In recent weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about employer brand, prompted by a few different things including speaking (last minute) on a PM Jobs webinar on the subject. In this blog I’ll explore a few of my thoughts. 

It struck me how few organisations have a really well defined employer brand. Many, or most, will have an excellent customer brand but often the employer brand is indistinguishable from that. 

We hear about the rise of Trip Advisor style reviews for companies on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and these are indeed (pun intentional) very helpful to a potential job seeker, as well as giving the employer a chance to see how they are perceived and try to influence that. 

I recently spoke at an event where I lightheartedly asked what, if anyone was going on a date with someone for the first time, they would do before they met that person. Almost unanimously, they said they would attempt to stalk them on social media. We laughed about this but honestly I believe it to be true and a valid action too – it’s research, or due diligence, before you make any kind of commitment. 

And I further developed this point by saying potential job applicants would do the same thing about potential future employers, and in doing so would usually go well beyond the jobs/careers pages on the organisational website. This seemed to be a surprise to many, and yet it’s just as valid, possibly more so, than stalking a potential date on social media. 

In my time I’ve done both. 

But what do you do as a potential applicant if you can’t find anything? What if the organisation is, for all intents and purposes, invisible for the purpose of research beyond their own website? What if the organisation is so unconcerned by its employer brand that it relies wholly on its own website?

In most cases, people would try to speak to someone they know works there, or has worked there in the past. And there we have the best, but also hidden, bit of employer branding possible. 

Your own employees. And past employees. 

How you treat your own employees, how the employee experience is for them, will have a direct impact on your employer brand, like it or not. They are all ambassadors and they will talk regularly to a small group of family and friends about your organisation. You have to hope they say good things but sadly that probably isn’t true. And that small group of people are each individually connected to another small group and may share your employees view with that group if asked. 

So my advice is focus on the employee experience. Make it as good as you can for each individual as it increases the chances they will say good things about you when asked. They are, consciously or not, branded by you as an employer and they WILL share your employer brand whether they choose to or not. 

Past employees too are a source of employer branding information. Exceptionally few companies keep in touch with ex employees but they’re often a good source of data for a potential applicant. More than once in the past I’ve spoken to an ex employee of a company I was considering applying for, and their responses have put me off. Obviously you have to bear in mind the circumstances of their exit, and how much you trust their opinion, but even if you don’t trust them they are still out there sharing these views to others. 

So I think we should actively manage this group of ex employees, by keeping in touch and sharing information from time to time. Very much like Universities do with their alumni. 

Of particular note is how they feel they were treated during their exit. I know of one person, my friend Zeus (not his real name) who was neutral towards his employer during employment, but at the point he resigned he began to be treated very badly and was hurried out of the exit (albeit paid up in full). That treatment has affected how he views that employer now and he will happily share that experience with anyone who asks. 

Interestingly, Zeus had another interesting experience when joining said company a couple of years previously. The person who rang up to offer him the job, and would later be his line manager, tried to talk him out of accepting the position during that conversation, and then again in another conversation a week or so later. They felt that Zeus would not be a good fit and would be unhappy – which begs the question why offer the job in the first place, but that aside, it’s an interesting dynamic – a current employee trying to talk a potential employee out of coming to work there. 

Who knows how many other managers, when making job offers, let slip their views about what it is like to work there and, consciously or not, influence the potential employees view about the employer brand? Is that something we could or should actively manage?

Zeus being Zeus, he ignored this discussion as he felt he had no reason to trust the person giving the information and was determined to prove them wrong in any event, so took the offer. In hindsight though he admits that they were probably right and he should have listened to them. 

How much employee turnover and lack of engagement could be avoided if we were more explicit about such things?

I know of another friend – let’s call her Hera – who had a similar experience during the Onboarding phase when a member of the HR team (yes, really) was really explicit with her about how bad the employer was. Again, Hera proceeded anyway but again now she suspects the person was right. 

And that was from HR!

But it reinforces the point that your employees, current and past, are constantly spreading your employer brand around. Free marketing in a way. 

