On the episode, we chat to Head of Sales and Marketing of Enlighten, Helen Mackay. Enlighten are leading the way in fusing technology and software, with the importance of people in any business. People are at the core of any business, and Helen’s goal is to make sure that continues in a positive way, in any workplace.


To kick things off and to give listeners a little bit of context, it would be really great if you could just explain what your core business is, what it is that you do and how you operate as a business?

Yeah, sure. I guess during a time like this crisis, there’s winners and losers out of what comes from it. We’re fortunate enough to be one of the winners that have been there. We’ve been around for at least twenty-five years and talking to organisations to say, look, do you need a hand with your operational excellence program? Do you need some visibility around efficiency, productivity, quality? And it’s always ‘the timing’s not right’, the timing’s not right.

Come a pandemic, we’ve got a remote workforce and everyone working from home and Enlighten is the perfect catalyst to help them with that. The core of Enlighten really is giving people a single source of truth, to understand what their people are doing within the organisation. We’re two-fold in that we do a behavioural change program. We give the team leaders the tools to understand what their teams are doing on a daily basis. We uncover that really crazy world that we like to term waste, which is the things that aren’t adding any value to the business to drive that out and take that over and use it either as increased capacity, maybe you want to improve the member experience, maybe you want to take out some operating costs.

But given what we’ve now named and termed the elastic workforce, which is people working either in the office or at home, just having that transparency and visibility of knowing what people are doing is really important. So, we’re a global organisation started here in Sydney back in 2002. And then now over in Boston. We’re in the UK and we’ve just started recently in India.

So, what’s been interesting is that traditionally we’ve had consultants that would go and help with the transformational change in organisations face to face with leaders and observe what they’re doing. Given now people are working from home, we’ve really had to pivot and change the way that we do that delivery. That has worked really well for us in that we are doing it all remotely. It’s all done either by WebEx or we use Teams as our platform, and it’s like you’re actually there with the people sitting beside them, having the conversation, breaking up their day to understand and then having the ability then to tap in and understand what is it that I’m actually doing within this business.


So, it’s part consultative, part operational, part human intelligence or emotional intelligence combined with it?

Definitely, and it’s all of those things people saw it in. When we had a conversation with Gartner, you know, they were saying, you know, where we fit within a matrix, it’s kind of standalone on its own. So, there’s lots of technology pieces out there that help you understand productivity. But there’s not the combination of consultants out there that don’t have a tool. So, we the combination of marrying the two together, so helping you create that transformation within your people and supported the software product to give you that insight, people and software.

Yeah, that’s exactly right. So that single source of truth does very much lend itself into the human intelligence because you’re supporting your people, your culture, you’re creating that certainty and operational rhythm. You’re also really focused in also on the mental health of your team.


What is your corporate position or an Enlightens’ corporate position on people versus machines. If you look at bigger businesses, individuals within businesses have a lot of anxiety around essentially machines replacing people. How do you see that that ebb and flow, that push and pull, the relationship between people and machine or in this instance, you know, people and software?

Yeah, and I think it’s a key ingredient to success of organisations, because right now there seems to be a big focus on maybe we haven’t invested enough in our technology platforms, maybe we haven’t done enough with automation. That’s what we need to start looking at, but what is the backbone of that? To ensure that it’s sustainable and successful, is to ensure that your people are comfortable with it. In order for them to be comfortable, there needs to be real clear data as to why this is happening and then also focusing on the sponsorship of it. So this is a key driver for the for the business. It needs to be delivered in a way that’s communicated to the people that they understand why it’s happening. It’s there to support them, to make their life easier, to leaning on their knowledge of the business. If it’s done that way and not like in a cloak and dagger back room, this is what we’re doing, and they don’t have any communication about what’s happening. It can become unstuck and really eroded and there’s an issue with it.

