Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Sunday, 11 December 2016
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Now that a week HAS passed though, its given me time to reflect on what was a superb event and learning experience.
The event, as mentioned, was superb. Each year the Annual Conference and Exhibition seems to surpass itself and deliver something unique and special, and this year was no exception.
The choice of keynote speakers and the choice of conference session speakers was very good, with my only complaint being that it was genuinely very difficult to choose which session to go to as often, with four options, at least three were things I really wanted to go to. I don’t know if its possible to do anything about this but I had a feeling that I missed out on as much as I got to.
The exhibition was lively this year and the use of space continues to improve. I like the informal networking area at the end which works very well. The free sessions all seemed well-attended but because I was in the Conference itself it made it impossible to get to any of these, and I did want to. Again I’m not sure what can be done but perhaps the sequencing and overlaps could be looked at.
I was disappointed by the lack of engagement by many of the exhibitors, who had presumably paid a lot of money to exhibit. As already pointed-out in THIS POST by Inji Duducu and in the comments on that post by Gemma Dale, most of the exhibitors were not active on social media and missed a trick in terms of sales and overall engagement with attendees. Hardly any really tried to sell me anything (not that that’s easy) and many had no interest in me once they saw my Blogsquad/Press badge, which was a shame because I could have done stuff for/with them.
And the swag haul was a bit same-y too – pens, chocolates, stress toys. Where were the standout offerings to get people to come along? Its more than just a box of Celebrations surely?
There were a LOT more fringe and social activities this year and that was a very good thing, and some took place the night before avoiding EVERYTHING happening on the Wednesday night, but even then there were far too many things happening at the same time on the Wednesday evening and it was impossible to get to more than 1 or 2 of them. Again, sequencing and overlap could be looked at to enable people to make the most of the social aspect of the Conference. Those that I did go to, and those that other people told me about, really seemed to go down well.
To be honest though I’ve lost track of the number of conferences where delegates have told me they get as much from the breaks as they do from the conference sessions, and this was also true at #cipdACE16. A slight criticism is that there weren’t enough long breaks to really get around the exhibition inbetween conference sessions, attend some of the free learning sessions, grab a drink, nip to the toilet, check your phone and do all of those things before heading back into the conference. Not to mention actually talking to people you want to talk to (and exhibitors). From a timings perspective I wonder whether its worth looking at the conference going back to THREE days again like it used to – that way things could be more spread out and you’d not feel like you were sacrificing one thing to get to another all the time. If that’s not possible, I’d look to extend the two days – no reason why the Exhibition couldn’t open at 08.30 and close at 17.30 both days, giving a clear hour either side of the conference to get stuff done.
Manchester itself remains a top location, and the event is really starting to grow into Manchester after 7 years there. This year it felt like we had almost taken over the city in the same way we used to pretty much rule Harrogate back in the day. It gave the whole experience a really nice feel (helped by the Xmas markets starting too).
I enjoyed being part of the Blogsquad again and feel lucky to have been asked. It gives me a very different perspective on the event that few get to experience, and enables me to share my own learning to a wider audience aswell as promote the event.
I enjoy blogging (yes, really) and particularly live blogging from events because it’s the best way for me to ensure the learning is recorded and sinks in.
I also managed to put out 120 tweets of my own across the 2 days along with numerous retweets, and this year added Instagram into my social media output. I ALMOST got Periscope up and running but a medical emergency in one session as I was about to go live distracted me, and I never got chance again.
But, by crikey, being part of the Blogsquad is tiring – with very long days and constantly being “on” even late into the evening. I am not sure I’ve recovered since, although my 2 year old daughter is not one to let me rest or recuperate.
From a personal perspective I learnt loads, as you can see from my blogs, which to be honest only capture perhaps half of what I will take away from the event:
Blog 1 – covering Peter Cheese’s introduction and Margaret Heffernans’ keynote KN1 speech
Blog 2 – covering Steve Head and Matt King’s motivation speeches A1
Blog 3 – covering Neil Morrison, Sukh Pabial and Claire Thomas on recruitment rebooting B2 and a Panel Debate on the Future of Work C4
Blog 4 – covering Lynne Weedall and Valerie Hughes-D’Aeths’ speeches on organisational transformation D3
Blog 5 – covering CJ Green and Amanda Oates’ speeches on rethinking performance management E3
Blog 6 – covering Gianluca Petriglieri’s keynote KN2 speech (partly)
I met so many nice people, many of whom I’d met before, and many of whom I hadn’t seen for ages or was meeting for the first time. In particular it was nice to put a face to the name that is Mark Hendy, to finally meet my mentee Lisa Snell in person, and to spend time chatting with Rachel White, who I’ve known on a personal level for many years but never bumped into at an HR event before. All the rest of the Blogsquad were superb company and did a great job throughout the two days, and the staff at CIPD events/comms were both hard working and very friendly too – thanks to them for getting me involved.
