If you work too hard, you can sweat

For the last 14 weeks I’ve been working less hours. This was a deliberate choice, and in this blog I’ll explore why I did it, what I did and how it has gone.

This comes at an opportune time to review the experiment, because there is very recent media coverage of a report that recommends we investigate four day weeks for everyone but which also points out the difficulties of making it work. There are also plenty of case studies about reduced working weeks, and these were in my mind as I planned my trial.

I recall hearing Peter Cheese talk last year at #cipdACE wondering who invented Monday to Friday 9-5 in the first place? It’s a good question. I run my own business and to be honest I have rarely stuck to that model but I do work an average of 40 hours a week, and sometimes quite a bit more.

And I’ve found my well-being suffering. Not all the time, and not every week, but in those weeks when I’ve worked away from home for a couple of days and long days all week plus a bit of evening work, it’s been very tough on my family and I.

Of course, as I run my own business, I’m largely in control of that. And with that in mind, I decided to take more time off over the summer and to actively plan and implement a reduced working week.

This took the form of at least two half days or one full day off each week, and in some weeks two or three full days off.

And it’s ending this week as I go back up to five days next week. Partly this is choice – all trials end, but partly this was already dictated by client work booked in for the autumn and beyond.

As I end the trial of working less hours (I won’t say part time, as I think the label could be insulting – it’s a reduced week, but only reduced in relation to my own previous pattern) I’m reflecting on what I’ve learnt

– put simply, I like working less hours. There can often be less income that goes with it, but I’ve been able to structure client work to make it a neutral effect and am lucky to have been able to do so. The downside of that is that the bigger income takes me further away from home so although I’m off more, on the days I am working I’m further away and have spent more time away from home on days that I do work. This is a double edged sword.

– working less hours has had a good impact on my physical health as I’ve been able to train and exercise more, however my performance levels in my two main sports have dipped despite more time and effort going into it, almost as if the distraction of working more was a positive force

– I’ve spent lots more money on family time. That’s not a moan, but a fact. Taking kids out the summer holidays is not cheap!

– the world doesn’t stop moving. Clients and others don’t know that I’m off. Of course I can set my Out of Office auto reply but I tend not to for anything up to one day off, but irrespective the emails and messages still come through. A lot of my business is conducted on social media and there’s no out of office on Twitter for example. So it’s a little bit frustrating to see these come in and build up when I’m not working, and avoiding the temptation to reply or do something is very hard indeed.

– the concept of the working day and working week is flexible enough to cope with me working reduced hours, as long as all concerned accept that reduced hours may need to be spread across just as many days a week, if not more, as longer hours. In that sense I mean it’s easier to work 30 hours across 5+ days than it is across 4.

– my time management and efficiency and effectiveness has improved greatly as I know I have less hours to achieve what I need to. Dead time has been almost eliminated and I wonder how much dead time there is in what we consider a normal working week?

– and, coming last on this list but top in terms of importance, is that my family have enjoyed me being able to spend more time with them even if it’s offset by being away more on the times I do work. It has made me think though – what’s better, seeing your family for a few hours each weekday or barely seeing them for three weekdays and then spending the other two weekdays (plus weekends) with them? Jury is out on that one maybe. What do you think?

Anyway, the trial ends BUT I’ve found this quite sad and I’ve liked reduced hours. So much so that I’ve booked myself at least two days a month, plus the big holidays like Xmas and our foreign holiday, to ensure I take more than what most people get in terms of annual leave. I reckon it’s about 40 days leave plus bank holidays and we are happy with that quantity.

I’ve already started turning work down to avoid going over my allotted working hours per week. No sense working just for the sake of it.

Looking even further forward, I think I’m going to enjoy retirement! But maybe flexible retirement is a much more attractive prospect.

So, going back to the media report, I think a four day working week may well be possible, but that a different reduced working pattern is more achievable (think 30 hours across 5 days to mirror school hours or something), and more stakeholders could benefit.

