Background - 04.05.2022 - 00:00
IGNITE aims to empower organizations to inspire and engage their employees more to drive employees to extraordinary levels of commitment to the organization. Therefore, this year's conference was themed "Value creation through employee engagement" and addressed sustainable workforce transformation, empathetic leadership, self-organization, and agile organizations, among other topics. The annual IGNITE Conference promotes the exchange between students and CEOs, founders, managers, and HSG alumni. Fifteen dedicated students organized this year's conference and brought twelve speakers to SQUARE in St.Gallen.
The conference began with an exciting keynote by Sophie Wade, founder and CEO of Flexcel Network LLC on the topic of New Work. With many inspiring anecdotes, Sophie Wade emphasized the importance of employee engagement, company culture, flexibility, and lifelong learning. Wade also presented her new book "Empathy Works", of which she also brought some copies and signed them for the participants. In her book, Wade explains why empathy is essential to increasing employee engagement and productivity, and how to incorporate empathy into your daily business routine and strengthen your empathy. After Wade's keynote and the first break, the event continued with various workshops on sustainable workforce transformation and the impact of artificial intelligence and new technologies on human resource management, and self-organization of companies with Alexander Senn from Siemens, Tim Urschinger from LIVESciences AG, Dr. Heidi Mittelbach and Rebekka Ryf from Intep and Pascal Dulex from FREITAG.
The individual workshops were followed by a lunch break before continuing with the Startup Panel. There, Andreas Slotosch of Beekeeper, Camilla Perotti of Planted Foods AG, and Jeanette Morath of reCIRCLE discussed creating a corporate culture that promotes employee engagement in a startup. The conversation was moderated by Dr. Simon Pfister, lecturer in financial management at HSG. The startups' different takes on measuring employee engagement were also interesting. While Beekeeper uses surveys and various KPIs to measure employee engagement which is even part of team leaders’ compensation, reCIRCLE does not measure the engagement and instead focuses even more on an open feedback culture. All panelists agreed that employee engagement is only possible with a clear corporate mission and purpose, as employees join a company because of the mission and purpose, but the corporate culture is later what makes employees stay. Therefore, corporate culture and mission are essential to increase employee engagement. Camilla Perotti concluded by advising the audience to look for a job that they would be happy and proud to talk about, even on the weekend.
The Startup Panel was followed by further workshops with Ivo Bättig from Unic and Sophie Wade. The latter taught the participants through various small exercises how to lead a team with empathy and gave them the framework "Think, Feel, Act". This means thinking about the other person's perspective first, then feeling the other person’s experiences, and lastly acting differently based on the insights gained about the other person's situation. Wade also gave practical advice on what habits to practice as an empathic leader. These include listening actively, finding common ground, accommodating employee preferences, welcoming different perspectives, and being accessible to employees.
Before the final keynote speech started, there was another opportunity to discuss the workshops with other participants while enjoying a piece of cake. The conference concluded with a speech by Christopher Tighe from Cisco Switzerland on the conference’s topic "Value Creation Through Employee Engagement" and another opportunity to network at SQUARE.
Victoria Lorenzen is a fourth-semester business administration student at the University of St.Gallen.
Photo: Victoria Lorenzen
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