So I think just having a clear direction as to what needs to be achieved, involving people in the process and the journey, but they’re the ones that use it every day or do the processes in your business every day. So, they’re the ones that you can really work with to understand that. So, what we do at Enlighten is a piece called ‘Activity Based Costing’. So when you throw your data around and transparency around what your process is costing you throughout different times and parts of the day, you can then really unpick it to say, is this process really necessary or is this the one that we really need to look at automating? When you have people involved in that, engaged in that and discussing that, then you’re going to have sustainability. We don’t actually get into the automation. We will highlight the areas that we believe it is there. We have partners that we work with and lean on for that, but that’s a very specialised piece. What is necessary, what we’re saying is that people are really key.

At TALK, we talk a lot about people. Machines have always been there. They’ve always been automating society or business as a whole, has always been automating things. It’s more about elevating your people to almost a new level and really understanding at the end of the day, people buy from people, people communicate with people. That’s not going to go away. And it’s about elevating people into roles and tasks where their capabilities are fully realised, which is something that is easy for businesses to lose sight of when they’re in the day to day flow or the grind of trying to keep business running. It sounds like on your end, you guys are really focused on the welfare of people and the emotional intelligence of people and people’s development in general alongside technologies. It’s almost like you’re pitching the technology will enable higher performance and better outcomes for your people. Yeah, that’s exactly true.

And you can’t have one without the other. I mean, that’s our thought of it. I’m not saying that we plan to do it now. Let’s walk away from it and see how it grows. Unless you get the two together, it really isn’t successful. So, yeah, you’re right.


What changes have you seen in that efficiency since COVID, that has really stopped the business world? Has there been an acceleration? Has there been a change in the way people say efficiency?

It’s something that we were embarking on with a number of our clients where it was moving away from looking at individual efficiencies, productivity utilisation and really focusing on the outcome. So with the outcome that we’re wanting to achieve and what and it’s usually based in focused and client led transformation around the customer. So, what is it the customer gets at the end of the day? and then what is the quality that’s associated with it? Is it the speed that’s also there, the average handling time? All of that is linked into it, but at the end of the day, what we’re measuring is outcomes and not necessarily the efficiency of an individual, and we can see that that’s changed in the way that we’re working now from home because people that maybe they’ve got further flexibility. You know, you’re not having to spend an hour on the train to get into the office, to then have your lunch at a certain time and go again. You’ve got greater flexibility when you are working from home or if you’re doing that with hearing clients saying they’re doing two days at home, three days in the office and the reverse the following week.

But having that flexibility and I think will probably touch on it a bit later. It also then lends itself to saying, well, we don’t need to count the number of widgets people are actually outputting day to day. We need to actually focus on how many of the claims that were necessary for the client, what was the outcome that was achieved that day? Organisations are moving away from that side of looking at efficiency and really focusing on the customer experience.

So it can be the number of things that we’re doing, but also the quality that’s there that’s really important. Was that a good experience for the member that they had at the end of the day? Or did I need to spend more time on that particular thing? and would it have then saved further issues down the line? I wouldn’t have had to rework that particular piece. So, I think for us, the key is focusing on measuring outcomes.

It’s very interesting you say that, it really lends itself to a very modern way of working. The traditional process driven factory floor model where you clock on your clock, Bundy on, Bundy off. You watch what people are doing. You look over their shoulder. That’s really moving to there are many more organisations throughout the world that are very end outcome driven. As long as you’re achieving X outcome, that’s a that’s a really good result for the organisation, which really facilitates or accelerates people working from home or working distributed or working remote or hybrid or whatever the case may be.


From your opinion, seeing a cross section of clients, how do you feel organisations should work with distributed workforces’ long term?

We’re certainly having those conversations with clients now where it’s ‘what is the new way of working?’. And as I mentioned, we’ve called it the Elastic workforce because we like to think of it as being rubbery, flexible, the ability to do what you need to do for the time being. What we noticed was a massive decrease in sick leave. Obviously, people aren’t traveling around gyms and doing whatever. So sick leave and from home had gone right down during that lockdown period and people were more engaged.

