#CIPDNAP17 – it’s all about the experience

This week I am volunteering at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership conference. It’s my favourite event of the year, and it is privilege to be part of the organising committee.

Why do I think the NAP conference is so special?

A few reasons.  First of all, the conference is run entirely by volunteers, for other HR professionals.  The aim behind the very small organising committee is simple: create a great couple of days at a reasonable price.  It isn’t about making a profit, it’s about learning and connecting and sharing.

I love NAP because the delegates love it. Every year people tell us that it’s the best conference they go to.  And that is why we do it.  It is why the speakers give their time, for free.

Of course it also gives me the opportunity to go back to beautiful Yorkshire. And, if I am honest, there is wine and dancing and laughing and friends.

So very early Friday morning you will find me putting up signs and helping exhibitors and handing out name badges and tweeting and running a fringe session and sorting out slide decks and making sure that the sweet stand is full (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it) and any of the other many, many things that need doing before the delegates arrive and the learning begins.

The subject of the conference this year is employee experience. There’s a reason that we picked this subject over employee engagement.  Everyone wants engaged employees. It’s a given.  A look through the theory will tell you the stuff that drives it.  Allegedly, it’s all about having organisational integrity, inspiring leaders, an organisational narrative, strong employee voice.

So far, so good.

There is other stuff too. It’s in the day to day. Engagement can be about big programmes, projects and initiatives.  But it’s all the little things too.  The individual employee experience.

The emails sent to the candidate in the application process.

The welcome on day one.

The food in the canteen.

The thought put into induction.

The office environment people are expected to work in.

The policies and procedures that must be adhered to.

The tools provided to do the job.

The quality of the conversation with the manager.

The training courses.

The internal communications issued.

Every interaction. Every day.

Real stuff.  Stuff that can be worked on.  Every day.


This blog is a thank you to every that is coming this year to speak, to facilitate, to volunteer. To talk about employee experience from a whole range of perspectives. Thank you to everyone that is giving their time to help others learn.

If you can’t make it, follow the hashtag on Twitter for all the commentary and blogs > #cipdnap17 

And if you are coming…. I’ll see you on the dancefloor!


Reflections on #cipdACE16

I’ve spent the last two days at the CIPD annual conference as part of the blogsquad.  The theme this year was ‘Shaping the Future of Work’.

Future was the word of the event.  The future of learning, of technology, of jobs and skills.  The future of work.  Of leadership. The responses and the preparations we need to make.  Making meaning of the trends and the possibilities.

My reflections from the event……

As I’ve already said in an earlier post, and indeed was echoed by some of the speakers, the future isn’t all that easy to predict.  We can try, but as Margaret Heffernan noted in the opening keynote, the lifetime of a business plan now is around two years now.  There is stuff that can be said to be known, and far too much that is unknown to make planning any further out unreliable.

Predictions we can make? There will be more technology.  Much more.  Still increased computing power.  AI.  Automation. Robots. More self employment / gig economy type stuff. Social media will continue to rise and rise.  The consumer experience, the working experience, the way we live our daily lives will continue to change.

And stay the same.

For the technology will be adopted at different paces, for both individuals and organisations alike. You know the curve.  And even with all the technology that we will have available to us, for all the changes we may see in the labour market, work is essentially, and will remain, a human endeavour.  It is people stuff.  It is also, as noted by the closing keynote speaker Gianpiero Petriglieri, it is how we define ourselves.

During the event I was asked by the folks at DPG what HR can do to help shape the future of work.

My answer? Whilst we can and should embrace the technology that is both available right now and will come along in due course, we must remember that first and foremost we are about people. A key role for HR, today and tomorrow, is helping our organisations and people navigate the future, whatever it looks like.  Learn the skills, adapt and respond.  Because we all know what happens to those that cannot.

It is important for us as HR professionals to think about and prepare for the future of work.  This is how we make ourselves and our organisations capable of surviving and thriving, today and tomorrow. But it goes without saying we need to pay attention to the now too.  Because there is much that needs to be done today in the world of work.

