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The workplace of today looks very different to what it was a decade ago. New technologies, the rise of hybrid working and shifting demographics have influenced the business environment significantly, as organisations strive to adapt to the social, technological and physical needs and expectations of employees.

For the first time, five generations make up the current workforce, with each generation bringing a unique set of experiences, attitudes, and values.

Working parameters continue to be redefined by businesses as employees pursue more flexibility in where and how they work – changing the structure of talent and work across almost every industry sector.

The shifting dynamics between employer and employee are fuelling labour market challenges, guiding trends such as the “great resignation”, “quiet quitting” and the “upskilling imperative”. And although many firms have shown remarkable resilience under such exceptional circumstances, this unsettling landscape is challenging talent management strategies across the globe.

According to a new Microsoft survey, 52% of Gen Z and Millennials were likely to consider changing employers in 2022 (up 3% from 2021). Accessing and retaining the right talent is arguably one of the most important business issues facing leaders today. So how can leaders empower talent in this new era of work?

Three renowned thinkers and business leaders; René Carayol MBE (internationally renowned keynote speaker) Caroline van der Feltz (HR Director, Danske Bank UK) and Barry Winkless (Head of the Future of Work Institute and Chief Strategy Officer at CPL Group) explored this question at a recent leadership event in Belfast, organised by the Management and Leadership Network.

In 2022, research by Visier found that over 40% of UK employees quit their jobs because of poor leadership.

The capabilities required of leaders to succeed in today’s diverse environment are being reshaped, with inclusive leadership emerging as a critical factor in helping organisations attract, inspire, and engage talent.

People and resources can be anywhere in the new working world and, as such, leaders need to be able to connect, engage, and adapt. Understanding and practising inclusive leadership will help managers and leaders move their organisations forward. Studies show that inclusiveness is one of the biggest drivers of business performance and directly improves employee productivity.

Harvard researchers found that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing and 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions.

Let’s look at some of the specific actions leaders can take to create inclusive workplaces:

  1. Promote a culture of lifelong learning – invest in training and skills development, encourage a variety of learning credentials (relevant degree programmes, apprenticeships, certificates of accredited learning, short courses) and provide your employees with the space and time to learn.
  2. Build trust – as a leader, establishing strong relationships and trust with your colleagues is one of the most important things you can do. Follow through on commitments, convey intent and approach situations with empathy.
  3. Define your purpose – we are living in the age of experience and it’s no longer enough to just have a ‘job’ or ‘career’. People want to work for organisations that provide meaningful experiences and help them on their journey of transformation.
  4. Foster an inclusive work environment – ask yourself, what am I doing for new staff joining my organisation from a different background to make them feel included? Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion among your team will promote equal opportunity. Leaders should prioritise creating inclusive and balanced working environments where everyone can bring their authentic self, where employees feel valued and heard.
  5. Adopt a skills-based approach – move beyond the idea of a ‘job’ and narrowly defining a person by their ‘role’. Instead, focus on the person and the skills and capabilities they bring to the workplace.

Authentic and inclusive leadership, diversity, upskilling and organisational culture are much more than buzzwords and are quickly becoming the core enablers of the talent equation.

At Ulster University Business School (UUBS), we work flexibly with organisations of all sizes and sectors to help them access and nurture talent to better leverage the skills and expertise in their business through advisory support on programme offerings to customised programmes, degree apprenticeships and targeted reskilling and upskilling courses.

For more information on UUBS’s portfolio of learning and development solutions, or if you would like to discuss specific organisational needs, please contact

Alternatively, check out our podcast to learn more about the strategies leaders can use to build more engaged and energised workforces.

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