But is that a good or a bad thing?

That depends very much on you as an employer. 

What will you do to manage this?

Till next time. 


Ps in other news, home life has been packed with events both good and bad in recent weeks, and there are barely enough hours in the week to deal with them all, and it’s been a difficult and stressful time. Some of this I’ll share in an upcoming blog.  

This means nothing to me…

This is the seventh and final post in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website. 

We decided I’d write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what’s happened in organisations I’ve worked in and with – whether the source of motivation Bee’s blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what’s worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what’s not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people? 

Here’s Bee’s blog on meaning. In it, she suggests that employee retention becomes much easier when organisations provide a sense of meaning for their work, and contrasts two differing ways of doing this – one overarching purpose, which she says has good short term effects but potentially damaging long term effects; and a pluralistic approach where lots of different ways of doing meaningful work are encouraged, which she suggests is a better long term approach. 

I agree in part with Bees thoughts. I certainly agree meaningful work is a source of motivation and can therefore help with employee retention. But I’m less certain that having one overarching purpose in an organisation is only a short term fix, and that a pluralistic approach is therefore the best way.

I have usually been able to find meaning in what I do. I’ve often recounted the story of telling my 3 year old daughter that my job was to help people be happy at work, and I guess that’s what my meaning and overarching purpose is. When I’ve worked in places where I’ve felt a connection it’s usually because the organisation has a similar ethos and let’s me do my thing.

It’s also why I often dislike doing operational HR activities as, although they’re needed, they aren’t necessarily linked to my purpose, although may well have a contributory hygiene factor.

I was in my favourite job for 11 years. This was an organisation that had a purpose to improve the lives of its customers, and that resonated so much with me that we just understood each other and could see common ground. I did my thing there for 11 years before the organisational purpose changed and I felt I no longer had that connection, and left. 

I have been in other jobs where the organisation and I had a complete disconnect about what they saw me doing and what I felt was right to do, where my role was expected to be about compliance and regulation, and no focus given to helping people feel happy at work. I have never lasted long in such places. 

I have had various bits of freelance work over the years too, and the beauty of that is that I could pick and choose work that matched my purpose. It’s no surprise that I got a lot of energy out of those bits of work and consider them some of my best work too. 

So when I get meaning from an organisation, I stay. In that sense I agree with Bee.  The search for meaning is a motivating factor, and has been a motivating factor in my leaving some roles. 

I don’t necessarily agree that the overarching unitary purpose is only a short term thing though. Uber, cited as an example, are perhaps the exception rather than the rule and I know many organisations who have maintained their unitary purpose successfully – I would suggest that the growth of Uber brought with it people whose purposes didn’t match the original meaning, and this contributed to what has happened. Had they got their recruitment right, and found people whose meaning matched their own, what did happen might never have. 

A pluralistic approach can have many benefits, as Bee does suggest, and I’ve seen this work also. But an organisation needs to have sufficient size and maturity to cope with and make the best of this. It’s no better or worse than the unitary approach, just different. 

Ultimately though, my own sense of meaning comes from helping people to be happy, whether that be through my HR work, my PT stuff, and any voluntary or freelance work I do also. It can be a motivating factor in getting me to stay at places, and getting me to leave places. 

It is possibly also why my ideal jobs are (or would have been) a professional wrestler or a Man Utd footballer, as both have immense potential to create happiness for people. 

Somehow I ended up in HR instead. But I still hope. 

Till next time…


Ps in other news, I now have a 16 year old son who is technically and in some regards legally an adult. This makes me feel very old. 

A Perfect Day

Last week I did an Ignite talk at #cipdnap17 on the subject of Work Life Balance and how I go about creating A Perfect Day. Given that it is, by coincidence, Go Home On Time Day on 21 June, the timing seems apt to expand on this. 

I’m grateful to Gemma Dale for publishing her own excellent blog on this subject which made me think about writing this one. 

Read hers, then come straight back here. I’ll wait. 

