha
  8. We need to challenge and think: Is this good enough? Does our Board make-up reflect society? We need to continue to make changes. It takes time, it’s not a quick fix. – David Tyler


Q&A with Andy Maguire

Andy Maguire, Group Managing Director and Group Chief Operating Officer, HSBC

  1. The challenge for HSBC was to pick one challenge and go big on it. There is still a long way to go when it comes to women in leadership, but we’re working hard to achieve our goals. I can only fix the part of the organisation I’m responsible for. 
  2. Working to make change in a large organisation – as a leader get on the floor and find out the truth. Work top down and bottom up. Be values orientated.
  3. You and your team need to demonstrate the behaviours and values. Then say, come to see, come to look, and see why everyone should be doing it. Push horizontal and then push up.
  4. Role models work better to change behaviours than incentives and reward systems. It’s a recognition topic, not a reward topic.


View our conference photos

Cranfield Alumni Conference 2018


On behalf of Cranfield’s Alumni Relations and Development team, a very sincere thank you goes out to Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE, who chaired the conference, and to HSBC for hosting the event. 

For those who couldn’t get tickets, you can register to get a notification when the audio podcasts become available in late November.