Till next time…


Ps in other news, for this year at least, my four children go to four different educational establishments. The school run is, well, complex. Reduced hours help with this.

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

In this blog I’ll be exploring mental health, prompted largely by reading David D’Souza’s excellent blog post Weakness.

Incidentally, David – what you describe is not weakness as far as I’m concerned – its just difference, a point you go on to make yourself but I think the blog title is a misnomer.

According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

These are worrying statistics and there is plenty of research and advice about what employers could be doing to help.

David describes his own situation beautifully and it resonated with me greatly, in terms of how these situations come on at random, often unprompted but sometimes triggered, and how they prevent him from performing at what he feels is his best.

I have similar situations.

At least once or twice a week I will find myself terribly worried and anxious about an unspecified event. When this happens I’m mystified as to what I could actually be worried or anxious about, as there appears to be no specific situation that could cause it.

Symptoms are as you’d expect with worry and anxiety, and they pass after half an hour or so, going as suddenly as they arrive, but the most frustrating thing is that there is no obvious trigger for them and nothing I should be worrying like that about in my life.

Its the sheer randomness that gets me.

I know that when I interact with people when I’m experiencing one of those episodes, I’m tense, like a tightly coiled spring, and don’t give my best.

I also have, less frequently and something like once a month at most, a brief experience of high intensity emotional overload and I feel like I could burst into tears at the slightest thought. These episodes last about half an hour too and then they’re suddenly gone, and much like the worry episodes, there is nothing happening at or around that time that could trigger or prompt these.

Again, the randomness gets me the most – not knowing what causes it.

I know that when I interact with people when I’m experiencing one of those episodes, I don’t give my best either as I want to go and sit in a quiet room alone somewhere until the feeling passes.

But the nature of my work means that that is rarely possible and, like David, I have to work through it.

One of the best things happened earlier this week when I was sat experiencing one of these emotional episodes. My wife took me aside, told me that I wasn’t OK and asked me to tell her about it.  Rather than asking if I was OK, to which the default answer is always “Not bad thanks”, she pointed out that I clearly wasn’t, and that prompted me to deal with it rather than sit wallowing.  Talking about it helped the episode to pass quicker, and within half an hour I was fine again.

Earlier this year I did have a very specific situation that did cause worry, anxiety and strong emotions.  It has passed now but I wonder whether what I’m now experiencing is the after effects of that – occasional resurfacing of the feelings despite the actual trigger having passed.  Earlier this year I experienced a mix of mental and physical symptoms. Physically I had chest pains and difficulty breathing at times, along with headaches. Mentally, I suffered from lack of sleep, slight depression, severe lack of confidence, regular worrying, and an overall sense of lethargy and feeling of inadequacy.

The usual things helped me. Exercise, the support of my wife, spending time with my family and, also, the regular and continual support I had from my network. Some expected sources and some unexpected, but all with the same messages of belief, understanding and concern – and without exception they were well timed, well received and extraordinarily helpful.  I am grateful to you all.

It’s important to be able to talk about mental health issues. One of my closest friends has recently opened up about some issues they have been having and that has prompted others in my social circle to do the same.  And David covered similar ground in his post, for which I was grateful and which gave me encouragement to do this.

It’s hard.  But we are not alone.  And it is most definitely OK to be not OK.

Till next time…


PS in other news, my youngest daughter finishes nursery next week ahead of starting school two weeks later. Since my eldest daughter was in the same situation about 10 years ago, I’ve forgotten everything about starting school.

We’re only human, after all

This week I’ve delivered a workshop on Managing Change for a client and within it, as you might expect, we talked about the emotional impact of change on employees and how to deal with that. In this blog I’ll share a story about how NOT to deal with it, which I remembered when delivering this week.

I once worked in an organisation that merged with another and there was the predictable two into one selection process for senior leaders. I was displaced as a result of that and put into a temporary project role, but didn’t take this well at all.