Done? Good. 

My Ignite talk was again delivered as a rhyme, and I really enjoyed doing it. I drew some inspiration not just for the talk but for my whole approach to work life balance from Nigel Marsh’s excellent TED talk on the subject some years ago.

My talk was filmed and you can watch it here if you like. 

In it, I’m making, in a fairly haphazard way, a few key points which I’ll expand on here. 

1. That there is something that approximates a perfect day for everyone, but it is a rare and unusual thing. Too often we don’t make efforts to create it, as we are too busy or (worse) don’t realise what we need or (even worse) do realise but do nothing about it. My point was that by making some very small adjustments to your day, and helping others to do the same, our organisations and our families can reap huge rewards. 

2. In HR we could take a leading role in educating managers and employees on the benefits of flexibility. However this doesn’t often seem to happen, and even when leading by example I’ve encountered suspicion and mistrust. But our ability to influence is there and should be used. 

3. The demands of modern family life are often largely incompatible with the demands of the traditional working day and traditional organisation. So one of these sets of demands has to change, and the only one we in HR can realistically influence on behalf of others is the latter. But again by leading by example we can show people how to manage the demands of both. 

4. Organisations who tell their staff how to work, how to dress, when to take lunch and for how long, what hours to work etc are going about it all in the wrong way. They can’t unlock the engagement and discretionary effort they want from their staff unless they change. Too many organisations judge people by how many hours they are sat at their desk, and not by the quality of output they deliver. If someone wants to take an hour or so off to do the school run and help their kids with their homework, and then will log on late at night and catch up, does it really matter as long as their work is done?

5. Working in the evening or at weekends is a personal choice and not one that should be encouraged or expected by organisations. Too many see emails sent late at night or at weekends as a sign of being some kind of workplace hero, as working harder or more than someone else. If you want to do it, fine – but set your emails to send first thing in the morning so you don’t impose your lifestyle and working patterns on others. 

6. You are never too busy to spend time building working and family relationships and a coffee catch-up with someone is time well spent no matter what else you need to be doing. Telling someone you’re too busy to grab a coffee says less about your workload and more about you as a human being.

So if it’s Go Home On Time Day, I suppose this will mean different things to different people. 

And that’s ok, because everyone’s perfect day is different. Everyone’s perception of work life balance is also different. 

But in organisations, as HR professionals, we need to be encouraging people to explore what it means for them. To adopt a trial and error approach and, as I’ve mentioned before, present successive drafts of themselves. 

We shouldn’t judge anyone for trying to get themselves balanced. 

Till next time. 


PS in other news, I’ve recently built a large climbing frame. I am reminded why I hate DIY and also how poor I am at it. I would happily outsource all of this if I could. And I have a new shed to build next…

Man (Utd) Flu

I support Manchester United, and watched the game vs Chelsea this week. United had striker problems, and it was reported we were short because Rooney and Martial were injured, Ibrahimovic was suspended and Rashford was ill. 

But then Rashford made some kind of recovery during the day, made it from Manchester to London, and played (and played OK too). So was he ill in the first place or was it mind games from Jose Mourinho? Let’s assume he WAS ill and let’s explore the implications of this. 

So he’s ill and notifies his employer that he can’t come to work that day. One of two things has then happened. Either a) during the day he has recovered sufficiently to come into work later on or b) his employer has got back in touch, explained how desperate they are, and asked him to come in despite being ill. 

If the former happened, then this shows great flexibility on the part of both employer and employee. 

Or does it?

You’d have to question whether Rashford was, initially, really as ill as he reported if later on he could feel better enough to work. Did he overreact initially? Was this a case of the Man Flu? Or Man Utd Flu?

But also, just as illness can come on one suddenly, it can also lift suddenly, and both sides can be applauded for having the flexibility to review the original “off sick today” decision. This is something I think all employers should do. 

My own approach, based on a total of zero sick days across my entire working life, is that there shouldn’t be an approach of all or nothing when a person is ill. If someone is not going to be able to do 100% of their duties, then it’s preferable, in my view, if they do even 10% as that’s better than 0%. 

