November 5, 2015

CIPD conference 2015: 5 takeaways

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese opened the institutes’s annual conference in Manchester by telling delegates that they will need to look beyond traditional thinking and standardised practice, and start defining ‘professional’ in new terms. 

There is no one size fits all model for HR and organisations need to start developing principles and values that drive good, ethical and sustainable business more clearly, he said. 

The conference provided much food for thought and challenged delegates to think about the role of HR now and in the future. Here are our take-aways from the conference.

1 Presenteeism is a huge challenge for organisations

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, 50th anniversary professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, opened the conference with a talk looking at wellbeing at work. He shared a range of stats showing the scale and impact of stress at work. For example, 70% of people work more than 40 hours a week – but we know that consistently working long hours will make you ill.

Cooper said that presenteeism – coming to work ill or adding no value whilst at work – is becoming an increasingly urgent issue for organisations as it affects one in four employees.  And this is having a considerable impact on productivity – the UK is the least productive of the G7 countries.

The answer, Cooper said, is to improve how we manage colleagues. That means developing managers with great interpersonal skills, who show empathy and compassion and who have emotional intelligence.

2 Corporate L&D needs to change

Our very own Mike Collins gave an interactive session on why L&D needs to change. Citing the work of Sir Ken Robinson, Mike said L&D needs to shift paradigm from being the custodians of learning to enabling colleagues to develop their own learning skills.

In order to do this, L&D professionals must:

1. Get out of your comfort zone to innovate

2. Think big, start small

3. Take a risk

He said that L&D must start to think about how it can contribute, be a catalyst, collaborate, curate and be creative.

3 HR business partners can impact change

Helen Thevenot, global business partner at Thomson Reuters described how HR business partners can have a huge impact on culture change. She described how  her team had piloted a change programme that started with 300 technology leaders and ended up reaching 10,000 employees. 

Thevenot attributed the success to asking searching questions about culture from the outset. The company looked at mood and how it affects productivity. From this work the company identified that individual accountability was at the core of change – the individual has to be accountable for their behaviours.  

The HR team challenged their own thinking on change. Thinking drives behaviour, behaviour drives results, Thevenot said, so the team challenged themselves to think differently. They went outside of the business to get ideas, visiting organisations that worked in very different ways to their own. By doing this they challenged their own thinking and developed new ways of bringing about change including hackathons.

Thevenot said that HR business partners need to make technology their friend. Thomson Reuters is using their HR technology platform to identify skills around the business, for example.

4 New skills for HR

HR professionals need to be credible and trusted, according to Steve Foster, former organisational effectiveness manager at Transport for London.

Although he was talking about change projects, his advice is relevant to all HR professionals as all organisations are in a constant state of flux. To be effective at helping manage change, HR professionals must use an effective approach to change, be clear on the value they bring and always be curious. 

On top of this, make sure you know who you need to influence to be successful in your role and constantly assess where change is as a priority in your priority list. It is easy for change to be trumped by day to day priorities. Finally, look to develop teams not individuals. You cannot do this alone!

5 How to beat the digital deluge

Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at Microsoft, gave a glimpse into the future of technology. He showed how machine learning and big data will help computers predict the future – the question for organisations is what they do with that data. It all sounded quite scary but the good news is that these developments give us humans a chance to rethink our relationship with technology.

We need to stop skimming, snacking and multitasking with technology and start living in the moment – that means choose whether to use tech or not. Always ask the question: will using technology at this help or not.

 The good news is that the future requires us to be creative . . . and we don’t necessarily need technology to do that