I was suffering. Depressed, angry, upset, grieving at my loss and sometimes over what now seem like very trivial issues – I’d lost my own office for example, that I’d designed myself when the building was built, and had lost my car parking space. Both now seem trivial but then they were big things to me.

I was often outwardly cheerful to the extent that many at work wouldn’t have known how much I was suffering, but inwardly I was in turmoil.

And then those in charge of the change process in the new organisation sent me, and lots of others, on a Managing Change workshop.

I knew change theory and models already but went, and the trainer encouraged us to talk about how we had felt when going through change and to open up about the emotional state we had experienced.

I felt encouraged, and opened up.

I unloaded and shared how I felt. Not necessarily warts and all, but I said enough about the intense emotions I was feeling and how I wasn’t coping well.

I felt better for having had the chance to do that.

And then the following day I was told off by the person who arranged the workshop. The trainer had given them feedback about me and what I said, and had informed them I had a negative impact on the workshop. The person who arranged it told me in no uncertain terms that I had to keep a lid on my feelings and not share them with others.

And I never spoke about them again. To anyone. Until now at least.

I remained frustrated and angry and upset for the remainder of my time at that place, and still carry the wounds.

What’s wrong with letting the emotion out from time to time?

What’s wrong with helping people process their emotions?

We are all human. We are not robots. Change hurts at times.

My advice to all those leading others through change – talk to them. Let them express their emotions.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

If you ask people to keep a lid on things, they’ll bottle it up and that can’t be healthy for anyone or for the prospects of the success of the change.

Change affects people on all kinds of levels.

The management of the change is not about process.

It’s about people.

We’re only human, after all.

Till next time…


Ps in other news, our recent holiday to Zante was amazing and we wish we could go back. It felt strange leaving my two eldest children at home though but they are too cool to come on holiday with their dad any more.

Yellow Card

Last week the CIPD ventured into football territory by issuing all its members with a Yellow Card.

And the crowd went wild.

Principally because the new membership card, designed to reduce plastic usage, was so flimsy it tore upon removing from the covering letter and looked a lot less professional than members wanted.

Many took to social media to complain, and in the end David D’Souza recorded a short explanation and apology to all, which I thought was a nice move.

We all make mistakes. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.

Sometimes we make big, public mistakes like this one too.

I remember once bringing in a new payroll system in an organisation and getting everyone to check their own data that was being migrated from old to new systems as a bit of a data cleansing exercise. I asked the administrators to print out each persons data and give it to them to check, and so they did.

I kind of assumed the administrators would put such data in sealed envelopes, but they did not and the data was left on peoples desks, containing all sorts of sensitive and confidential information now visible to passers by and other colleagues.

Quite understandably, people went berserk at me.

A lot were quite abusive.

But, it was my fault. Whilst I’d assumed the administrators would bear in mind the sensitive nature of the data and package accordingly, I hadn’t specified this and, well, you know the danger with assumptions.

I owned up and apologised to everyone. I’d had the right idea, with a noble aim, but it was poorly executed. Just like DDS and the CIPD last week.

But it didn’t stop me feeling absolutely awful at the time and I sought advice from my late friend Clive Gott, who said to me something I remember and advise people about to this day, almost 15 years later.

He said that we live in day-tight compartments, and that each day is separately sealed off from the others. If a bad day occurs, it is thus sealed off and filed away and has no bearing on ones performance, behaviour and mood on other days.

He added that sometimes on really bad days we can live in hour-tight compartments with a similar principle. If something awful happens, seal it off and move on.

A bad hour, or a bad day, caused by a well intentioned but ultimately awful mistake, is no reflection on you as a human being or your ability to perform in whatever it is you’re doing. It’s sealed off and gone, and your proportion of great hours or great days far outweigh it. Even the number of average and uninteresting hours and days will far outweigh the bad ones.

What is a reflection on you as a human being and your ability to perform in whatever it is you’re doing, is how quickly you realise what’s gone wrong, how quickly you open up and apologise, and how effectively you’re able to seal off that hour or day. And how much you learn from it.