Of course there are complications in that some illnesses are best kept out of the workplace for fear of spreading to healthy workers, but assuming the individual can work remotely or across a different timespan then this kind of flexibility should be encouraged. So if an individual like Rashford has been ill over the weekend and needs a few extra hours to sleep it off before coming into work, but is willing to work later on and do less than 100% of his normal duties, then I say that’s a good thing and better than him taking the whole day off sick and doing 0%. 

Recently someone I know was quite ill and could potentially have worked from home but would have had to go into the office to collect something first, and didn’t want to do that because of how it would have looked. That says there’s something about a culture of presenteeism that still needs to be tackled. The same person also felt that they COULD work in between bouts of being ill and confined to the bathroom, but felt that this sporadic approach to working was not helpful to the organisation and chose to take the entire day off sick as a result. Again, this says something about individual and organisational approaches to work that only working 7-8 hours/day in one go is considered “work”. 

Here’s the thing. It’s not the only way. 

And what if the latter scenario about Rashford is true, in that he was pressured by his employer to come in because they were desperate?

If the employer did ask Rashford to reconsider his “off sick” stance, which he obviously did, then this may be considered bullying and potentially something that could contribute to a deterioration in Rashford’s health in that he was asked to come in and perform at a very high level despite feeling ill which could have made him much worse. 

But, possibly, it also says something about employee engagement and openness in the workplace in that the employer and employee could have adult-adult conversations about choices and flexibility, and the employee felt passionate enough and connected enough to his organisations goals that he could be persuaded to come in despite feeling ill. 

Perhaps we will never know the full story. 

I do think that organisations should be able to have grown up conversations with their staff without that being considered undue pressure or bullying, but also that both sides should build in enough flexibility and understanding in their relationship that occasional illnesses, and different ideas on what constitutes work under “normal” and “unusual” circumstances. 

Ultimately, Rashford reconsidered his decision, played, but United lost, so perhaps all this is for naught if the organisation doesn’t achieve its specific goals from asking the employee to reconsider…

Something to think about. 

Oh and another thing. If you are ill, talk about it in grown up terms. You are not “an ickle bit poorly”.  Small children get “an ickle bit poorly”. Adults do not. Adults get ill. Sorry to rant but one manager I used to work with would regularly use this phrase to describe themselves and their team when unwell. 

Till next time…


Ps in other news, my PT course is going well. I passed the L2 Gym Instructing course and am halfway through the L3 Personal Trainer element now. It is really brilliant and I’m learning loads about nutrition, anatomy and physiology and how to structure a training programme. I’ve got great people who’ve volunteered to help me throughout and I’m able to apply my learning on both their and my own training. Watch this space for further developments.

