What Next? Notes from a conversation with Renetta McCann, Chief Inclusion Experiences Officer at Publicis Groupe

De-bossification. You=Startup. The Fractionized Employee.

These are just three of the topics covered in Rishad Tobaccowala’s wonderful weekly newsletter The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. Exploring the worlds of strategy, talent, media, culture and business, Rishad has become a must-read in Wavetable team inboxes.

An August edition of the newsletter announced a new podcast series. Except this new podcast wasn’t exactly new. Originally created for the 80,000 employees at Publicis Groupe, ‘What Next’ was flipped Inside Out and made available for public consumption.

Among the first season of episodes is a conversation with Renetta McCann, Chief Inclusion Experiences Officer at Publicis Groupe, and former global CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group.

Describing herself as a strategist working at the intersection of business and people, Renetta discusses complexity, individual learning, and the development of people managers.

There are a bunch of smart ideas and approaches packed into the half hour running time. Here are our team’s notes and takeaways. And you can listen to the full episode here:


1. Complexity

  • The world is more complex, but how do we define complexity? Renetta cites system thinking expert John McDermott, who described complexity as “an increase in elements; diversity of elements; plus increased connectivity.”
  • The job demand resource model indicates that people can handle more job demands if they are equipped with the right resources (also known as job positives)
  • People want to grow, and tell their story. To frame this idea, Rishad suggests the following 3x3 model (tip: delivering on the latter two make the first set less important)

2. Learning

  • Learning as an adult is about change. it involves fear and anxiety. Testing what you think you know. We’ve seen this a bunch with our clients at Wavetable. Our approach not only increases engagement, it also reduces stress and resistance to change and evolve.
  • There are 4 psychological capital areas that orgs need to build: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, Optimism. An easy way to remember this is the acronym HERO.
  • A significant part of DE&I is about learning - one element of which is learning to deal with increased complexity.

3. Managers

  • Managers are closest to talent. This is incredibly valuable, but they’re often under-resourced and their role has a branding and perception issue. There’s potential to reinvent their role as agents for change, and enablers of learning and growth. Because a company can only grow if the talent grows, there’s a huge untapped opportunity here.
  • A question for manager: if people have the HERO attributes they are valuable outside, so how might we get them to stay inside? (hint: the 3x3 above may help…)

Ok so, why does this matter?

  • Inside Out: Publicis Groupe see the value in going Inside Out: this podcast was created as an internal initiative, but has now been made publicly available. They’re able to do more with less, repurpose and repackage ideas, and offer a portal into how their leaders think and communicate. Win-win.
  • Operate at the Intersection: Renetta works ‘at the confluence of business and people’. This isn’t a phrase we hear too often. When you think about it though, be able to operate at this intersection is critical for all kinds of leaders
  • Meta matters: One of Publicis’ most successful initiatives was a 90 day program for its Leo Burnett agency called ‘Leo Leaps’. Participants were invited to learn about a topic that was important to them: from language learning to gardening. The biggest learnings didn’t come from the specific topics, though. They came from building meta skills: taking risks; being able to seek support; presenting ideas. These meta skills are particularly valuable because they’re both transferable and built to last; they’re not shackled to one industry, or at risk of becoming obsolete. And the program offered another Inside Out opportunity: thanks to Leo Leaps, participants were able to apply their newly strengthened meta skills both inside and outside the organization.