An interview with Gethin Nadin

If you want to know about employee engagement, Gethin Nadin has long been a name that’s worth seeking out online. As well as working as Director of Global Partnerships at Benefex, a business he has been in since 2011 where he moonlights on their blog, covering everything from financial and mental wellbeing through to employee benefits, he has now taken the time to launch ‘A World of Good’ a book on employee engagement that’s already reached the Top 5 of Amazon UK’s HR books.

The book takes a look at employee engagement across the World and whilst an easy read that is likely to appeal to the MD, the HR pro and your benefits consultant alike, the book’s mission is to deliver insights, research and inspiring examples of how to transform and progress the experience of work for everyone.

With a pre-Christmas 2017 release date seeing the book ready to fill stockings of business professionals across the land and the book already storming up the charts, we wanted to get a quick catch up with Gethin to discuss the book and his experience of writing it.


You are a frequent speaker and writer on the subject of global employee engagement, employee experience and offer succinct advice in this area drawn from your career in the field. What made you want to create a book versus short form content or any other media? 

Despite the advances of technology and how it has changed almost every industry, people are still keen to cling onto physical books. This year ebook sales have continued to decline, especially among younger readers. I think our digital lives means people are yearning for something a bit different and the tactile nature of book is just a nicer reading experience than looking at a screen. I can’t wait to see weathered copies of my book, covered in scribbles and highlighted sections. I want to see that they were used – that’s why I’m delaying the ebook for a while. If I can persuade Morgan Freeman to be involved, there might be an audio version too!


What are your own reading habits in this area –  where do you find learnings that help you in your own business and what books have you read that really impacted how you view people in a business? 

I don’t read many HR books as I find most of them too clinical and most of the time they’re overly long. I like reading books about psychology that have lessons we can apply to the workplace. One of my favourites (and I quote it in my book) is ‘The Decisive Moment’ by Jonah Lehrer. Other books that could teach HR a few things but aren’t traditional HR books include ‘Scarcity: Why having too little means so much’ by Mullainathan and Shafir and ‘The Employee Experience Advantage’ by Jacob Morgan.


How would you summarise the book and who did you have in mind as your core reader? 

‘A World of Good’ takes readers on a journey across the globe with each chapter being dedicated to a different country. Within each country we learn a different workplace practice and discuss the research that reveals how it can improve engagement. The book was written for anyone who has responsibility for employees, but there’s also a lot of information on how employees themselves can be happier and more productive at work.


How long did the process take from start to finish – and what kept you going? 

I started writing the book about a year before it was published. Writing in my evenings and weekends meant it took quite a while to get going, but there was a definite mid-point where I really got into it and ended up a writing a large chunk within a short space of time. The bulk of the work was the research – I ended up with about 400 different studies and interviews. I then wanted to make the book something that was quotable. The kind of book you could read for just a few minutes, but remember a soundbite from and share with other people. This meant that the editing ended up taking the longest time. The book became a big labour of love and to be honest, I think a lot of people never believed it would happen. That ended up being my motivation to finish it. It’s now become one of my proudest achievements and the early reviews on Amazon are amazing.


The research that has gone into it is unrivalled. How did you tackle integrating these insights into the book whilst also keeping it readable? 

My background is in psychology, so I’ve spent a lot of my life around research and even conducted my own psychological research. I find that most scientific studies are very long and often complicated to read. I felt that people only ever really want to read the abstract of a study, so I tried my best to condense large bits of research into just a few sentences. If the reader then wants to know more, the book is well referenced, so they can find the original study and get the detail. Unlike other HR books, A World of Good reads more like a novel than it does a business book – and that too was intentional. If I could make people feel like they were reading a story while travelling with me to all the different countries, that would make the research less overbearing and more palatable. Hopefully, I’ve achieved that.


 What findings surprised you along the way? 

The biggest surprises were how important sleep and mindfulness has become to us. The modern employee is overloaded. The burden of modern life is too much for many of us to bear and work is playing a big part in our downfall. Work is stealing sleep and making us unwell. Mental health issues are rising at epidemic rates and people are really struggling. The research behind the advantages of a good nights sleep is seeing improvements in almost every area in the lives of people who sleep well. Mindfulness is having similar effects in improving the mental health and overall wellbeing of those who use it regularly.


Has it changed your own perspective in any area of engagement? 

Surprisingly, it has. I won’t spoil the conclusion, but I think the engagement problem is solved by something quite simple. A broad principle that should cover every part of our lives – treating people well. Even the most progressive and experimental organisations still don’t get that part right. It doesn’t matter how long your annual leave is or if you offer unlimited parental leave, if employees don’t feel like you genuinely care for them, their families and their lives, you won’t achieve positive employee engagement.


Anyone involved in employee engagement tends to have an optimistic personality. Are you optimistic about the state of engagement and productivity, especially in the UK? 

The last few years have realised that people really can drive change. Whether that’s good or bad, we’ve seen big, unexpected political changes in the world driven by people’s frustration. I think we’re also seeing that in the workplace. People are fed up with low wages and long working hours just to put money in the pocket of a shareholder. Employees want work to mean something to them and so more than ever before, there is a revolt against those employers who don’t treat their employees well. Uber, Sports Direct and Ryanair are all examples of organisations whose poor employment practices have seen them exposed by the media. The result was a drop in consumer confidence and a drop in profits. Treating employees well will make an organisation the kind that people gravitate towards, whether as consumers or employees. The more employers who realise this, the better our productivity will get.


What do you think will be the biggest drivers of change in this area? 

The UK’s productivity problem isn’t because people aren’t working hard enough, it’s because the old ways of working aren’t fit for the modern workforce. We are working alongside laws and regulations that haven’t really changed in 100 years, whereas every other way of life has. More flexible and remote working, better pay and more wellbeing support will improve productivity – as other countries have demonstrated.


What would be your one hope for your book and it’s impact? 

I’ve been working with and for organisations on improving their employee engagement and employee experiences for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve seen so many companies still not getting it right. I wrote this book because there is so much evidence that treating employees well not only improves the lives of the employees and their colleagues, it will also satisfy shareholders. I wanted to bring all this research together and use the entire world as my case study. My hope was that if working life gets better for just a few employees because of it, then the last year was worth it.


Are you planning an encore anytime soon? 

The nature of the book meant that I could have kept writing and writing it. It ended up being about 10,000 words longer than I intended, so I stopped with the intention that I could create an updated version with new chapters in the future. Like any good cliff hanger, I left it open for a second edition, so watch this space!


Where can people pick up a copy? 

In the UK and within the EU, you can buy a copy from Amazon here and from the US its available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.