Independence Day

I’ve been reflecting on a decent number of my connections leaving the corporate world and setting up as self employed, and I’ve been wondering whether there’s some pattern emerging.
So this blog is me trying to make sense of this, and “thinking/working out loud”.
I’ve noticed a good number of my connections going independent. Very recently, at least three or four have all made this leap, for their own different and very valid reasons. Earlier this year one or two did the same, and so did a couple of colleagues who left my last employer around the same time I did.
I wish the very very best to all who do this, and part of me is slightly jealous as I almost went self employed this time last year, getting as far as setting up my own business and beginning to build my portfolio of activities over a long lead in period before reversing course when I got an unexpected job offer. But I was within a couple of months of doing it. I don’t know if I will in the future, at the moment I’m still happily employed and with things I want to achieve in employment too. 
I’ve mentioned a few Twitter-based connections who have gone self employed, but it’s not a new phenomenon. In fact I belong to a networking group of L&D practitioners who have met informally for at least 15 years (how long I’ve been in the group, but it probably started much earlier than that) – and I remember how back in 2001/2002 most, almost all in fact, of the group were in employed positions but now, as we enter 2017, I’ll be one of only two who are in employed positions. The rest have, one by one, gone self employed. Maybe that was an influence on me. 
Of course, I’ve had a little bit of self employment for over ten years, working occasional/regular evenings delivering CIPD (and other) qualifications for a variety of providers, but now and again fitting in freelance work on a range of HR issues or training on behalf of organisations. But this is only part time work although I do get a lot of enjoyment from it.
I do wonder though whether these things could be enough to sustain a full time equivalent income, and this was part of my reasoning for doing my 180 last year, although I was doing well in building up these income streams and adding more.
I also had an insightful but brief chat with one self employed person who really challenged me about whether I was ready to go self employed last year. They said that there are plenty of people who seem like they’re having really successful self employed careers and really promote themselves well, but in reality they’re struggling and it was a crowded market.
And this does seem to ring true with some people I’ve seen now winding up their self employed businesses and going back into employment. I’ve seen three or maybe four people do this in the last year, almost as many as I’ve seen go the other way.
But I wondered as well whether there’s something about life stage and career stage that prompts some of this. For example I’d just turned 40 when I had my self employed vision clearly, and many years ago I remember two well known L&D consultants telling me they had a similar view at that age and went self employed. And many of the networking group I mentioned were of a similar age when they went self employed.
I’m not sure. But maybe it is career experience related. I’ve heard some people say they’ve had enough corporate experience (some called this corporate BS) and want to work for themselves. 
I think this says a few things. One, that there comes a point when your employed experience is optimised enough to get enough momentum behind your “run” that you can “fly”. Two, that there also comes a point where one tires of being in an organisation – in HR, we often know instinctively what makes a great workplace and, if we can’t work as an employee in one and shape it, we may get frustrated and go and set up our own. And Three, there comes a point where you realise what you’re really great at, and want to do more of that and less of other things, and going self employed is the best way to achieve it.
And maybe Four, when you’re around the age of 40, your financial situation makes it an easier thing to contemplate. Although in my case when I was contemplating it I had just moved house and took out a new mortgage, got engaged and had a third child so I was perhaps stacking the deck against myself there.
So it’s no wonder I’m not contemplating self employment any more. Based on those four things, I’m not there. On one, I’ve got a lot more to offer my current and any potential future employer and there’s things I want to achieve whilst employed there yet. On two, I was definitely there last year, frustrated at not having a voice or influence any more and needing to shape things again, but I’ve got those back now at my current place so it’s different again. On three, I’m halfway there maybe, as I know I’d STILL make a really awesome WWE wrestler just as much and maybe more than anything else I could do, but I’m also pretty good at my HR stuff too and getting better so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And on four, nothing’s changed for me.
So what does this mean for the people who have gone self employed, either this year or previously?  Well, they’ve been able to satisfy themselves with answers to each point and they’re making a go of it. And all power to them. I hope they all make it work.
And maybe those who’ve gone back the other way found not that they’d failed in any way, but that their answers to the points had changed and they needed to return to employment to achieve something different. And again, all power to them and I hope they make it work too.
I say find something you’re awesome at, and do it. If that’s self employment, or employment, it doesn’t matter. Only the awesomeness matters. 
Till next time.
PS in other news, our holiday saga is over. We gave in and compromised on a regular family holiday, again possibly our last one as a complete family. We’ve booked a week in Turkey in August but hope to supplement this with a couple of short breaks here and there. My favourite place to look at for a short break at the moment is Switzerland or Austria, can anyone recommend either place?

#cipdace16 blog 6 – KN2

And here we are in the final keynote speech. I shamelessly ducked out of the penultimate session so that I could spend enough time giving attention to the Exhibition, both talking to suppliers and filling my swag bag. I also spent time talking to old and new contacts and had a blast. 

But boy am I tired now. 

And no one was giving neck and shoulder massages. Time was when you could get 3/4 in one afternoon at this conference. Now there’s none. 

Bad times. 

In general though the Exhibition had a good vibe about it this year. There was a lot of variety in providers and not so many pushy ones as last year, with many being happy to chat in general terms without necessarily trying to sell. The breakout spaces around the hall were well used and there was a nice, relaxed atmosphere. 

