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…

Gary

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.

#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 Sli.do 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…

Gary

#CIPHRconf19 blog 1

I’m pleased to have been asked to attend the CIPHR Customer Conference 2019 at Euston Square in London today, and to cover the event on social media and through blogs.

This involved a very early (5am) start for me, which for someone as currently sleep deprived as me was a bitter blow, but the first class travel on the train helped calm me and I’ve made it here in one piece.

I’m an ex-client of CIPHR but going back over 15 years and have some fond memories of their main product back then and also attending training at their offices in Marlow, so its nice to reacquaint myself with them.

I was surprised, but perhaps shouldn’t have been, with the volume of people here – there were far more people than I anticipated being here and it had a much bigger conference feel than I was expecting.

We started off with a view from Rob Oehlers from CIPHR giving an explanation of how CIPHR feel they fit into the world of work and how their technology helps us to cope with its demands.

He opened by talking about how connected we are and how reliant we are on both data and technology, mostly in our personal lives, but how this sometimes doesn’t transfer into the workplace.

Rob pointed out that the need for connected HR is becoming greater and greater – driven in part by the pressure to comply with legislative, compliance and regulatory changes but also by our own personal lives where we do most of our life and household stuff online.

The CIPHR portfolio of products and services offer solutions to these issues and trends, and you can find out more by visiting their website.

Next up was Karen Moran from Disruptive HR, stepping in for her colleague Lucy Adams.

She started by sharing many of the mistakes she had made and continues to make in her career, so pleasingly was not preaching from the stage.

One good story she shared was about the need to develop and maintain adult:adult conversations in the workplace, citing Netflix as a good example where the company makes ALL employees responsible for recruitment.  She gave another example of another company asking all employees to share and be transparent about everything they were doing, and trusting employees to use social media appropriately by having a really short policy.  There were more examples she had about flexible working, and taking ownership of individual L&D.

Its clear that, when they want to and choose to, organisations CAN reap the benefits of greater employee engagement and create a better employee experience – by trusting employees, letting them make decisions and make mistakes, and simply by asking them “how can we make your day better?”.

Sadly, not all employers do this.

Karen was honest enough to share that she hadn’t always lived up to this throughout her career but she has learnt from her mistakes.

That’s a key skill for HR professionals in my view.

We are all human, as Karen says.  We make mistakes.  We have emotions.

Use them.

She then went on to help us to try to understand why HR have a bad reputation – suggesting that the reasons are that: we often focus more on process than impact, we have a parental approach, are risk averse, work in silos, have skills gaps and do not effectively use technology.

These are things I’d agree with and which I’ve seen over and over again in my roles.

Karen said that we perhaps need to move away from the HR Business Partner job title as it almost seems an apologetic title to try to convince people that we are connected to the business, when it ought to be obvious.

In the Q&A session after people pointed out that often the barrier is the CEO or MD, and in HR we may not have the leverage we need to change the organisation. Karen’s response was one I completely agree with – you can either put up with it, continue trying to change it or go work somewhere else.

How many of us vote with our feet?

Something to think about as we head into a break.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, my youngest son is now 9 months and has started to sleep through the night, having done so 3/4 times now over the past couple of weeks. This has coincided with the worst period of sleep I’ve ever had.  How does that work?

We’re going on an ADVENTure

As many of you will know, the wonderful Kate Griffiths-Lambeth has, for the last five years, curated a series of Advent Blogs each year on a given theme.

This year Kate announced it would be her last one curating the series, and asked for someone to take over from her.

I had some advance warning of this, having chatted to Kate at the CIPD Conference over some alcohol in the evening, and I mused on my way back to my hotel whether I ought to volunteer.

I mentioned to my wife the following day that Kate was stepping down, and without me even broaching the subject she said I ought to take it over.

So when, for the fourth year running, I wrote my Advent Blog for Kate and submitted it to her, I offered to take it over, but I did think that there would be a great many volunteers and I didn’t really think I’d be taken up on my offer.

But, as things transpired, Kate asked me some weeks later if I still wished to take over the series and of course I was happy to accept.

So, here we are.

Kate has just posted the final of this year’s Advent series and, as in previous years, the popularity of the series and volume of posts has seen it extend into January.

The series has, as always, been a joy to read and take part in, and Kate’s contribution to this must not be understated.

I’ve inherited a wonderful series, in tremendous shape, and I do feel honoured and privileged to be given the chance to do so.

Kate is a hard act to follow and whilst I can’t hope to emulate and duplicate what she has done entirely, I do intend to preserve the spirit of the series and the core principles she has followed in the last five years.

This is a series that isn’t broken, so there’s no need to fix it.

That said, I’m not Kate (and few are, if you know what I mean) and I’ll no doubt have elements of my own that will creep in over time, but I hope to keep as much of the tradition as I can.

Watch out for some announcements in the autumn, but I hope that many of the regular contributors to the series will feel able to carry on contributing, and that they’ll be joined by some new voices, and that all who read the blogs will enjoy them as immensely as I have with recent series.

Kate will, happily, return as a contributor, but her curation will be missed.

If I can do half as good a job as she has, I’ll be happy.

And I hope you will too.

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, the New Year hasn’t got off to a great start on a personal level, and in fact on some levels quite distressing. One hopes that, after just one day, things can only get better…

HR lessons from…The Paper Dolls

Its now time for my usual silly season blog post where I aim to show the HR lessons that can be gleaned from a well known children’s story. This year, it’s the Paper Dolls, by Julia Donaldson.

Are you ready? Then let’s begin.

The story touches on many pertinent HR and leadership lessons and I’ll draw out some of them here. Firstly, the story sets a context of an organisation that encourages creativity, innovation and collaboration, and the importance of a helpful manager…

The story then turns to diversity and inclusion, showing how, in the right culture, every employee can thrive and grow….

Sadly though the book then explains how success and happiness within an organisation often attracts jealousy and resentment, and shows how internal discord can create a sense of bullying and harassment. Tellingly, though, the culture of the organisation encourages the victims to run away rather than confront issues…

Pleasingly, the employees get away from their bully and remain happy in a different environment, but encounter bullying again, almost as if the bully is stalking their every move…

Until they finally believe they’re safe from harm in their organisation, enjoying life in their gardens and enjoying their home lives, but the reach of the bully extends to strike fear into them even outside work…

And this time the bully appears to win, causing lasting harm to the employees. However what the bully doesn’t realise is that the employees have a lasting connection to both each other and the concept of the amazing workplace, and reconnect beyond the bully’s reaches…

In this scene the book explains how relationships can survive even the most toxic of organisations, and that the employees will forever remember the good aspects of working there but come to forget the bullies…

And in the final scene the book hints strongly at how being treated badly by an organisation or bully can sometimes help to reinforce the good things in life, and provide fuel, motivation and a platform for creating and shaping even more amazing workplaces…

And so we end. A stirring story which covers the positives of innovation and creativity but also highlights the unintended and unwanted impact that a diverse and inclusive culture can have, whilst ending on a positive note in that this can, in itself, lead to the creation of better leaders.

The End

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, and with tongue now firmly OUT of cheek, I’ve had a tough week in my personal life. Something I published has created trouble for someone else, despite there being no connection between them and my material, and led to a difficult relationship between us. On top of that my last surviving cat died suddenly at the age of 18 and, having had her since she was 5 weeks old, this was a blow I could have done without.