One of the sessions I attended during the conference was around the principles that the CIPD are developing for our profession.  During the session we talked about how work should be a force for good – but often it is not.

Our challenge in HR is the future, but it is also the now.

Better work, better working lives.  Today and tomorrow.

Change Stuff #cipdACE16

This morning I attended a session at the CIPD conference where HRD’s shared their experiences of organisational transformation.

One of those terms that sounds more fancy than it needs to.

Change is all it is.

A constant presence in all of the aspects of our lives.

Nothing stays the same.

I’m not going all VUCA on you. This isn’t about the so-called changing world that we live in or the digital world and all that future of work stuff, it is just life stuff.

When I hear people talk about change at work we often start from the premise that change is hard. Challenging.
Filled with emotion.

Well, yes.

Of course.

Emotion is always present. But which one?

My experience tells me that there is no linear path. You can’t map it on a curve, and you certainly can’t predict how people will react when they hear the whatever it is.

We all experience it differently. I have long given up trying to predict what someone will say or do when you sit down with them face to face whilst wearing your HR hat.

What I do know is this: Change is hard.


Sometimes it is other stuff too.

Necessary. Cathartic. Liberating. Exciting. Frightening.

Sometimes it is long overdue. A relief. Something to be thankful for.

An opportunity.

When it comes to organisational change there are no magic wands or silver bullets.  What is needed isn’t all that difficult.

Good and frequent communication. A human approach. Creating the vision of the future. A clear explanation of why and what and when. Ownership and responsibility. Help with the emotional stuff for those that need it. Quickly addressing the hygiene stuff. Answering the questions that are asked with transparency and speed. Honesty about what is known and not known. For HR specifically; the need to be present, visible, available.

We need too a recognition that change doesn’t always mean something negative. If we approach it as such then this is the reality we may create. There will always be emotion to play out, this is just how it is.

But remember that change, whatever it is, might just be the best thing that could have happened, for the individual or for the organisation.


Notes from the keynote #cipdACE16

Well, here I am again. At the CIPD Annual Conference, with the honour of being part of the social media dream team.

It’s keynote time, and we are listening to Dr Margaret Heffernan, award winning author and Ted speaker, on collaboration, innovation and creativity in the new world of work.  What makes modern organisations successful?

 Here’s a little of what she had to say…..

Successful teams aren’t those who are the smartest. Who have the highest IQ – or even one or two members with high IQ. Just having a bunch of smart people won’t lead to organisational success. Neither will having one superman. 

Research into successful teams found that they have three characteristics: people within it score high on empathy, they have contributions from everyone in the team and they had more women within them. This equals collective intelligence. 

What matters is what happens between people. Helpfulness. This is the key, in any type of organisation. Simply, how helpful people within the organisation are to each other. 

Helpfulness has power. It leads to confidence. Fundamental to it is the idea of sharing information. This is what people do when they are helping each other. It plays out by people spending time together and sharing.   

Research shows that work groups that take coffee breaks together become significantly more productive. 

It’s about spending time together. It is internal networking. Relationship building. Building too the collective intelligence of the organisation. 

But sometimes the hierarchy and bureaucracy gets in the way. Structures can impede productivity and problem solving. They block the information.  We have to get round them.  

You can measure the health of an organisation by how quickly important information flows. 

Social capital. The idea that the social network is central. That there is, within the organisation, trust, reciprocity and co-operation. Shared consciousness. This is the key to organisational success. 

People that are successful in complexity? People who listen. Who ask good questions. Can pick up all the weak signals within the organisation. Who get outside their own field of expertise. These are the people that can solve the problems. 

The problem for our organisations is unlocking people’s thinking. Getting them off their particular piece of the chessboard (the job description, the fixed title and place in the organisation chart). We spend so much time thinking about performance management and weeding out the slackers, but that is a 5% problem. Instead we need to focus on the 95%. 

