Barry Winkless, CSO Cpl Group & Head of Future of Work Institute Cpl

Barry is Chief Strategy Officer of Cpl Group & head of the future of work institute. He is a thought leader on the future of work, strategic design, and business creativity. Over the past 25 years he has worked globally with some of the world’s most respected organisations and is a frequent author and speaker at numerous client and external events. As head of the future of work institute Barry leads a multidisciplinary team working globally to question, explore and design future work solutions with organisations. So, he isn’t just a speaker but is actively pushing the frontiers of the future of work every day in the real world.


Things look vastly different in the world of work. The very essence of what ‘work’ is, what constitutes a ‘job’ or what represents an ‘organisation’ is evolving at a rapid rate. Digital technologies are rewriting the rules of delivery & engagement. Aling with growing economic and environmental uncertainties there are exponential challenges for organisations trying to attract and retain the best talent globally (being popularised as the Great Resignation or Great Evaluation). In fact, never has talent been so high on the agenda of senior executives. From FOWI research over 85% of leaders are highlighting talent attraction, retention, and the employee experience as key priorities. A recent CIPD survey released in Autumn 2022 found that 46% of employers in the UK have hard-to-fill vacancies and 56% expected those vacancies to increase (within the next month).

In this ultra-competitive and evolving talent market leaders must deploy 3 strategies to succeed:

  • One– craft a meaningful employer story that is as exciting and as inclusive as possible (and get it to the right audience) 
  • Two– purposefully design and deploy a people value proposition that creates a competitive advantage 
  • Three– harness workforce innovation & professionalisation that broadens talent scope and uses best in class delivery models


Storytelling is often spoken about, yet rarely utilised to its full potential- particularly when it comes to telling the story of an organisation in a meaningful way to prospective employees (and indeed current employees). From our research only 15% of businesses have a fully formed employer brand and employer story, and even fewer are fully utilising the myriad of mediums and platforms to get their stories to the right audience. And yet this is in the context of an increasingly consumer-ised approach to job hunting- where a potential candidate will refer to at least 6-10 sources whilst researching an organisation for a new role.

‘Part of the role of a modern leader is to be a talent beacon for their business and embody its essence and uniqueness to current and future employees’ Lorna Conn, CEO, Cpl Group.

A good starting point on this story journey is the creation of a company ‘show bible’- an idea we at the Future of Work Institute borrowed from the concept of a TV series show bible used to pitch new shows to executives. This company show bible should capture the essence, the stories, the tone, the visuals, the context, the values, the culture and beyond to fully encapsulate the truth of an organisation for those working in it. Storytelling in this context needs to fully harness the various tools and ‘tricks’ of the story trade. For example, most great stories have some antagonist (s) or enemies. What are you fighting against? What are you trying to defeat in your culture? Asking these questions brings us to a more emotional and meaningful place. 


From experience we have learned that most companies don’t have a formalised approach to their people value proposition (PVP)- i.e., what value do current and prospective employees receive from working with that organisation. The same way we have formalised approaches to our customer propositions we need to apply the same level of thinking and continuous design to our people value proposition. And the canvas to play with is bigger than you might think. 

‘Leaders have an opportunity to purposefully design their organisations to be true destinations for talent. But they need to focus their efforts to achieve it’.  Barry Winkless, Future of Work Institute. 

We have identified 20 areas that can be purposefully designed to attract and retain talent. These areas cover everything from the obvious- Remuneration, Benefits & Perks to the not so obvious like Work-Life Balance. Social Capital, Innovation & Technology and Leadership Behaviours. Flexibility is a good example of a Work-Life area gaining a lot of attention that can be used as a mechanism to attract and retain talent. From our research across more than 1000 candidates, the vast majority felt that a 3/2 or 2/3 home/office split for flexible working was becoming a key differentiator for organisations. Even in small businesses there are areas that can be identified as an important value driver for current and future employees and further improved to be a key differentiator. A good first step is to map what are your current strengths are in relation to your people value proposition- what do people say is great about your company both internally and externally- and to initiate a formal process to create a roadmap of design to evolve the proposition overtime. 

Diagram 1 below highlights an example of a PVP assessment conducted across the 20 key areas mentioned by the FOWI in a technology organisation (generified) as a basis to create an overall PVP program and associated initiatives. This plot highlights the level of maturity & excellence across each key PVP areas. 

Figure 1: A PVP plot across 20 areas


What was initially striking in this project was the lack of consensus and alignment by the leadership team on what made their organisation unique and what areas of strength they had across the 20 areas. This was resulting in several internal engagement challenges and problems with the external amplification of the employer brand. And this organisation is not unique- it is a common finding in many of our PVP projects. 

Leaders must take control of their PVP and create a consensus view of the current and future model that will support the ongoing relevance of their organisation to key cohorts of people. It is not a stretch to say that the level of focus that is given to an organisations customer value propositions must at least be matched by the level of focus they give to their people value propositions. 


Workforce & Talent Solution innovation offers a genuine competitive advantage to organisations who purposefully harness it. In the same way companies focus on service, product and digital innovation, leaders can look to talent as a new frontier for innovation. Aine Fanning, Cpl TEG

To broaden talent pools and improve attraction & recruitment practices organisations must harness the latest thinking and solutions to be successful. This thinking needs to cover everything from moving away from traditional role models to skills-based models, focusing on internal development of existing employees, to deploying significant DE&I initiatives, to harnessing best in class talent solutions partners, and using new workforce models like gig, contracting and contingency. It also means a shift in the leadership mindset to recognise that talent attraction, regardless of where an organisation is based, is now truly global in scope, is very much data driven and must be experience centric. Multiple platforms and technologies are available across the talent value chain that can give greater insights, enhance the talent journey, and create seamless connectivity across attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, and retention. From our experience we often find that organisations would benefit from taking a more strategic perspective on their talent attraction and recruitment practices and to fully explore partnership and outsourcing opportunities to better harness talent innovation.


It’s time for leaders to step up and deploy a more structured and strategic response to talent attraction and retention. It needs to be focused on 3 core areas- employer story, people value proposition and workforce innovation- to win in an increasingly competitive and challenging talent market. 

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