It’s an approach that works well for me, and I hope it’s worked for DDS and CIPD too last week.

That said, I don’t even think this mistake was the worst thing to happen to DDS in that week, as I watched Tottenham’s Champions League Final performance and think that was worse. So let’s put it all into perspective.

An honest mistake, well intentioned – trying to please everyone but ultimately pleasing no one – but well explained, a human apology, and attempts to move on and learn.

Let’s move on and learn.

Till next time…


Ps in other news, my wife has started her own freelance bookkeeping company. If anyone needs any bookkeeping or general accountancy support from a qualified Chartered Accountant, but not at Chartered Accountant rates, either get in touch with her directly at or through me.

From now on

As many of you know from social media, I, and my wife, are currently dealing with a situation that is causing immense stress. I’ve written before about mental health, HERE, and the situation certainly matches scenarios talked about there. In this blog I’ll explore ways of dealing with it that have helped me.

I run my own business and it’s often been said and written that business owners are amongst the most susceptible to stress simply because of the relative difficulty in switching off. It’s certainly true for me, in that I find my thoughts drifting to my business at inconvenient times of the day and night.

I’ve written and spoken before on the value of physical exercise as an outlet and means of coping, and it’s always been that way for me. I’m a triathlete and have to have a decent training plan each week, and aside from the physical and mental benefits it brings me, I enjoy planning out my training schedule each week.

The beauty of having my own business is that I can work in my training around my business to a large degree.

And so it helps.

But I’m also a qualified personal trainer, and whilst I don’t do a lot of that kind of stuff, when I do I am always keen to tell people about the need to rest too, and not just that, but to actively PLAN rest as an activity in their training week.

Physically, the body needs time to recuperate from training sessions, and rest days are a vital part of that. It helps restore energy and allow the body to do what it needs to do.

In recent months I’ve been slowly upping my training ready for the summer races, and my body has been quietly complaining. I’ve had rest days each week but they’ve seemed almost accidental, as if I ought to have been training but hadn’t been able to, and it’s made me grumpy, as if I’m missing out on training.

I realised recently that I wasn’t following the advice I give to people, to actively plan rest days as if they are a training activity in themselves.

So that’s what I’m now doing. My training schedule includes planned rest days where I’m doing nothing physical. And I find myself looking forward to them because I know they are a vital part of my regime.

Without the rest days, I can’t perform as well as I should.

And I’ve started doing similar in my work and business too. I’d realised that a lot of the stress was made worse by my not switching off, not spending time looking after my family and myself by working too much.

I was having rest days, but again they were almost accidental and sometimes resented by me.

But I realise that rest days (and by that I don’t mean weekends per se) are crucial in maintaining mental health and building resilience. If I don’t plan in time to take off work, I never will take time off and my performance will suffer as a result.

As someone who is self employed, the minimum annual leave entitlement doesn’t apply to me or others in similar positions. But it should. And even if it doesn’t, we have the power to make it apply ourselves.

The minimum annual leave entitlement is there for a reason, and it would be foolish to ignore it. I’d been booking in foreign holidays with the family, and Xmas, but not actively booking in any other time off and I realised I was missing out on…

…rest days.

From now on, I’m actively planning in 2 days a month (plus family holidays and Xmas) on weekdays where I won’t work and spend time with my family or doing stuff for myself.

These are my rest days, and they started this month. I’m already enjoying them, and I don’t feel guilty about them. Of course there’s the potential I lose out on some work if a client wants me on those days, but I’m not shifting them because if I do, my family and I will lose out in more important ways.

The body needs time to rest.

The mind needs time to rest.

But sometimes we are too busy to make these things happen.

From now on, I’m not too busy to make the time for the important things.

From now on…

Till next time…


Ps in other news, my next race on 12 May will be my 50th since I started racing back in 2010. I wonder whether I’ll ever get to 100 races? It would be nice.

