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How can organisations develop leaders and teams capable of innovating in an online world? Featured executive speakers from Google, Zalando, Deutsche Telekom, and Spotify gave their insights on ‘The Future of Work, Teams, and Talent for Innovation’, with a focus on empowering the workforce, nurturing collaborative virtual teams, and instilling a safe environment.

Designed for an international audience of corporate innovation and HR leaders, the online workshop was organised by the InnovationRoundtable, the leading international network for innovation executives in multinational firms. Dr. Karina R. Jensen (NEOMA), renowned as an academic leader in the areas of global innovation and leadership, was invited to moderate and speak at the workshop. She shares here what came out of it.

Transforming the Workforce for Future Resilience

With a focus on empowering the workforce, Svitlana Bielushkina, Global VP of Talent and Future Skilling at Deutsche Telekom responsible for upskilling and reskilling training initiatives shared the importance of tapping into the entire workforce through resilience, a holistic talent strategy, and learning journeys. During our Fireside Chat that followed, when asked about future competencies, Svitlana noted the importance of a growth mindset and the balance of soft and hard skills.

Change is a Journey – Building a Culture in a Remote Environment

Karolina Lewandowska, the Global Change and Transformation Lead at Google has advised and supported the transformation of the digital workplace and empowered Google employees on their transformation journey. She noted the importance of managing change by keeping teams connected and organized through frequent updates. Google is working 100% remotely and ensures teams can adopt and share new practices online through the latest technology tools.

How can leaders and teams innovate and collaborate for global impact?

During the roundtable discussion, I led participants in a Sparks exercise to explore how leaders and teams can innovate and collaborate for high performance. I gave a brief talk to explain how my research has demonstrated the importance for leaders and teams to make online connections in order to share knowledge and inspire ideas. After a lively discussion and de-briefing, participant discoveries and new ideas included an interactive meeting agenda and process as well as creative ways to introduce icebreakers and social encounters, including a virtual café and team challenge.

Accelerating the Future of Work through Culture and Leadership

Thibaut Pugin, Vice President of People Products at Zalando, noted the future of work is not going to be solved only through technologies. His talk emphasized the human aspect of culture and leadership behaviors that contribute to an inclusive environment. Leaders with empathy and fairness have increased the employee engagement scores at Zalando during the past year. It was interesting to learn about his view on the future role of leadership where he feels the nature of online interactions starts with human connections.

Advice to team leaders for future success of online collaboration

The virtual workshop concluded with a panel session that I moderated with speakers Karolina Lewandowska of Google, Thibaut Pugin of Zalando, and Gitte Klitgaard, Tribe Coach at Spotify. When they were asked to provide advice to team leaders on successful online collaboration, the key points included:

  • Interactive discussions,
  • Developing trust and safety
  • Personal and social mixers
  • Role modelling
  • A common goal

And of course the challenge of balancing a hybrid model, the need for both online and physical presence according to team preferences should be taken into account.

In concluding the workshop, the speakers shared one message each which can be summarized with three key words: vulnerability, psychological safety, and empathy. The speakers insights, discussions, and discoveries from the roundtable exercise have demonstrated the future of work and talent will require the development of leadership, culture, empathy and inclusion.


By Dr. Karina R. Jensen, Professor of Global Innovation and Leadership and Practice Director of the Centre for Leadership and Effective Organisations at NEOMA business School


About the event

The sessions organized by the InnovationRoundtable feature speakers from leading companies with occasional invitations to academic leaders who can offer specific expertise for the workshops. Through Dr. Jensen’s participation in the The Future of Work online session held on September 29, 2020, NEOMA Business School joined the ranks of the few, prestigious business schools that have participated in the past such as CEIBS, Manchester Business School, London Business School, and Harvard Business School.