#cipdACE summary blog

A couple of weeks ago I attended #cipdACE and was part of the Blogsquad again. Here’s my reflective summary of the entire experience.

I enjoyed it immensely. It’s always one of the highlights of my professional year and this year was no exception.

The conference itself had a great programme with a wide variety of sessions as usual, but I felt it was of higher quality this year. I found it hard to choose which sessions to go to and the only solution I can think of for this is to get some sessions repeated, even if this means going back to three days.

I blogged and tweeted from many sessions and the links to those are below. However my main takeaways were from the sessions by Rachel Botsman, John Amaechi and Lenny Henry, unsurprisingly as these were the big hitters on the programme.

From Rachel’s session I have been reflecting on trust quite a lot and in particular how being more open and transparent doesn’t necessarily build more trust. On reflection I now agree with this and can see lots of examples of this in my personal and professional life. It will have an impact on how I coach in particular.

I’ve learnt more about trust in my first year running a business than in the previous 42 years of my life. It’s strange how individuals behave towards third party suppliers in a way they wouldn’t dream of doing to a fellow employee, and how that behaviour has shaped the way I now deal with companies.

From John’s session I particularly liked his points about the influence we have in HR or in business. Never doubt that we can change things. As someone once said, you can change the world, one conversation at a time. I like that idea.

And Lenny’s session was awesome, highlighting the role of HR in holding our organisations to account for their inclusivity and diversity, with some intensely personal examples.

The Exhibition was about the same quality as last year but did seem larger, and that’s a good thing. The suppliers were varied and whilst the free gifts are nowhere near the standard of previous years, and seem to be dwindling further year on year, there were sufficient variety of interesting suppliers to talk to.

I’ll repeat what I say every year though. Most suppliers are not plugged into the back channel on social media and this loses them valuable publicity. Many did not know their Twitter handle and lots mistook BLOGSQUAD on my badge to be my company name and claimed to have met others who worked for this company.

A good example of this was @HR_Gem at the Perkbox stand. She asked for one of their unicorns and they refused as they weren’t free gifts. She said if she could get 100 retweets would they give her one and they said yes, no doubt thinking she was mad. About an hour later she had them and collected her unicorn. I tried the same tactic the following day and was told at first that I was making it up about Gem and her unicorn as no one on the stand knew about it. Eventually one person said that someone on the stand had mentioned this yesterday and they thought they’d now get into trouble for it, and so were now not repeating it or grasping the very obvious publicity that should have come from it.

Engage with social media, suppliers. We can bring people to your stand and get you free publicity.

I can think of a dozen ways I’d have been exploiting that if I were Perkbox.

Sadly there were other examples too.

As usual, the fringe and social activities provided as much value if not more, and this is again because the conference programme is so packed with good stuff it leaves little time for networking and catching up with people. My solution here is to consider a three day conference again and spread things out more in the programme but it would also allow fringe activities to spread over an extra day. At one point in the Wednesday evening there were four things I wanted to get to, all at the same time, and I managed two.

But the conversations you have inbetween the conference sessions and at the coffee stands in the exhibition, and in the bar in the evening, are often what makes the whole experience worthwhile. The more of that that can be fitted in, the better it is.

My own social media coverage was enjoyable and I put out a good output- six blogs at the event plus this one makes seven, hundreds of tweets, plus a dozen or so LinkedIn and Instagram posts. And not to mention the pre event promo videos I did on YouTube, which many seemed to have liked. I really enjoyed being part of the Blogsquad for the fourth year running.

Overall, this was a better event than the previous year but there’s still ways to make it even better.

And one day, I might get on the main stage myself, who knows?

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, eldest son has passed his driving theory test and youngest son is now sitting up unaided. I have it all going on as a father…

#cipdACE blog 6 – Andy Burnham and Lenny Henry closing keynote

I’ve took some time to wander around the Exhibition for a few hours and also chat to as many people as I can. I’ve been into a couple of the free sessions for a short while and also a final conference session on employee engagement, but my final blog from the conference is covering Andy Burnham’s short slot and Lenny Henry’s closing keynote.

Andy Burnham took to the stage to question whether we are making enough progress around fairness in the workplace. He sees progress, but not enough.

Is work good enough for people?

A good question. There are still examples of poor practice, such as CEOs getting millions of pounds of bonuses whilst we still have a homeless problem.

Andy also highlighted how much may have stayed the same, citing what the trades union movement were asking for 150 years ago which seem to have resonance in 2018 too.

Unsurprisingly, he talked about how devolution can help shape the future of work and referenced the Good Employment Charter that he is leading on within Greater Manchester. This has to be a good thing, and of course you have to start somewhere but will it be enough to focus on Greater Manchester?