I also enjoyed catching up with, separately, no less than five people who have worked for me in a previous organisation. It was genuinely nice to see them still progressing their HR careers and to see how they are doing now that we no longer work together.
I’ll end by telling you about my most bizarre experience of #cipdACE16, which still doesn’t rival being chatted up by a CIPD Researcher on their stand about 5 years ago, but is still bizarre.
I was in one of the conference sessions and sat on a table with a group of 7-8 others. The woman next to me glanced at my badge partway through, and I later noticed her tapping away on her iPad. I figured at the time that she noticed I was part of the Blogsquad and was looking up my Twitter feed, so I was pleased.
At the end of the session she turned to me and apologised for staring at my badge but explained that she recognised my name and thought she knew me. She further went on to say that she did indeed know a Gary Cookson, and was friends with said person on Facebook, but having looked at their profile during the session and then looked back at me, she realised we looked COMPLETELY different (eg he had hair) and therefore I was not the person she knew.
And not once did she say she knew me from Twitter, or this blog.
I wasn’t sure what to say and said as much. At that, she smiled and left.
Till next time…
PS in other news, we’re approaching a point in our house where we’ve been there just over 2 years and it needs a fair bit of work doing to it. We have a choice whether to do this and commit to staying there for the long-term, or move. It’s a tough choice!
Thursday, 10 November 2016
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Peter started off by referencing the US election results and comparing the impact to that felt after the Brexit vote. His take on this is that we are not all in the same place, and not everyone's voice is being heard, and that gives us new challenges but also new opportunities in the future world of work.
Peter talked about the future of work needing to be good for people, and the challenges posed by all of the world changing around us, making it difficult to achieve our goals.
Peter asserted that the future of work is about fairness, opportunity and transparency. It's about productivity and skills, about diversity and inclusion, and about wellbeing and engagement. He's right, and he's also right that HR and the CIPD have a key role to play in shaping these agendas.
He talked about how the HR profession is evolving and how it needs to further evolve, topics I have very recently blogged on. He says we have to become experts on people and organisational behaviour, and stay strong to our principles and professional identity.
He then handed over to Margaret Heffernan for her keynote opening speech.
Margaret's talk covered some of the same ground on the future of work. Her opening analogy on productivity was interesting in that it drew on a lot of evolutionary theory, citing Darwin that it's not survival of the strongest or fittest, it's survival of the most adaptable. She claimed that many people have this theory the other way around but I'm not sure they do. She's making a good point though that the key to survival and productivity has been with us for a long long time.
She talked about teams being successful, where the most successful teams get the best from each team member and are well balanced in terms of gender. She noted that research showed that the better teams have more women in them.
She also noted that organisations and teams across the world excel when their team members display helpful behaviours and are helpful to other people in the team.
Does your team and its members display this trait? Can you measure it? If so, how?
Much of the trait of helpfulness made me think of the oft referred to term of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) - in essence a very loose team but I find my own PLN exceptionally helpful and am pleased to be helpful in return. I'd characterise my PLN as exceptionally successful in achieving my own learning goals, but much of this is based on my ability to select it's members and to quietly dispose of them if I don't find them helpful.
Of course, as a manager I have this power, but it's not as easy as that, particularly if you're one senior leader amongst many and the team in question is that senior team you are part of.
Heffernan talked about nodes, people in organisations who know everyone and everything. I call these people hubs in my own thinking, but she talked about maximising the potential of these hubs or nodes and has found that by encouraging these people to take regular coffee and networking breaks raises the productivity of both the hub person and those they come into contact with.
As network theory goes, that's good stuff.
So, taking time away from work makes you more productive when you get back to it.
I've found that too but it's refreshing to see someone else mention it. Although the concept of FIKA has been well researched and it's something I've yet to implement in my own workplace, but maybe I should.
She built on this by saying you can measure the success of an organisation by looking at how long it takes for important information to get around that organisation.
That's an interesting measure of success. When I examine culture in an organisation I encourage people to look at HOW information moves around the organisation, but not necessarily how FAST. So that's an interesting perspective.
The nodes or hubs are critical in this dissemination of information, and I'd urge you to remember that these people can spread bad news and harmful gossip just as quickly as they can spread good news. So be careful who you use as nodes and for what purpose.
