MONDAY 13 FEB 2017 11:54 AM


Employee engagement was the order of the day as London-based culture and engagement agency, Bridge Training and Events, set up in the Courthouse Hotel, Shoreditch on 31 January. Championing the value of promoting internal culture and collaboration in organisations, BridgeCon 2017 featured speakers from organisations as diverse as Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Council.

This year’s conference and following Hackathon highlighted the pressing nature of employee happiness and workplace engagement. How employers are best placed to foster the adequate environment for this to flourish was a discussion thread which ran throughout the day.

With its array of speakers covering all manner of workplace values and behaviours, BridgeCon covered the variety of meanings ‘internal culture’ can have. One perception of internal culture, of employees working toward a common goal, was particularly encapsulated in a morning panel discussion.

Named ‘Let’s build great places to work,’ the three speakers were led by Tamsin Fox-Davies, senior marketing manager and head of content at HR-based start-up hibob. Featuring an impassioned discussion on the importance of inclusion, Fox-Davies’ admission that, “When you join a business, it’s like joining a family” reflected perfectly in how the panel’s three speakers are instrumental in ensuring their employees are content in their aims.

Catherine Allen, of organic baby and toddler food producers Ella’s Kitchen, was introduced as ‘Head of keeping people happy.’ For Allen, giving her team clear reasons to feel proud and understand them as individuals allowed her, through her job role, to strengthen the Ella’s Kitchen culture from the inside out. Similarly, Andrea Wareham, HR director at lunchtime food chain Pret A Manger, described how Pret employees are hired based on their behaviours and values. While their ability to create delicious sandwich is obviously important, Wareham says, that’s something that can be learned. Natural etiquette, however, cannot.

And such etiquette includes sensitivity to cultural differences. Tested during last year’s European Referendum, Wareham explains how Pret was honest with its employees, many of whom are European. The company worked as hard as possible to ensure some of the fractious divisions of the Brexit aftermath did not translate to the shop floor and, in turn, affect Pret’s internal culture.

After many practical steps to securing a strong internal culture, BridgeCon welcomed a more holistic approach to happiness later in the afternoon. A ‘Wellness in the workplace’ talk by Cathy Dixon, wellbeing specialist, highlighted how resilience is integral in maintaining an individual capacity and can be aided by practising mindfulness. Stress is an epidemic, explains Dixon. Only by creating a healthy environment is healthy engagement fostered.

Director of creation at Bridge Training and Events, Dale Smith, says, "BridgeCon is a fantastic event for delegates to keep up with latest trends in culture and engagement – something we are passionate about at Bridge as a people agency. We believe that changing minds changes business, and BridgeCon gives delegates new ideas to get them thinking differently about engaging their teams, as well as the opportunity to meet peers in the industry."

Welcomed by personalised macarons on each table, the atmosphere of inclusion at BridgeCon 2017 was not confined only to the speakers’ stage. Increasingly, new employees look not only at as company’s external reputation, but its internal too. BridgeCon 2017 proved this is a trend which looks set to continue.