There are elements that are being pushed in Greater Manchester, such as basic rights, security, flexible working and more. And it is good to see this potentially being linked to public procurement to help drive compliance with it.

And aswell as this, we need to further the skills agenda and he outlined the initiatives he is setting in motion around this. There are big things afoot in Greater Manchester which, if seen through, will create a fairer society and working life, but I’d question whether it is going far enough by limiting it to GM.

And then we had Lenny Henry.

Lenny is here to talk about the challenges we all face around diversity, and began with a powerful video that shows it is still a very live issue.

He talked about his upbringing and facing issues around discrimination via his family, at school and because of the way society functioned.

Lenny’s talk was hard to blog because it was stand up comedy but actually telling some very serious messages, but I was too busy being entertained to write most of it down.

It was interesting to hear the barriers, tangible and intangible, that Lenny faced in building his career, through both covert and overt racism, and shared how his experiences had led to him beginning to campaign for greater representation from BAME communities in the media, something which has met with success after a lot of hard work.

Although he realises there is still a long way to go.

And in HR, we are uniquely placed to influence this in organisations.

Lenny gave examples of how individuals can kick start movements, and how one individual can influence the wider world, citing famous abolitionists and Suffragettes as examples.

If they can do it, imagine what we in HR can do…

Lenny then walked about Comic Relief but at this point I needed to run for my train.

It has been a GREAT two day conference, and I’ll reflect on this and do a summary blog next week.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 5 – covering John Amaechi session D1

After some quick coffee I’m in what is one of two sessions I’m particularly looking forward to today. It’s John Amaechi’s session on ethics in people management.

John started by explaining how he had rewritten much of his talk after watching Donald Trump on television last night. Trump’s behaviour raises questions about whether we are led by some regressive leaders and organisations.

He gave a great anecdote about being on a networking cruise and appreciating the value of silence when being with someone. The power of “seeing” people for what they are – human beings, and not vending machines.

Too many leaders don’t see people as individuals, as humans.

And yet, our organisations shout from the highest platform that people are our greatest assets, that we have an inclusive workplace.

Often the problems come from line managers, who are the ones we need to reach most about how to treat people.

Most jobs require people to be technically proficient, but also good with people and living the values of the company.

At what point are we as practitioners going to say that it is not enough to be technically proficient, and hold people accountable for being good with people and living the values too?

This was a very good session but difficult to blog as it required more thinking than I could cope with whilst blogging at the same time.

John concluded by saying that within HR we are in a unique position to influence what happens in our organisations and to ensure they behave in the correct way.

Our leaders are disproportionately powerful, but are not as vigilant as they should be all the time.

But in HR we may be tiny in stature, but we are giants in our influence and we are constantly vigilant when leaders are not.

Sometimes, just giving someone some of our time and attention, is enough to influence behaviour and change people’s attitudes.

Sometimes, just five minutes is enough.

A great session but not an easy one to blog.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 4 – CIPD Manchester breakfast camp on flexibility at work #flexforall18

What a great night last night. There were so many fringe events to go to that it was hard to decide what to do. I ended up going to several but the best ended up being in the Rain Bar where around 20-25 awesome HR people who mostly know each other through social media just turned up, drank and enjoyed themselves.

The fringe side of things has vastly improved in recent years and I welcome this development.

I also slept well, and given that we are hearing from Lenny Henry later on, if my Premier Inn stay had been less than perfect he would also have been hearing from me.

I’ve made it to the CIPD Manchester breakfast camp on flexibility at work. This is a fantastically well attended event for a fringe event with about 60-65 people here to discuss making flexibility at work a reality for all.

Well done to Rachel Burnham for organising and running this event.

I write and speak incessantly about flexibility at work and it’s a common theme in many things that I do, so I was interested in seeing what others are doing.

The discussions were table based with expert facilitators moving round to ask different questions.

On the first round of this, our table discussed the challenges in convincing senior managers to embrace flexibility, and we shared many of the commonly heard and expressed barriers that we get from senior managers.

As a senior manager myself in many of my later jobs, I attempted, with varying degrees of success, to lead by example. It wasn’t always easy and I met with lots of suspicion in some places. But in other places, other people followed my example.

I guess the culture makes a difference.

Our next facilitated discussion drew on the experiences of the Flexible Hiring Champions, and this was great because we were able to listen to some real life successful examples of companies structuring their entire talent acquisition processes around flexibility and getting good results from it.

Importantly here we also discussed how some people don’t want flexibility and that they can’t or shouldn’t be forced to work flexibly. If people want to work Monday to Friday 9 to 5, let them.