What is important that people feel valued. Where they can make mistakes because that equals learning. And when people understand that they are there to learn. It’s not about HIPOS.  It is seeing talent everywhere. Talent is not fixed. Expertise is not enough.  We need people who are enthused by learning. We need to reframe and re-tackle the issue of diversity. We need to cherish the differences between people. The people that are not like you have. I have to teach you. 

When we recruit people stop digging into their expertise. Ask them who helped them get where they are today. Hire people who share what they learn. Hire their social capital. 

We need curious minds. Well stocked minds. Diverse minds. This way leads to success. 

Organisations will only grow when our people grow. 
Thoughts from me on this stuff……

Margaret quoted all the research that backed up the findings. But even putting that aside, we know this don’t we? As HR professionals? I’ve worked in organisations where people aren’t helpful. Where they put up barriers. Where the answer is no, know what is the question. Where people would rather win or score points than work collaboratively. Where people quote policies or hoard information.  Information does not flow. 

These organisations are not good places to work. And of course there are negative impacts on productivity.  This stuff is circular. If people don’t help each other, there isn’t trust. There isn’t reciprocity or sharing. There is no learning g. So how can there be innovation?  High engagement? Growth – of individuals or EBITDA? 

Social capital is the formal name for something more simple. Relationships. People. Being human. And this is what we do in this profession of ours. This is our opportunity. 
Back to that coffee break thing…. Where I work we are big fans of Fika. Google it, try it, have coffee together. 

This is a live blog. Please excuse any typos! 

10 fun (and free) things to do at #CIPDACE16

It’s nearly that time of year again. When the great and good of the HR world converge on Manchester like employees around the free fruit on wellbeing day.

If you are coming along to join in with all the fun serious learning then here are my top 10 best free bits for your conferencing pleasure!

  1. Head to the People Management drinks on Tuesday evening if you are getting there early.  There is wine. Hopefully.
  2. Check out the IIP exhibition stand. I have no idea what will be on it this year, but it’s usually a good one. And they mostly have cupcakes too.
  3. Check out DPG in the exhibition too. More often or not there is some good conference swag to be had – and usually a handy bag to carry it all in too.
  4. Get yourself some of that conference swag. It’s time to stock up those stationery cupboards people!
  5. On Wednesday night head over to Tribeca Bar in the Northern Quarter. You will find fellow blog squad member Tim Scott showing off his other talents by DJ’ing the night away.
  6. Play ‘blog squad bingo’ and aim for a selfie with the whole gang!
  7. Check out HR Unscrambled breakfast meet up on Thursday morning to discuss all things that matter to you and help shape the future of HR.
  8. Check out the free learning programme for a mahoosive 60+ sessions that are all, well, free.
  9. Network! As well as all the social stuff that will help you meet other HR types, there’s some formal opportunities as well. Start early by getting on all the social feeds in advance.
  10. Tweet. Obvs. Don’t forget the hashtag…..

See you there folks – IRL or via Twitter!


Reflections from #cipd15

When you have been conference blogging, it is customary to write a post a short while after the event, usually sharing a little of your reflections or learning.

Instead, this time, I’m handing over my blog to someone else to do this task.  Amelia joined my company a little under two months ago as an apprentice in all things people stuff.  She has just attended her very first CIPD ACE, and this is what she got up to while she was there and what she thought of it. 

Over to Amelia……

It was better than I expected, even though I wasn’t sure what to expect! I had been looking forward to it in advance, because I’d heard good things from the team, so I didn’t even mind getting a VERY early train.  As soon as we walked in I was handed a bag and a lanyard, which was the first of loads of cool free stuff – I have developed new muscles in my arms from carrying it all home.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d find it interesting or if most of it would go over my head, but I met lots of people who were all happy to chat and were interested in what I had to say too.