I wonder though when suppliers will start to realise that pens are not a good, modern gift. I hardly use one nowadays. And when they’ll find a more modern way of entering their prize draws than leaving a business card? I’ve not had a business card for six or seven years as social media and other electronic media have passed them by. 

So I’m in the keynote from Gianluca Petriglieri who came with a huge reputation and didn’t disappoint. 

His talk was about competence not being enough, and that’s something that has been a bit of a theme in sessions I’ve attended. He also mirrored some themes explored by Peter Cheese in the opening speech yesterday about a lack of trust in the workplace too. 

He asked us to discuss a time when we were well led. Both Ian Pettigrew and I, when discussing this, talked about people we used to work for who were good leaders but who we only came to fully appreciate after they or we had moved on, when someone less good took over and we experienced poorer leadership styles. 

Gianpiero asked us all how we knew we were being well led and some of the audience struggled to answer this. I know I did. I suppose I didn’t know at the time what a good leader they were, but having experienced others since I now know how good that person was. And I do struggle to really define what he did that was different. 

His point was that we struggle to really know whether leadership exists, in the same way we can’t say for certain that love exists. 

Someone pointed out that they do exist in how they make us feel and act, even though they are not tangible things. Gianpiero agreed with that, and added that you see it (both leadership and love) when someone does something to benefit you without any obvious gain for themselves. 

He said that leadership is a cocktail of skills that get another person to do something that they wouldn’t do of their own volition. Therefore leadership is the exercise of influence. 

At this point I needed to run for a train but I was enjoying this speech and would encourage you to catch up with the rest of it via Ian Pettigrew’s blog and storify. 

I’ll do a summary blog post on #cipdace16 in a few days time when I’ve had chance to reflect properly, but right now I’m shattered and missing my family. 

Till next time…


#cipdace16 blog 5 – session E3

I’ve finally been round the Exhibition, or at least two thirds of it. My bag is steadily filling up with swag, so my family may be happier tonight when I get back. 

And now I’m in session E3 about rethinking performance management, something I’m currently giving a lot of thought to in my day job. 
CJ Green from Servest opened up, highlighting their huge growth over the last seven years, with rapid change. When she came into Servest she had an efficient appraisal process but it was cumbersome at times and her success was measured on how many appraisals she could get done. 

She asserted, and I agree, that it’s the quality of the conversation that matters, not the process. In her review of the appraisal process with a mixed group of staff, trying to move to a more continuous improvement culture, there was a split room and no consensus amongst them. 

She noted that much of her desire for replacing the appraisal process with something else was her own view that she disliked appraisals and wanted something else, irrespective of anyone else’s preferences, so this was a wake up call for her. 

I think I’m guilty of this too. 

She talked about people being uncomfortable with the removal of the appraisal process, but if that’s people’s belief then let them keep it as long as they can show the performance data that highlights their performance management processes Inc appraisals are working. 

This is a good idea. But it’s also about relinquishing control and trusting managers to manage performance in a way that works. There are worries that managers may do nothing, but they found that this worry was unfounded. If you have adult-adult conversations then people will work out a process that works for them, it doesn’t need to be driven by HR. 

Amanda Oates from Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust then took over. She explained some of the cultural and service delivery challenges that the trust faces. All the trusts main challenges were workforce related, and required organisational transformation beyond a mere restructure. 

Much of her barriers stemmed from within the HR team, in that the systems didn’t help, the skills weren’t right, the reputation was poor, data was non existent and more. And she used these as themes to redevelop the HR function and by extension the organisation. 

This talk was very good and I haven’t been able to capture all the detail of it. Amanda did ensure that what she did had a direct link to service improvement and listed a fair list of HR and organisational measures that improved as a result of her retooling of the HR functions. 

My main observation though was that the two talks didn’t really fit with each other. Both talks were very good and probably deserved a longer session each, but this session had the feel of two talks bolted together without a great deal of thought. 