A barrier here that most had encountered is that job applicants usually won’t share their desires to work flexibly until a job offer has been made, as they feel that sharing such desires would mean the job offer is not made at all.

Our third facilitated conversation was on the elements of cultures that support flexible working.

Flexibility for everybody was the first of these. But let people find their own flexibility, and give them choices.

Flexibility in all its forms is the second element. This is about understanding that flexibility doesn’t just mean one or two particular methods or styles but can be almost anything that varies when and where work is done.

The third element is trust. We often tend to trust people we can see, and if someone is working elsewhere there is a risk that they are not trusted. A good example of trust is from Sussex University who apply flexibility by default and managers must make a business case for jobs NOT being flexible.

The fourth element is about managers who “get it”. Flexibility has so much positive impact, but so many managers don’t understand this.

The fifth element was a great policy that enables, not restricts flexible working. Give managers the support and structure they need to make it work.

And the final element is technology. The technology that you get people to use when working flexibly should be the technology they use when in the office. The communication methods should be the same and the ways of working should be the same.

Our final conversation was facilitated by Manchester City Council on how they support line managers to embrace flexible working, but at this point I needed to dip out to go and see someone else.

A great start to the day.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 3 – the new Profession Map

This afternoon has been one long conversation with almost everyone I know in the HR profession. I’ve managed to miss two conference sessions because I got wrapped up in some great conversations with awesome people.

I’ve also had a decent wander round the Exhibition and a chat to a few exhibitors. The quality of the Exhibition is better this year.

There are also various options for evening drinks which I need to choose from, and therefore almost everyone who wants to, can get some much needed winding down over a glass of wine or bottle of beer.

I’ve finished the day by going along to a Q&A session with David D’Souza and Victoria Winkler about the new CIPD Profession Map, labelled a special press briefing but it turned out only I was there and so there was little structure to it.

I’ve got a brochure about the new map and wanted to comment on a few things that jump out to me. It is of interest to me as I’ve contributed to this along its development path for the last two years, and a lot of what I do is linked to this map.

Here it is.

What do you think? I like it.

Why?

There is obviously lots that is new or refreshed so my views here are just commenting on the things that jump out to me, rather than a full blown review, so you will want to look at it in your own time and do that.

Here’s my two pennorth.

– A greater focus on culture and behaviour, business acumen, analytics, change and digital working in the Core Knowledge section. These are welcome from my perspective as I think not enough current HR practitioners display these elements and they can only help us to become more effective within organisations

– More emphasis on ethics, courage, inclusivity and passion within the Core Behaviours. Some of these overlap with existing behaviours but the fact they are more explicit in the new map reflects the changing world of work and the role played, or to be played, by HR in this. I’ll be interested to see how these make it into the new qualifications though but they’re definitely valuable.

– Within Specialist Knowledge, a section on the Employee Experience, a particular specialism of mine. More sections with an L&D/OD focus, reflecting my view that HR needs to have a greater emphasis on OD skill sets to help organisations improve, and a new section on People Analytics, reflecting the growing specialisms in these areas. All of these are welcomed too.

I’ve not spent a great deal of time studying this, and there’s clearly more work to do to roll this out and develop them fully, but the work to date has been positive and it’s good to see it at last.

There are more briefings on the CIPD stand, on Thursday at 11am, and a more formal launch is imminent.

What are your views on how this represents our profession?

And that’s the end of my day at the Conference although there are plenty of fringe events later. I’ll possibly see you at some of these.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 2 – session A2

I’m back in a session on large scale structural transformation.

The intervening 45 minutes passed in a blur and I barely had time for a coffee and a toilet break inbetween so many people who I wanted to say hello to. People really seemed to have enjoyed the opening keynote speech, and so did I.

This session focused on the restructuring and redevelopment of Aston Martin, and the speaker started by explaining the problems that Aston Martin has had in recent years. Essentially the business had been in a cycle of boom and bust for many years, and lots about their business model was not conducive to sustainability.

This was their redeveloped strategy. The approach was a holistic one with representatives from all functions, and these function heads still meet weekly to look at strategy and overall business sustainability. This builds on the concept that people are part of the solution, not the problem. They have used all their peoples ideas to help redefine the business.

In this they have asked people questions that I always advocate organisations and leaders ask their staff:

– what are you enjoying at work right now?

– what is pissing you off at work right now?

Great questions.

Aston Martin began working establishing patterns of behaviour to build one team and one way of working, beginning with the top team.