King in The North

On 30 March I’ve got the pleasure of taking part in and speaking at the North of England CIPD Student Conference, taking place in Liverpool. In this blog I’ll explore what’s going on at the conference and will also give a short update to this blog after the event.

First off, if you haven’t got a ticket for this event then they are still available up to the day itself and you can access both the programme and tickets HERE.

There’s a number of things must be said about this conference, and its other regional variants.

  1. Its billed as for students, but really its for anyone looking to develop their HR career. Just look at the programme and the sheer quality of the speakers and different events happening, not just in The North but at each of the other regional events. At £35+VAT this is an absolute bargain and I know of no other HR/OD/L&D conference that offers such good quality for such a low price. Certainly none of the other CIPD events come close.
  2. This one is for, and in, The North.  That means its the best. There’s simply no argument about this. Its also in Liverpool, which is a good thing because that city often suffers in comparison to Manchester when it comes to HR-type events, so its only right this happens there.
  3. Its on a Saturday – this immediately gives it a different vibe, a more relaxed ethos, than HR conferences that take place on weekdays.  It also doesn’t seem to be putting people off attending either. Great quality learning without interfering with the working week.
  4. For students, this is top quality learning that will likely top, for sheer value alone, much of their formal learning. And I say that as someone who gets involved a lot in the formal learning students do.

I do a lot of work with CIPD students, and have done for about 15 years since I stopped studying myself. Its great to have tutored and supported so many students at the outset of their HR careers, and to have made so many good friends as a result.

As I will be saying at the conference, as a tutor it really makes my day to help others learn about HR and leadership and about themselves – but I also learn a lot about myself and grow as a result. There really is no drawback.

On the day I’m involved in two things. The first is a panel discussion with other senior HR professionals discussing our careers to date and sharing advice (or in my case, mistakes) and taking questions.  The second is one of my by now infamous Ignite talks, this one on the value of professionalism in the future world of work.  If you’ve heard me do an Ignite talk before, you have an inkling as to what’s coming.  If you haven’t, then if you stay till the end you’ll see.

I’m looking forward to both, and to closing off what looks to be an amazing conference.

Have I mentioned how good value this conference is?

Have I also mentioned its for, and in, The North?

Have you booked your ticket yet?

Not that anyone is taking it for granted, but when I was a CIPD student 20 years ago there were no student conferences, so its great to see this being offered and so many students taking up the opportunity.

I’ll give an update to this blog here once the event has happened – hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

Till next time…


PS in other news, our period of high stress in our lives continues, and I know its having a detrimental effect on me at least, and no doubt my wife too. Hopefully our situation will resolve itself soon.

Sarri seems to be the hardest word

In this blog, written in partnership with Mark Hendy, I’ll be discussing the recent situation involving the Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (known for obvious reasons as Kepa).

This situation occurred on 24 February and you can read more about it HERE.

My friend Graham Wilson, leadership expert, managed to get interviewed by Sky News about it which you can watch HERE from 48:10.

Both Mark and I were astonished by Kepa’s behaviour and here’s our thoughts on it.

First we considered whether Kepa was right or wrong to react as he did. We both think, unquestionably, that Kepa was wrong. As Mark says, “tactical decisions belong to the manager…Kepa disregarded an instruction from someone who had the right to make that decision. It was a selfish call by Kepa.”

And I agree. This, in HR terms, was a failure to follow a reasonable instruction at one level however there’s another view that Kepa knew his own abilities and effectiveness best and may have been better placed to know what was the right call in the circumstances. We shouldn’t necessarily encourage a command and control culture and we do want to encourage employee voice – although this seems a questionable way to exercise it. Its fine to challenge decisions, but Kepa could have run to Sarri to explain his views and let Sarri make the final call. Doing this from a few hundred yards away made this the wrong decision by Kepa.

We considered how it leaves Sarri as manager, particularly after his acquiescence to Kepa and trying to brush it under the carpet to press afterwards.

Our view is that Sarri will find it incredibly difficult to command respect from his team now. But how important is a managers ability to see through a decision and course of action, versus how important is it that they operate a democracy and can change their mind? What do we value more?