But right now, my thoughts are turning to lunch, and a full wander round the Exhibition. 

Till next time…


#cipdace16 blog 4 – session D3

Here we go again. Day two of #cipdace16

Last night was good, although there were perhaps too many things all happening at the same time which spread me pretty thinly. 

I also live too close to Manchester to justify staying over so I got the train home, only to find it diverted because of a fallen tree, so I got home very late. Daughter then decided to get up minutes after I fell asleep, and two further times in the night before getting up just five minutes before my early start alarm. 

So I’m knackered and about as much use as an out of date chicken goujon (see Inji, I did it). 

My first session today is D3 about organisational transformation, headed by Lynne Weedall and Valerie Hughes D’Aeth, both of whom I’ve heard speak separately before so it was interesting to see them interact with each other. 

Lynne was integration lead in the Dixons/Carphone merger and talked about the need to recognise emotion in any change process. I’ve been through an M&A process in recent years and will be going through another in the near future so it’s a topic I’ve reflected a lot on and I can understand the emotion involved in the process. 

Lots of merger type processes involve loss, and so people go through the usual cycle of reactions to any loss. People willl struggle to let go of issues and emotions whilst they are still dealing with their loss and organisations often fail to address this. 

I suffered and saw a lot of loss in my most recent merger type experience and I struggled to let it go, and it wasn’t helpful that there were multiple losses and I was expected, and told to, just get on with it and somehow expected to be an ambassador and advocate for the new organisation despite all that loss and emotion. It’s hard. I couldn’t do it. 

Lynne then talked a lot about the comparisons between mergers and marriages. I’ve written and spoken a lot about this and it was nice to see some of my own ideas coming out on stage, reassuring that some of the big hitters in HR think the same as me!

She talked about the need to do cultural due diligence before the merger, and build change capability by looking at culture and looking at desired post merger culture before the merger happens. Let frontline staff work together delivering services rather than sending them on change and transformation workshops. 

Lynne finished by saying that whatever your role in a merger or integration you will learn from it, emerge stronger and with greater skills. This is very true and apt for my own situation. Whilst I enjoyed the pre integration stuff and was totally on board with everything, something happened at the point of merger and switched me off completely so that the trust was gone and I hated my post merger experience, but what I can’t deny is that I emerged stronger and with a greater skill set and range of knowledge that has served me well since and will do in the future. 

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, quoted Lynne from Victoria Beckham of all people. 

Valerie, from the BBC, then took over, looking at the transformation that has taken place to develop a leaner BBC. She outlined the challenges facing the BBC from a financial and service delivery perspective, which are vast. 

She set out some organisational design principles that have helped them transform. In an organisation of 21,000 people they have only 7 layers of management and a maximum span of control of 1:10. I wonder how many organisational restructures begin with and hold true to these kinds of design principles?

The BBC also did a professional services review with the aim of minimising back office services, which is something many public sector organisations have had to do, and they had an aim of reducing spend on back office services from 10% to 6%, which considering the BBCs budget is a big reduction in spend. 

She talked about the need to manage stakeholders, both internal and external, in managing change and transformation. The BBC have a range of mechanisms to help them handle this, which were sensible options covering a range of media and channels. 

Interestingly, Valerie talked about the HR transformation that was part of the wider change. More areas came into HR such as internal Comms and apprenticeships. The HR budget had to reduce by £60m and also the entire team had to move from West London to Birmingham. 

And 60% of the team left and were replaced by new HR staff, which is a very high percentage and suggests that some of the change either wasn’t understood by the original HR team or impacted them too negatively. I think this is inevitable and doesn’t mean the change is wrong, but it needs careful handling to ensure people are bought in and, if they’re not, that they know that that’s ok and they can opt out and leave the organisation with their heads held high. 

That wasn’t always the case in my own personal experience but it’s good advice nonetheless. 

This was an interesting talk about lessons learnt from organisational transformation and it would be interesting to learn more about the detail involved. 