She also talked about the nature of the world now and the pace of change being such that business can only safely plan perhaps two years ahead. I once spoke to someone who worked in the nuclear decommissioning industry who was able to work on plans of 100+ years, so this will be a blow to her.
She's right though. Just look at what has happened in America overnight. Many organisations long term plans are now in disarray. It will be interesting to see how other speakers address similar issues in their workshops over the next two days.
Heffernan also talked about how Microsoft have survived despite missing out on a number of key technological developments over the decades. She asserted that it's by having a growth mindset, in recent years at least, where every person feels they are there to learn and to grow, and look around the organisation to share mistakes and help each other learn from mistakes. She gave an excellent example of how the new Microsoft CEO made a public mistake and often cites this in his own learning journey, and will talk regularly to all employees about it in order to encourage greater learning from mistakes.
She said one question we can ask people is who helped them get to where they are today. If they can cite a long list of people, great. If they refer to themselves, then we don't want them around. The former group of people are those who will help to build a more successful organisation, because you're acquiring their social capital which will impound your own.
This puts managers in the role of casting actors in a play. If you can cast the best actors, you'll deliver the best play.
Who would you cast? And who would you never cast again?
Food for thought.
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
Mostly through a technological solution I think.
In many smaller organisations, HR system amount to just a Payroll system maybe with a few bolt-ons. But even these are now evolving - many Payroll software companies are being left behind by the market and the rise of new and easily-accessible apps allow employees direct access to systems and platforms which changes what HR need to do.
We can now truly devolve transactional activities to the line using technology - give the line data, and information, to make decisions. We can give the workforce the technology to make choices and manage/tailor their employment experience.
The success of companies like Uber and Airbnb show that it works when you give people direct access to service providers. We are also used to sites like Facebook and Amazon customising our own user experience and using our data and activity to change what we see and do - so we could and should do the same for employees.
And for this reason I think the role of traditional HR is on the decline.
In HR, we need to grasp technology and use it - there are a lot of good examples of businesses doing good work here - I often cite Halton Housing Trust as one who is moving to a majority digital approach to service delivery with some good results (see HERE) - and if an organisation like HHT can do this for customers, can they / we do it for employees?
Yes we can.
In fact, we have to.
So, summing up...
- There are blurred lines in our future. HR in the future isn't going to be defined by how much HR you do, but by how much HR you don't do and how much non-HR work you have knowledge and experience of
- Bye bye best practice. If we go down the route of individualising the employee experience then we can't say for certain that standardisation and consistency is a good thing. Everyone will be and should be experiencing things differently.
- The key HR role will be to help people develop the ability to cope and thrive under pressure - to perform. By looking at individual needs and using the available technology to customise the employee experience, we can do that
She thought about this and toddled off, coming back a few minutes later with some paints and brushes. Her rationale was that painting was what made her happy, so she assumed my job similarly involved painting.
Saturday, 29 October 2016
- Data analysts. We need HR professionals who can select and use the right data. Who can throw data sets together, correlate them, analyse them and predict trends. At the moment few can.
- Wellness advocates. Not just in an individual sense, but also in an organisational sense. We need HR staff who can be the guardians of organisational wellness, looking at systems of engagement and motivation and performance and how these all link together and complement each other.
- Engagement champions. Plenty of large firms like Netflix, and Virgin Group, are already ditching bureaucracy and encouraging HR to let go of policy and focus on the individual. We will need more of that, of social engagement in the workplace and looking at how people are treated and how they feel about work.
- Performance coach. An old role but a growing one for HR. Helping people to identify what performance actually is, and the best conditions under which to produce it. Clive Woodward spoke at last years CIPD Conference on this, and how he got players/employees to visualise being under pressure and practice performing under such conditions. He used the available technology to capture performance data and made sure players had the skills to analyse, share and discuss it.
- One size doesn't fit all. Many organisations are gearing up to deliver 24/7 services to customers who want that. This requires the ultimate flexibility and HR have to be able to lead organisations towards that by individualising the employment experience. And if you do that, the employees are likely to do the same for customers. I read that one organisation brought in a dating coach to train its staff how to flirt with each other and customers. I laughed, but then realised that's about making people feel special, wanted, unique. So I'm all for it, and here we are back at my oft-referred to analogy of HR being pimps for the employment relationship.
- The gig economy. Many employees will be spending a lower proportion of their working week with one employer, and may have multiple employers. This changes what HR teams have to do in terms of employee engagement and means we have to be more flexible.
