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Forward, Pleo's first-ever digital summit

After months of planning, confirming over 30 speakers and creating a jam-packed agenda — Forward has officially wrapped, and what an inspiring day it was. 

We kicked off the day with some pretty important news, Pleo has just raised $200m! Making us the most-funded B2B spend management service in Europe, and even tripling our valuation bringing us to $4.7B.

And it was only upwards from here too. Our MC for the day was Nathalie Nahai, best-selling author and host of The Hive podcast, who also featured in two incredible fireside chats. We also heard from the industry leaders and the big thinkers from all over the globe on pressing topics that touch every aspect of the world of work. Here are our main takeaways from the day.

But before we jump in. We have some good news. By signing up, you can rewatch all of Forward’s sessions. You’re welcome!

The difference between ‘inclusion’ and ‘belonging’

In our People Panel discussing how we can create belonging in an organisation, Charlotte Sweeney, author of Inclusive Leadership, began the session with a difficult question.

In recent years, we’re seeing more and more companies add ‘belonging’ into diversity and inclusion roles. But what exactly is the difference between inclusion and belonging? 

Answering the question was Marc Mckenna-Coles, Spotify’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Lead. Here’s what he had to say:

“Inclusion is about creating an open environment, by bringing in different kinds of people and making sure they feel comfortable. The expansion of ‘belonging’ is really about how those individuals can thrive in themselves and how they can truly bring their uniqueness to the table.”

A company’s ‘impact’ should scale with the business

As we all know by now, the world of work is evolving. And so should some workplace terminology, just one example being Corporate Social Responsibility.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined as a 'self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders and the public.’

Alex Stephany, CEO and Founder of Beam, a UK-based charity helping homeless people get out the streets and back into work, believes that while this term is well-intentioned, it’s time for a change. Here’s what he had to say about the idea:

“I feel like tonally [CSR] comes from the 1980/’90s, a time when companies were just beginning to think about this idea that maybe they have obligations beyond just making money for their shareholders. I think we’ve moved well beyond that today so I prefer to think about ‘impact’ over CSR.”

The Radical Candor framework 

One of our leading speakers was Kim Scott, ​​author of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity and CEO Coach. Like a lot of us, Scott once had a terrible boss, a person who thought humiliating people was a good way to motivate them. This experience is what prompted her to research what makes a ‘good boss’.

In her Forward session, she spoke all about her framework, Radical Candor. So, what is this?

Radical Candor is the ability to ‘care personally’ and ‘challenge directly.’ This doesn’t sound so ‘radical’, but it’s incredibly rare. 

Kim Scott's Radical Candor framework

“Sometimes we remember to challenge but we forget to show that we care, and that is what I call ‘obnoxious aggression.’ And the Radical Candor framework is not ‘obnoxious aggression,’ it doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you want.”

Managing with this framework in mind allows you to challenge your co-workers efficiently, without running the risk of obnoxious aggression and unprofessional behavior. “A failing of many organizations is the lack of honest communication.”

A good leader has the same mental qualities as an Arctic explorer

Pen Hadow, Arctic Explorer and Ocean Conservationist, another Rockstar Speaker, walked us through some of his impressive pioneering experiences including his exhibitions to the North Pole after a failed attempt in 1989. 

But it’s this ‘failing’ that got Hadow to eventually travel to the North Pole, multiple times. 

“You can’t just apply lots of positive mental attitude and muscles and just assume you’re going to do it ‘because that’s the sort of person I am.’ It’s very important that that’s in the mix, but if you’re relying too heavily on that and not enough on competence and a real understanding of all the issues that need to be grasped and resolved, you’re only minimising your risk.”

Just like this exhibition, leadership requires more than just a positive mental attitude. It takes perseverance, experience and being prepared to fail.

Fun fact: Hadow is the only person to have trekked solo, and without resupply by third parties, from Canada to the Geographic North Pole. 

Resilience before efficiency. Always 

The pandemic has taught us many things about the world of work, specifically what is robust and what is fragile. Our Forward Product Panel explained that now is the time to build for resilience and not just for efficiency. 

Lidia Oshlyansky, Chief Product Officer at Bought by Many, raised early on in the discussion that our entire global distribution networks are incredibly fragile. After all, it only takes one ship to get stuck in a canal to delay shipments worldwide, costing $400 million an hour.

Robert Chokr, Product Director at Delivery Hero added to this point about why resilience should always come before efficiency. “All companies have been focusing on efficiency, and that doesn't allow you to build redundancy or resilience within the system because building redundancy is not efficient. Yet, we have systemic risk.”  

Mental health should be treated like physical health at work

Geoff McDonald, Co-founder of Minds@Work was one of our Top Speakers at Forward whose session was all about how we can elevate wellbeing to a strategic priority in workplaces.

More often than not, you’ll probably think twice before taking a mental health day off at work. But would you do the same if you were suffering from a physical illness, like the flu? Or a migraine? In fact, sometimes ‘mental health’ days are almost viewed as a company perk, which shouldn’t be the case. 

“How can that be in the twenty-first century? How can that be when we’re all mental, all physical, all emotional? Yet we live in a world where I speak to you right now, there are billions and billions of people all over the world suffering in silence.

Workplace culture matters more than ever

The way we work is changing. The way we look for work is also changing. In our People People Panel discussing how we can truly measure business success, Daniel Chait, CEO of Greenhouse said there’s an extreme war for talent happening. 

So what is the key to retaining your talent? 

“Culture is a huge driver of success, what else have you got? It’s certainly not compensation. Everybody knows that your best employee can always get a 10% raise at a new job. So why would they choose to stay at your company? It’s a combination of financial reward, their career growth, the community and that they connect with your mission — those are the things that really matter. “

Want to catch up on all things Forward? You’re in luck. Our Replay feature means you have access to all the sessions from the day for free until March 8th, 2022. Sign up here to access this. If you're already signed up, you'll receive an email with a link.

We’ll see you again next year… 

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