The speaker shared a picture of their top team, which was all male, all white, and thankfully he realised how this looked and highlighted how this had changed recently, but this made me wonder how much of Aston Martins problems were as a result of the composition of that top team?

The next speaker was Stuart Henderson, Group Head of HR and OD at Together Housing Group. This was interesting because a few years ago I applied for this job and he must have got it when I didn’t.

He talked about the challenges faced by five organisations merging at once, and this is a situation I’ve dealt with in the past and he outlined what kinds of things the group needed to do to ensure the transformation worked.

They began with establishing general design principles to drive their new structures. They also spent time ensuring line managers were on board, and that trades unions were fully involved and informed.

Here’s how HR continues to contribute to Together Housing, which is noble and nothing wrong with it BUT I don’t think this is anything startlingly new and many organisations will already be doing this.

One key takeaway from me was about checking whether your leaders have the right skill set. Stuart said that many of your managers will be able to steer a ship. But how many can plot a new course, or build a ship? This is something I think many organisations who struggle with change don’t give enough attention to.

An interesting pair of speakers with some good practical insights into change management and transformation.

But it’s lunchtime now.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 1 – opening keynotes

I’m here at #cipdACE for the umpteenth year running. It’s the highlight of my professional year and has been since about 2003 when I first went to Harrogate.

Whilst I retain a fond memory of the Harrogate days, the conference these days in Manchester has really come into its own, and what tends to make that happen is the fringe that takes place before and after each day, which adds to the social event feel. Harrogate had that in spades, and now so does Manchester.

I’m in the Blogsquad for the 4th year running and I’m also representing my 4th different organisation in that time, although this year I’m working for myself and loving it. I love being in the Blogsquad too, it’s great to be able to share the content that I see and hear and get involved with so much that’s going on.

My journey today was not too bad, aside from cramped trains meaning I had to stand all the way.

The opening address was by Peter Cheese as usual.

The real Peter Cheese this time and not that imposter who appeared in the promo video.

Anyway. In his opening keynote, Peter touched on various topical events and happenings that are having an effect on the world of work, starting with Brexit and the Gender Pay Reporting legislation, highlighting how the world of work is changing as a result of these and other forces.

The picture above was Peter’s views on how we in HR are shaping the future of work. He gave a quick run through on how we contribute in each of these areas, but then moved onto building professionalism itself, referring to the recently completed review of the Profession Map which is having a soft launch today. If you’re interested in finding out more, the CIPD stand has talks about it at 11am on both days.

The opening keynote was from Rachel Botsman, talking about the currency of trust.

Trust is a term that is bandied about a lot, she said. But we don’t spend enough time focusing on it.

She started with an exercise to gauge levels of trust in various public figures. But trust is contextual and based on what people say or do to us, and as such it is highly subjective.

She gave a great anecdote about how trust is based on signals that people give out, using her childhood nanny as an example. There was high trust there until an incident happened. How did her parents get the decision to trust someone with their children so drastically wrong?

The reason is that people can project an illusion of information that can often convince people to trust them. When trust breaks down, we see elements of bad character that the illusion has covered up.

She then talked about how to build trust. There are obviously two parties to the trust exchange, the trustor and the trustee. She described the way in which signals pass between both parties to ensure that trust is built up, or not as the case may be. Her point was that, just as money is the currency of transactions, trust is the currency of interactions.

This is an interesting point and one I need to reflect on in more detail, but has tremendous implications for coaching and mentoring work I do.

When you meet someone new or do something new, you are making a trust leap. But the more people that do this, the more the next people making this leap will trust automatically without question.

She did a great exercise to demonstrate a trust leap by asking us to give our phones to the person next to us. Sometimes a trust leap is what is needed. But in making that trust leap, you immediately look for signals and other elements that help to build that trust.

Why do we have to make a trust leap in order to build that trust? The signals are there without the trust leap taking place.

She then moved onto the concept of the Trust Battery. This is a concept that I have blogged about before, but which I call Credit. I recognise this well. It’s about how people often start within organisations with their Trust Batteries at half full, and it is the things they say and do that make it higher or lower.

It’s a great tool to have constructive conversations about people’s behaviour and the relationships you have with them. BUT the more transparency in the relationship, the less you need to have and believe in trust…

That’s a mind blowing concept. As I, and many others in the audience, felt it was the opposite.

But it makes sense.

If you know everything about someone, if you know how they are thinking and behaving, you don’t need to trust them.

But if someone doesn’t share everything you DO need to trust them.

That could change a lot of my interpersonal relationships.

And yours too.

What a great opening keynote speech with lots of personal takeaways.

Now it’s time for coffee…

Till next time…

Gary

Leave me alone!