In the workplace this would be failure to follow a reasonable instruction and possible gross misconduct but Mark points out that this isn’t really a straightforward comparison. As a minimum though Kepa should, and did, face sanctions but we would also question whether Sarri himself needs a bit of a talking to by more senior leaders about his own behaviour. It isn’t clear if Sarri was spoken to and in public at least, Chelsea have backed him – as to do otherwise would be seen to be giving in to player power.

However what if Sarri had resigned straight away? He didn’t, but if he had, would he have had any claim for Constructive Dismissal? I think he would, but Mark thinks not. I think this would be a justifiable resignation on the grounds of being undermined but Mark thinks the club could not be held responsible for that. This makes Chelsea’s backing of Sarri more important as if they had not done so, then surely Constructive Dismissal would have been able to be claimed?

Finally we’ve thought about Sarri’s immediate and later reactions and the difference between them. Instantly he had an emotional reaction which we both understand. Later he had calmed down and reflected and that was fine too, but he reversed course and took blame for the situation that was at odds with the way that Chelsea then acted and the punishment that was dished out to Kepa. Far better to retain some consistency in his responses and retain some semblance of respect too.

So there we have it. An interesting case study in leadership, culture and organisational behaviour that shows, again, how football sometimes mirrors the workplace but sometimes shows how different a world of inhabits.

Till next time…


Ps in other news, my wife has resigned from her role whilst on maternity leave and is searching for a new role. The situation is quite surreal and we have both learnt a lot from it.

Part-time Lover

There’s been recent media coverage of Labour’s pledge to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees from day one, and the Prime Ministers’ previous statement that all jobs should be advertised as flexible by default. I’ve also recently tweeted about organisational views of part-time employees, and in this blog I’ll explore these themes more.

This is prompted largely by my wife’s current search for employment. She has worked 3 days a week as a Chartered Accountant for four years and is approaching the end of her maternity leave. She is unable to return to her previous role (a long and scarcely believable story) and is looking for a new 3 day a week role.

Note I’m using the phrase 3 days a week here and not part-time for reasons I’ll explain later.

I’ve helped her promote her job search on LinkedIn but she’s very much her own person and is having lots of conversations with various recruiters although it isn’t really what she wanted to be spending the last two months of her maternity leave doing.

Straight away though her requirement for 3 days a week is proving a barrier. She knew that there would be less 3 day a week roles than 5 day a week roles, but it’s the attitudes of the recruiters that has been surprising.

For a start she’s on maternity leave looking after a 9 month old baby. It isn’t easy to make a short notice job interview or to respond to recruiters asking her to just “come into our city centre office” for a chat about her search. Depending on the mood our 9 month old is in, it isn’t always easy to even answer the phone or indicate a time to call back! Sometimes these informal chats need to have baby in tow too.

Obviously if I’m around it’s easy but I’m not always there.

But it’s like some recruiters have no idea what being on maternity leave is all about. It’s stressful enough without having to find a job at the end of it.

There have been recruiters who have dropped her like a stone as soon as they’ve heard her mention 3 days a week. Some have said that their clients don’t want part timers, in a tone of voice that implies part timers are less productive and effective than full timers. One said that they would put my wife in touch with their Interim desk as they themselves only dealt with permanent roles, as if working 3 days a week is somehow less permanent a relationship.

The ages of our children means a need for both of us to have flexibility to do school runs etc. It means that every day, one of us can’t start work until 9am and one of us has to finish no later than 5pm, but in practice this differs day by day and isn’t massively predictable.

My wife explained her need to be able to finish at 5pm to a recruiter and they expressed a view that their clients may be able to cope with 3 days a week, but certainly not with “reduced hours” (eg finishing at 5pm) aswell, as they need staff who are committed to staying till the end of working hours.

I find myself having to state that those with caring responsibilities are not working “reduced hours” or with reduced commitment. They’re as committed as anyone and operate with greater flexibility.