I went to some of the free learning sessions – the best was one about the power of thank you and making it personal for the individual and not the same for everyone.  I was introduced to lots of people by their Twitter handles, so I have no idea of their real names. I keep hearing that some people don’t like HR people, but everyone I met was really nice, including the people who let me into the members lounge for a coffee, even though I am not a member – yet!!

The best thing about the conference was winning a goodie bag with a hoody from Oracle, and meeting Peter Cheese and managing not to say anything embarrassing.  I’ve now got a desk full of conference goodies including some silver deely boppers that I stole from Gemma.  Oh, and plenty of emails coming through from people that I met on the day! I will definitely be back next year, and as Peter said he was sure Gemma would turn me into a blogger, I might even blog it next time.

 You can find Amelia on Twitter as @AmeliaTickle_

Amelia’s swag pile!

swag pile


Leadership Culture to Drive Change #CIPD15

How do you develop a leadership culture that can support organisational change?  Some might say this is the million dollar question for most organisations; change is part of the everyday for work and workers.

Here is what Inji Duducu of beneden health and William Hague (not that one) from HMRC have got to say on the subject, based on their own experiences.

William is Chief People Officer at HMRC.  First of all, great HR is an enabler of creating the right leadership culture for successful change.  I’m not going to argue with that.  At HMRC they have had big challenges.  A need to reduce  costs, be more efficient, transform service delivery, and at the same time, increase capability and use of digital services.  They needed leaders up for the challenge, with the ability to reach out last their traditional boundaries and collaborate.  Their starting point – what does good leadership in this context actually look like? Obvious, but important. For them it was three things: inspiring, confident, empowering.  ICE.  Easy to remember but also queues up a Vanilla Ice joke (one for the Gen Xers).

How did they tackle this? They had a leadership change model – building our future.  Went out to every leader face to face.  One narrative about the future to over 100,000 people. Significant investment in upskilling leaders.  A leadership academy is planned with five years of interventions, including virtual learning. Taking a long term approach.  Extensive engagement with their people.  Expected their managers to live this change.  Have used surveys regularly to see where they are.  They are not there yet, but are focused on continuous improvement in everything they do.  They have had many learnings.  Mainly – there is no silver bullet to tackle this stuff.  And finally, be ambitious.

Now over to Inji for her story.  Beneden started life as a mutual society, focused around public sector workers who bad contracted TB. Today, they provide healthcare solutions to enable people to access treatments faster than the NHS might be able to provide.  They were losing members.  It was a difficult product to explain and not enough people had heard of them or what they do.  A new CEO launched a ten year plan. The average length of service at Beneden is 20 years; many employees had simply never experienced any change at all.

Inji’s plan? It is a special place to work with a special culture.  Her aim is that at the end of the ten year plan, this has not changed even if it other things have.  One important focus – leadership visibility. People see where leaders spend their time.  It sends a message about what is considered important by the organisation.  Another quick win was celebration.  Celebrating what is going well, and organisational achievements.  Find stuff to celebrate – what gets recognised gets repeated.  They launched an online appreciation hub for people to send ecards to each other.  It has gone down a storm.  Provided a cultural boost but it is digital, which is the sort of business they want to be.

Inji also saw their values as generic.  They could have applied to anyone.  Needed to discover what their real values are.  Looked at the future and heritage to talk about what is their core – what makes them special.  They distilled down the feedback into four values that really summed up who they are.  They needed to tell a story about their future.  They took their behavioural framework and turned it into a programme for their leaders ‘leading the Beneden way’.  Challenging programme beginning with self awareness and self mastery.

Right now, the organisation is not only coping with that change but thriving. Her learnings – fundamental importance of communication.  Find the good news – give people reasons to be cheerful.  This will give you more capacity for change.

Inji’s story proves that change doesn’t have to be a scary thing that we liken to the emotions more usually prompted by bereavement.  It can be a positive experience for the people within it, if you manage and lead it well, as well reminding us of the fundamental role that HR can play in making it so.

Props to the speakers.

This is a live blog so please excuse any typos!