The CIPD have today published their annual report into absence and wellbeing, which you can read HERE if you haven’t already. In this blog I’ll react to and comment on some of the key findings.

In particular I want to talk about the concepts of presenteeism and leaveism as mentioned in the report.  The latter was a term I’d not heard of before but describes something I was well aware of.

The CIPD reported an increase in organisations observing presenteeism from 26% in 2010, to 86% in 2018.  They also report that 69% say leaveism has occurred in the last year.  And that only 25% are tackling presenteeism, and 27% tackling leaveism.

I’ll not comment here on what implications this has for individuals and organisations, as the CIPD report has done that in good detail already, beyond I’ll say I agree with the serious possible consequences we face.

Let’s look at these in turn.

First, presenteeism. I mentioned this concept to my wife today, having browsed the main report. She fully understood it and said that she had gone to work unwell and not done her best work whilst there.

I was vaguely aware of this but asked her to expand.

She said that in her previous organisation, she didn’t get any sick pay, and with having to pay childcare costs even if our youngest child was in nursery or not, the decision to go into work was entirely a financial one for her and nothing at all to do with her own health or her level of engagement with the company.

As it happens, she was very disengaged with that company, but I wonder what came first – the disengagement, or the presenteeism? I would suggest the problem originated with the set of terms and conditions upon joining, creating a level of discontent with a basic hygiene factor that manifested itself in presenteeism and coming to work when unwell.

One could say she went into that with eyes wide open, but this is my wife and she’d make sure you’d not say much more after that if you did.

So there’s no amount of wellbeing initiatives and stress or resilience training that would have prevented that situation, and yet many organisations would roll these out as if they were a magic solution – I met with a CEO just last year who felt that such things would solve whatever problems ailed her organisation, and was adamant that there were no hygiene factors at play that were causing the lack of engagement and presenteeism that I could see.

The report rightly highlights that financial worries are at the heart of a lot of the problems, and that would be true in my wife’s case too. But would financial education and access to financial plans have solved it, as many organisations would try? No. They wouldn’t solve the cost of childcare or the company’s ability and willingness to pay sick leave.

I wonder if some of the issues could only really be solved at government level? And whether they are willing to listen to some of the problems that the report highlights? I think there’s only so much individual organisations can do to help, and even some of the things they could do may backfire.

My final thought on the subject is whether it is better for an individual to be in work, at much less than 100% on the basis that this is still better than 0%? And I have mixed views on this, what do you think?

Second, leaveism.

I remember about 16 years ago my manager at the time coming into the office when on leave. I asked him why, and he said he didn’t have anything to do with his leave and had too much work on, so was coming in to clear his emails and sort other admin out. And he used 3-4 days of an admittedly big leave entitlement to do that. And back then there was no mobile technology that might have been the cause of this, as the report suggests may be now.

Even last year I worked in an organisation where lots of staff would book leave in blocks of two weeks but “pop in” on two or three days for an hour or so at a time to check in and do some basic admin. Again here the leave entitlements were big and there was no technology to facilitate this type of leaveism, so based on my two examples I’m not sure I agree that the rise of leaveism can be correlated with the availability of mobile technology and people’s inability to switch off.

That said, it is a worrying trend, and I’ve written before HERE about my experiments with switching off. Mark Ellis has also written a great book about it. But whilst mobile and digital technology facilitates this, it is only tapping into something that already exists in the employment relationship and psychological contract and giving it a conduit to happen easily. And we shouldn’t blame the technology itself for that.

Maybe we should talk more about the culture in the organisations that allows leaveism to happen, about the workplace hero’s that think sending emails late at night or at weekends is a sign of working hard or being busy, and about the expectations that senior leaders place on employees and how they lead by example.

I am a big believer in individual choice. If individuals wish to work late at night or at weekends, then if that’s genuinely their choice, great. Likewise if they want to take time off to go for a run during the day or do the school run, again great. And if doing a bit of work when on leave helps them, then also great but only if they take some time for themselves when NOT on leave. It’s about choice, and treating people like grownups.

So whilst the report highlights leaveism as a problem, it’s more a symptom of a different problem than a problem in itself, but nonetheless the report is right to point out some of the implications it has.

There’s a lot of work to do, and in EPIC I work with individuals and organisations to help them do that type of work. Talk to me if you need support.

The report is huge and there’s far more to it than what I’ve discussed here, so go and check it out.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news – and now we wait…my wife is 39 weeks pregnant, she’s already into her maternity leave, I’ve completed all my main commitments and have gone into my planned one-third capacity month long paternity leave, the house is ready, we’re all ready, and counting the days now…