You know, sometimes if you’re not feeling a little bit like you’re not feeling a hundred percent, you’re not going to get on the train and go into work. So, if you are here, you can sort of do a couple of hours, come back on. So, we certainly seeing that decrease in in sick leave. The other thing that we noticed too, with our organisations that really leaned into the enlightened tool and we call it the single source of truth and having an operating rhythm of daily huddles where they were talking about the metrics so enlightened takes feeds from the quality system, your customer satisfaction system. It takes it from your workflow system, your call centre system, and it brings it all together into one dashboard, so you can see what’s there. We can see data is a great leveller of understanding the transparency of what people are doing. And then you can have an operating rhythm where you have a morning meeting, a daily huddle, and you talk about what actually works yesterday.

Why did Cooper achieve eighty percent of his outcomes and Helen only got 20 percent? What were the barriers that prevented her from achieving what she needed to do? And it’s not done in a threatening way at all. It’s a collaborative way of looking at the work and understanding why that’s happening. That then also creates a great sense of calm and control within the organisation and people that are working from home and have that perhaps feeling that I don’t think my boss understands that I am actually doing what I’m doing, or there are issues here because that communication is there.

You are able to sort of nip it in the bud early and have a clear understanding of what’s going on. So especially now we’ve got this elastic workforce where people are working here, there. We are actually measuring, and we have the insight reporting where we can say, is there a difference in people’s productivity when working from home compared to the office? I can give you some and then you can have the conversation around it. Data is only as good as the story that’s behind it.

It’s that telling that the reasons why that may be the case and how it works and what’s going on with it. So what we’ve seen from clients is that, yes, if you’ve got a tool that supported you, that you can really have that visibility and transparency lens over your people, then that sustainable success for the new way of working, something that has been a process for us and our team.

TALK is looking at how to continue a culture that we’ve built in the organisation, but also how to adjust and modify it for potentially more of a remote workforce on an ongoing basis.  


What are your views on culture in general? Because culture is such a broad word, it can mean so many different things. How do you how do you see that with your clients and the businesses that you work with? How do you see culture A being maintained from what was and B, being rebuilt or refined or rethought for a remote workforce?

Yeah, for sure. And I think whenever we start with a client, the first thing that we’re interested to understand is what is the culture of the organisation that’s key and whether they’re ready for change. So we do what’s known as a ‘Change Readiness Survey’ where we want to know from the people who they are. They just change exhausted because there’s been so much going on. Or are they ready for something that would give them some operating control? They feel like they need a sense of calm back in there. We really want to deep dive into the cultural aspects. It is the key and the centrepiece of what we do and what we’ve noticed during this period is, as you say, there’s a different feel of how culture is viewed.

What we’ve worked on with our clients is developing a resilient workforce, regardless of what’s being thrown at them and how it’s coming at them, that they feel like they are resilient. How do you build resilience? We build it through communication, through data, through active management of talking to your people and understanding what are their worries and where they’re at. And that’s where I keep going back to the database because it gives you some things that is concrete to start a conversation that may end up subjective, but at the beginning it’s very much clear as to what this is what’s happened, these are the numbers and then we can start exploring it from there. So I think having a of people focused management mindset really focusing in on new people, and we’ve seen that with the clients that have really focused on their people and put their mental health, their well-being as a priority are the ones that have done really well.

Then, you know, if these organisations have said to them, look, we need to put you down to four days a week right now, because we that’s just what the business requires from you. They feel totally comfortable in supporting that because they’ve been communicated with the whole way. The data is there to back up the evidence. It’s not something that they’ve just sort of pulled out of their hat and said, this is what’s going on.

I think it’s all about that clear messaging as to what they need and then building that resilience. We don’t know what will be next around the corner and how that will work. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re saying, but we’ve seen it is certainly a silver lining in terms of the crisis in that we’re building really strong, positive workplaces that people want to be involved with.