- Demographics. Plenty of available data here about an older workforce and multiple generations at work but this does prompt us to think about how employees needs will change in what can now be a 65 year working life. An organisation I was in a senior HR role for built and maintained houses, and worked on component lifespans. So a house might last 100 years and in that time it may have 4 kitchens and 5 bathrooms. That helped with workforce planning, but if we are in human RESOURCES then maybe we have to look at employees in terms of their working lifespan. I look back at myself at age 16 and I was a completely different person with no interest in HR. I'm 41 now, and who's to predict what I will want to do age 66? I may have realised my dream of being a professional wrestler! But for certain, my learning needs and reward needs will have changed. How many HR teams segment their workforce in this way?
- Localism. Devolution is gathering pace, and many organisations are now expected to collaborate at a local level on many things - employing more local people, delivering joined up services and addressing local skills needs. This requires a different set of HR practices.
Monday, 17 October 2016
I worked in an organisation that really "got" E&D and inclusivity (I'll use the phrase E&D to refer to a broad spectrum of terms like inclusion etc) and on reflecting on this experience for the recent talk, I looked at what worked in that organisation and what I'd recommend if you are looking at how to embed E&D in your organisation.
In general though my view is that E&D is about having an amazing workplace - the two go hand in hand - and if you focus the right way on engagement then you'll get E&D, and vice versa. But here's my building blocks:
- Commitment from the very top - we had a CEO and a Board who understood and were passionate about E&D, and kept it at the forefront of organisational thinking
- Someone to co-ordinate and pull everything together - we had one person to centrally manage E&D and keep all the various plates spinning (though this could be a double-edged sword later on)
- Involving the local community - there were lots of groups related to protected characteristics who were keen to help us develop services and employment
- External scrutiny and recognition - a plethora of organisations came to inspect us, grade us and recognise our practice, and this made us up our game
- Collecting and using data - going beyond compliance, we were able to explain regularly why we were collecting data and show examples of how we used it to drive service improvement and staff engagement
- Managing the supply chain - involving Procurement in creating guidance for our potential and actual suppliers, giving them a step by step approach to adopt our E&D principles, offering free training for their staff if they signed up to our commitments
- Comms team on board - we had a strong comms team who were bought into the vision and reality of an inclusive workplace, who helped us to promote events, campaigns and could highlight any successes we had
- Reviewing the employer brand - we did videos promoting inclusive employment practices on the recruitment microsite, case studies promoting positive action initiatives and more - we also made the whole website all singing and all dancing with information available in lots of different ways, media and formats
- Embedding into performance management - we broke E&D down down by service area with headline objectives for each area and individual objectives for staff that could be measured in appraisals, with a simple list of tasks that any member of staff could do to evidence getting involved in E&D activity
- Taking on public duties - we became a Hate Crime reporting centre (when we didn't need to) and this helped our public image aswell as bringing this important area to the fore
- Leading the community - we organised community events to celebrate diversity - this helped us set up support groups for both customers and staff linked to protected characteristics
- Relying too much on one person - we had an excellent person to co-ordinate it with a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm aswell as a strong network of contacts - but when this person left, we found we couldn't get anyone to replicate this and the momentum was lost
- Allowing one PC to dominate to the exclusion of others - the strength of some community groups focused on the BME community compared to some other groups linked to other protected characteristics allowed them to dominate the agenda somewhat, out of proportion
- Pressuring staff to get involved just because they have a particular PC - we tried setting up a staff LGB group that contained the 3 LGB staff that we knew about - and not all of these were keen to be involved. Sometimes we'd ask their opinion just because they were LGB, and that wasn't helpful
- Taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut - we ran some Trans awareness campaigns that were really powerful and illuminating, but we had no Trans staff or applicants and only a tiny % of Trans customers, so the vast majority of staff didn't get a chance to utilise their new knowledge
- Other organisations don't always share your enthusiasm - be careful if you work closely with another organisation in that this organisation may not have the same approach to E&D as you do, and if you end up merging with an organisation there may be real differences to explore and one of the organisations will need to radically change its approach, which may be painful
- Have targets but don't let these get in the way of doing the right thing. Use your E&D targets to evidence improvement and traction, rather than a stick to beat yourself with.
- Let staff get involved in decision-making and tailoring the organisational approach to E&D - celebrate any successes and make E&D as fun and informal as possible
- Dare to be different in your training - do drama-based workshops, and workshops on unconscious bias to help people understand the way they think
- Break down your available data on both staff and customers by protected characteristic and look for any trends - work to redress negative ones
- Allow people to voice any concerns they may have and have adult-adult conversations about E&D. But if there are any instances of inappropriate behaviour - act upon and challenge these straight away.