Then there are recruiters who have heard my wife say 3 days a week and have ignored that completely and keep putting her forward for 5 days a week roles as if, suddenly, their persistence can overcome my wife’s inability to work more than 3 days a week.

Partly caused by, as I’ve hinted, the label of part time. It does suggest something less than what those who are full time offer. Took literally that’s correct but it’s proportionally equal and many part time staff are more productive than their full time equivalents.

I should add that there are plenty of helpful and understanding recruiters that have contacted my wife too, and she is building some helpful relationships as a result.

I remember an HR Advisor in my team asking to return 3 days a week from maternity leave. I confess I had very similar initial reactions to the recruiters above, but never said this out loud and took time to reflect on the request. I considered that the positive impact I could have on that one person by helping her with this far outweighed any potential negative consequences for the organisation and in fact no negative consequence ever actually arose.

Lots of people in the media talk about the death of 9-5 but what they mean is the death of Mon-Fri 9-5 and the traditional working week which, as I’ve spoken about lots of times, isn’t compatible with modern family and social lives anyway.

The concept of part time is a misnomer and we should not refer to it. Instead, focus on what someone CAN offer us. In my wife’s case, 3 days a week of high quality work.

Have you come across similar outdated views and how do you suggest we overcome them?

Till next time…


Ps in other news, it’s been a busy time at home and work for all of us and we’ve been stretched really thin this last 5 weeks or so. The next 3 look the same and I hope we can cope…

#CIPHRConf19 3rd/final blog

The closing keynote speech was by David D’Souza, covering the future of work and how we reshape ourselves as a profession.

He began by asking how we integrate technology into what we do. He established that we would all be happy if technology could automate what we do, but the challenge is that we don’t really know what we want technology to do, and we haven’t figured out what we do if it does automate what we do.

Another challenge is that we have short term thinking – we focus on short term rewards and less on long term progress.  We can see what technology can do for us today, this week, next week – but we can’t see clearly into the long term future as much as we would like.

We are also scared that rapid utilisation of technology will lead to massive unemployment and possibly Terminator style scenarios.

But in general we are not good at predicting things, so we are scared of stuff that is highly unlikely.  However our fears come from not knowing enough.

Technology gives us a massive opportunity to do things differently and to make organisations better. It gives us a chance to think about what kind of organisation we want to be.

He gave his oft rehearsed Jurassic Park analogy to illustrate this. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” is the quote to remember here.

This means we should not copy other organisations who are successful, but focus on how we can become successful.

In the CIPD, he feels they are asking their membership to do three things.

  1. To be principles led.  Back to the Jurassic Park analogy.
  2. To be evidence based. Make your decisions really sound and based on robust, relevant and proportionate data.
  3. To be outcomes driven. Make a difference in lots of areas in organisations, and consider how best to use our time to maximum effect.

HR will grow and reshape as a result of this. He used a great locksmith analogy to get us to focus on people’s outcomes and not how long they take to do a job.

Too often in organisations, we focus on inputs, and not outcomes. In HR, we need to take half a step back, and look at how we can make work easier and deliver better outcomes.

Stop focusing on being busy.

There followed a Q&A which lasted almost as long as the speech, and allowed DDS to cover more general topics.

One pertinent topic was whether HR are equipped with the right skillset to use the technology – and he feels that outside work we have the skills and use them, but don’t always do that within the workplace, and this seems to be a UK specific problem in that our economy is too slow because we don’t use it well enough.

And that’s the end of the conference – this has been a great experience and one I’ve been pleased to cover via three blogs and dozens of tweets, and I’ve had access to some great learning and networking opportunities.

Till next time…


PS I’ve been out early every morning this week before others have been awake, and am looking very much to being at home tomorrow.

#CIPHRConf19 blog 2

After a brief break and a presentation from CIPHR on their future roadmap, we have an employment law update from Shoosmiths from Stuart Lawrenson and Gemma Robinson.