Yeah, that tends to be more meaning to what everyone is doing. As a business owner myself, I look back on 2019 and I think, man, we look we are really strong growth through 2019. But I think to myself, how much of that was meaningful positive growth and how much of that was chaotic growth almost bred through this really frothy economy that had not seen a recession for so long. 

Then through the course of 2020, that never was almost, taking the opportunity to sort of reset priorities a little bit and really look at each individual person in the business and what their needs and wants are and really trying to build more meaning around basic things like protecting people’s jobs, giving them meaning in their work, making sure we’re delivering for clients, customers, those sorts of things, they are the fundamentals are actually the most important component to running a business.

 But sometimes in the heat of, like I said, a frothy economy in 2019, it can be easy to set those things a little bit too far to the side this year. Everyone really is building a lot more resilience and meaning in what they’re doing.

Yeah, and I think it’s that whole adage of being busy for the sake of being busy that we’ve worked out is that simple, is easier and as you say, much more meaningful. So the simplification of things as well, I think people were feeling overwhelmed and then businesses really had to strip that back to make it quite simple as to what the strategy and the messaging was coming from CEO’s, and then that really helped focus and align people in the same way.

So, yes, simplification is definitely something that’s there. But the resilience part is something we talk about often and it’s a word that sort of buzzing around there. But we really honed in on how to make that a concrete deliverable metric for an organisation and just using the data to help build that and have those meaningful conversations.

Definitely. Definitely.


You mentioned early in the call, you mentioned that the business has been going for around twenty-five years now, and you’ve very much got that global footprint. Have you experiences different situations or different circumstances in different markets that you operate in? Are there any sort of global themes or is there any learnings you’ve had, particularly you mentioned you sort of launching in India at the moment?

But we’re dealing with global organisations who do have an element of on and off shoring. What we’ve seen is a big pace of when Manila particularly closed down in getting connectivity happening and getting people working from home. Some organisations actually turned their office space into residential space because they just couldn’t get their people working from home. I think India was certainly an interesting market in that they just shut down the city of Mumbai so quickly and it was moving people at a rapid pace with no equipment.

And then it was like setting up busloads of laptops and dongles to get out to rural villages and out to them and when they did that, they did that very well. I think what Australian organisations learnt is that do we rely too heavily on some of that offshoring pace just to ensure that it’s a cost-effective means. Can we now become geographically unbound within our own country and start employing people in remote areas to do some of the work that may be a cheaper rate than in the CBD of Sydney. So, we’ve certainly noticed that there’s been a rethink of the structure of their workforce and where it’s based, and I think this elastic workforce is allowing organisations to have greater flexibility over that to say, right, I’m going to do it all onshore and if it does cost me a little bit more, then I’m going to cop that for the time being, because, you know, we saw big organisations that you just couldn’t get through to on a call centre due to COVID we’ve closed down our call centre and then we’re focusing on the customer, that’s unacceptable. We need to be able to still provide the service and that means being resilient. We still need to be out, providing a service to our people. I think that has been a big focus of ours. We’re working on a white paper right now, just having that conversation about what are people’s thoughts on offshoring, what is the best fit moving forward. But I think regardless of where your people are, it’s that having the common language, a single source of truth, that everyone’s working to the same goal. So that’s what we work with organisations in doing.


Have you got any words of wisdom or notes for any GM’s or CEO’s that are listening? Some are struggling to navigate, and some businesses are having a really tough time at the moment.

I think it’s just back to that human element, isn’t it? and I think more so with all the advent of Zoom and Teams meetings in your living room and seeing people just being normal and dressed normal is actually just ‘This is who I am. I’m a real human and this is what I’m about’ and I think one of my favourite things is just maybe having a favourite tune that you might want to share with you people. I mean, music is a great way of being inclusive and just having that there.

I’ve seen people with all different made up Zoom backgrounds that they’ve been trying to bring the humour back to it because I’m a big believer in lots of fun at any given time. I think just that human element is something that we just always should have in our back pocket.