Coffee beckons. 

Till next time…


#cipdace16 blog 2 – session A1

After an all too quick networking coffee break and catching up with people I’ve not seen for ages, I’m back in a session, this time A1 and unlocking performance. 

Steve Head was talking about making the 1% performance difference. This is similar to the concept of marginal gains as espoused by Matthew Syed and Clive Woodward last year and its because of my personal and professional interest in this concept and it’s links to sports and coaching that I went to those and this session. 

Steve talked about why coaching gives him energy, and I agree. It’s about helping people to improve themselves. He showed a slide with some equations and one was wrong. He didn’t point this out but asked people to give feedback on the slide, and lots of people pointed out the error rather than pointing out that 3/4 of the equations were right. His point was that we need to focus on the good stuff. You need to notice the bad stuff and do something about it, but focus on the good stuff. People who focus on the bad stuff are mood hoovers. 

To be honest I found this talk hard to blog because he was so fast and funny and it was hard to keep up. 

He gave us all a challenge called the Four Minute Rule. For the first four minutes of being with someone each day, whether at home or at work, you’re not allowed to say or do anything negative or critical. This builds the habit of focusing on the good stuff, and builds engagement. 

Can you manage this?

Steve talked about The Curse of the Strong. Essentially talking about mental breakdowns, and how it is often the strong people who break down, not those who are generally weaker. He says there are some things that predispose people to mental stresses, and he listed nine things that I couldn’t capture whilst typing, but they were pretty general statements that most people could recognise in themselves. He recommended creating your own Gob (Glimpse Of Brilliance) File where you collate all the compliments you gather for anything you do. I used to do this and called it my Trumpet File, and it was great to every now and again flick through it, and it was a massive boost to my confidence, ego and overall mental wellbeing. 

I’m not sure why I stopped, but it was never hard to keep going. 

I may restart this. 

Steve’s talk was helpful in sharing some easy to do tips and techniques to improve the culture of performance and success.

He then introduced Matt King OBE. 

Matt shared his own story, starting with a horrific rugby accident in 2004 which broke his neck and left him paraplegic. His story was heartbreaking and I can’t imagine how he must have felt in his own mind, but his descriptions were powerful and emotional. 

This too was hard to cover because of the power of the talk and because of an unfortunate incident where an audience member fainted and this distracted people. 

But Matt talked about identifying what your Everest is. For him it was getting his life back and he knew, just like climbing Everest, that it could not be achieved in one go or in the short term. He encouraged each one of us to identify what our personal Everest was, and to break it down into small, manageable, daily goals. 

Matt’s journey was inspirational. He showed unlimited drive and determination and it was truly humbling to listen to his story. He linked back to Steve’s opening speech and the 149 effect. Focus on the good things – his drive and desire, his support network and the parts of him (his brain) that were still working, rather than the bad stuff and the things that were broken. 


Apologies for the poor quality of this blog because the talks were so good I got pulled into the emotion in the room. 

Till next time…


#cipdace16 blog 1

So here we go again. First blog from #cipdace16. I’m lucky and pleased to be part of the Blogsquad again which is a great honour but also a very tiring one. Blogging, tweeting and frequently posting on other social media all day long, coupled with an early start, lots of networking and a late finish due to the press dinner and other social activities mean I’ll be absolutely knackered later and probably grumpy tomorrow. 


I’m here both days and intend summarising my views on most of the sessions I get to along with other conference and exhibition happenings. Im also likely to be lurking around the Press Office and through the Exhibition regularly so if you see me, stop me and say hello. 

I’ll also be tweeting, posting on Instagram and maybe even doing face swaps on Snapchat.

I’ll also repeat my bargain from last year (unsuccessful I may add) that if any exhibitors will offer me a neck and shoulder massage (either from a qualified therapist or not, I’m not fussy) then I will frequent your stand and promote it heavily via said social media outlets.

I have NO shame. 

To the conference itself. 

Opening speech is Peter Cheese as usual. 

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. 

Till next time.