Stuart began by showing how the Tribunal system is under strain, giving examples of some 3-5 day hearings taking upwards of 12 months to reach an outcome, and how this creates some risk for employers as their main witnesses may leave during that time.

He then covered some recent legislative developments, starting with Gender Pay Reporting which will be prevalent in the media in coming months.  He thinks many organisations are still not ready and will file last minute or late.  He also outlined that Ethnicity Pay Reporting and Executive Pay Reporting are on the agenda and will come in sooner rather than later.

The #MeToo trend was given some coverage and it was interesting to note that many US states are now making it a requirement for employers to train their staff on sexual harassment – this move may be replicated to some degree in the UK too…

GDPR was covered too but not in massive depth as there wasn’t the time.  A little bit of time was given to recent developments in Gig Economy cases, with a focus on Pimlico Plumbers, Uber and the like but with a clear message for employers to look at their use of consultants too.

In a difficult slot, Gemma from Shoosmiths took over and started with a Brexit update, which was almost impossible to cover but she did a good job in outlining some of the knowns and unknowns – and in good detail too.

In the Q&A session afterwards, the most popular question was about the most common area HR fall foul of GDPR. Stuart said it is data retention – for example you don’t need an employee’s bank details once you’ve paid them everything they are due post-termination, but some bits of data you do need to keep for up to 40 years if its H&S related – but often HR teams apply a one size fits all approach.

And then its lunch.

I changed my mind during lunch about which of the breakout sessions to attend, and headed to the Analyse stream, chaired by David D’Souza and involving Nick Court plus Andy Charlwood and Tricia Howarth, and which attempted to answer the question “How does HR become more evidence-based?”.

The panel started off giving their views on what EBHR actually is – and largely agreed with each other. I liked Nick’s view that really EBHR is not new, but it IS a difficult skillset for many HR practitioners and is often hindered by “crap in, crap out” data systems.

DDS did a straw poll that showed that only two or three people in the audience had come from a maths or statistics background, which further served to illustrate how difficult this is.

All panelists agreed that if HR can rely upon and use robust and reliable data then its impact becomes greater, but this needs to avoid bias within the data or the person making the decision too.

I asked a question via Slido about whether gut instinct can be classed as data to be used in EBHR. Tricia said it can’t be ignored, but one needs to be realistic about whether your gut feel is 100% suited to purpose, eg does it effectively answer the question being posed?

Building on this, the panel considered what kind of data is “best” and how does one prioritise it and avoid data analysis paralysis.  Nick answered, saying data and data sets need to be representative and relevant – there’s no such thing as “best” data.

Andy built on this theme – its about the matching of data and evidence to the particular purpose, and sometimes it is about ensuring the right question is asked – unless we ask the right question its difficult to gather the right evidence.

The panel made very good use of the functionality to gather and answer questions from the audience, and the feature does tend to work very well with a panel style debate.

A point reiterated by all of the panel was not to buy engagement surveys – its data that clouds the actual picture.

Another point made was that HR really need a statistical analysis skillset and that there aren’t enough of us with that skillset or mindset.

The panel then also began to discuss what HR can do to become more comfortable with EBHR.  Nick Court said ditch pie charts and 3D charts, and instead look at how you can use data to drive insight rather than something that just looks good?

DDS pointed out that the CIPD EBSCO database and factsheets are good sources of help, as is the Centre for Evidence Based Management, and the Organisation of Science for Work.  These would all be recommended start points for anyone wishing to learn more about data analytics and EBHR.

There was an interesting question about trust in data, particularly where data has been inaccurate or incomplete and where the organisation may have lost faith in the data. Tricia said to say sorry but draw a line in the sand and correct it.  Andy pointed out that those who enter the data need to take ownership of the data and understand that it is human error that makes data wrong most of the time.

We finished by going back to gut instinct – there’s a danger there is too much data and we lose the human approach towards HR.  Don’t create an industry for its own sake – use data that is relevant, proportionate and helpful.

Till next time…