Conference reflections

Before attending the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition I wondered if I had fallen out of love with my profession.  I’ve spent so much time outdoors this year, and in ways that I haven’t yet fully explained, this has changed my life.  How would the experience of an HR conference be after all this time?  I’ll give a little digest of some of the things that struck me during the two days, and then I’ll finish with the verdict on my love story.  If you’d like some in depth run downs of the content of the conference, there are some brilliant blog posts written by those with far faster fingers than me.  Doug Shaw has cleverly put all the blogging content in one place.   Now here are my reflections, in no particular order. Some are about the content. Some are about the delivery.

The physical stuff is hugely important

I would say that, wouldn’t I.  This year has brought it home to me, that us humans are physical creatures and we need not to be folded into chairs for hours on end.  More of that in a future blog post.  During the conference there were many reminders of how important it is to be able to see tangible things; not just bits of paper.

Crossrail gave the best example during their presentation, when CEO Andrew Wolstenholme showed photographs of employees carving their names into the wall of a completed tunnel.  The sense of pride in a huge achievement was so strong we in the audience could feel it.  Those engineers will be able to tell their families that they built that, and that their names and the dates are there for all to see on that tunnel wall.  Pick any theory of motivation you want:  carving your name on the tunnel wall ticks all the boxes.

On a more personal level, in 2012 the CIPD conference ended with the Olympian, David Weir letting us folks in the audience go up and hold his gold medals.  A year on, I had several conversations with people reminiscing about holding that chunk of gold metal.  For me and others I spoke to, it is a glowing memory that still makes us smile.  When I work in places where there is a less tangible product, I want to find opportunities to use lasting things you can touch and see, and that have meaning: to find the equivalent to a tunnel carving or a gold medal. Continue reading

#CIPD12 It’s about leadership

David Weir's gold medal

Here’s a quick summary of the sessions I learned most from at the CIPD conference.

1. The golden finish

We got to hear from David Weir (the David Weir), Jean Tomlin, (HRD for London 2012), and Andy Hunt (CEO of the British Olympic Assoc). It brought back all those fabulous memories of the summer, and on a totally self centred note, I was totally chuffed to bits to get to hold one of David Weir’s gold medals. How awesome is that?!

Jean said that the big thing she learnt from the Olympic experience was:

“if you give people in the UK the chance to do something great, then they will step up and do that. And I think it is the same inside organisations. I think that leaders of organisations need to do that to – to really lead and to create the conditions for people to bring their personalities to work and really flourish and do something great.  I know we often say those phrases, but I really believe it and I have seen it happen”. Continue reading

#CIPD12 day 1: highs and lows

This week I’m at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. My experience of the first day, yesterday, was of two different sides of HR. The day kicked off with an introduction from Peter Cheese, the new CEO of the CIPD. His words were music to my ears. I really liked his clarity when describing the purpose of HR and the CIPD as being about…

Championing better work and working lives, through better people management and people development, in order to bring more value for organisations and society.

Absolutely. And also I am really pleased that Peter wants the CIPD to be more relevant to SMEs. I’d love to hear from more SME leaders when I’m at a conference like this. My personal experience is that there is some really exciting and interesting people management that goes on in SMEs. (I work for one). Continue reading


Zappos is an American company that sells shoes and clothes online. It’s been in business since 1999. Over the last few years it has become famous for its focus on corporate culture. In 2009 it was named in Forbes magazine in their top 25 companies to work for, and in 2010 the CEO, Tony Hsieh (pronounced ‘Shay’) published his autobiography. It’s called Delivering Happiness.

Mother advertising agency

The talk was at Mother advertising agency. (The photos in portrait frames on the wall are of employees’ mothers).

Over the last year or so I kept hearing Zappos being mentioned, so I thought I should get the story from the horses mouth and I bought the book. Actually, I bought the audiobook, because Tony reads it himself, which makes for a great listen. After reading the book I was then lucky enough to be tipped off by Doug Shaw of a talk in London by Tony Hsieh on May 16th. Three of us got tickets, which amazingly were free (they got snapped up like hotcakes). At the talk, Tony came across as a modest and soft-spoken man.

My blog post today is simply a list of the main things I have found interesting and inspiring about the Zappos story. It’s not the full low down: if you are interested to know more, the book covers many more things.

Continue reading

Lost my coat and gained a ukulele

Connecting HR at the Spring

image courtesy of Jon Bartlett productions!

This week I went to my 4th ConnectingHR Unconference.  It’s a gathering of people who may or may not work in HR but who share an interest (and yes, the P word, passion) about improving organisations and their achievements, the workplace, the joy of working with other people.  That type of freaky stuff.  I’m one of them.  I won’t go into the whole low down of how the event is run, because others have done that already, and far better than me.  Here’s a super account of the day, written by Lorna Leeson:

I took one of our Account Directors who had (rather foolishly) expressed a desire to “know more about social” with me. When we walked through the doors of The Spring Project in Vauxhall, it was pretty bloody obvious we weren’t in Kansas anymore. There was no agenda, no ‘keynote speakers’, no handouts, no goody bag. I’m quite partial to a goody bag, but I’m equally partial to newness (did I mention?) so, despite feeling a bit like we’d gatecrashed a rave, we threw ourselves in.

Lorna’s account is well worth reading. Going back to my own experience, here’s a summary of what I found useful and enjoyable.

I loved:-

  1. The mixture of people.  I truly believe that we think better when we have the opportunity to learn from people from different fields. I’m not so into events where it is all people with the same-ish job title – it’s like eating porridge for starter, main course and pudding. I like the fact that at ConnectingHR there were HR people, practitioners, consultants, L&D and ODers, project managers, community managers,  a property manager, an operations manager, academics, and more.  An exciting 7 course tasting menu. Continue reading

Gannets and gaffer tape

Photo of two gannets flyingOh dear, I’ve had my first mini blog-row with Ian (husband).  Which went something along the lines of me asking for feedback, him saying the post (the two feet one) was disjointed and rather boring, and me getting cloth ears about it.   However, the good news is that he has nearly finished pruning the pear trees.

So on with the next post then.

Now I do seem to quite often start a blog post by referencing Alison Chisnell’s HR Juggler blog, and this is no exception.  Alison recently wrote about an outdoor development course she once did in northern Scotland, and about the leadership lessons she took from that experience. That reminded me of something.

Continue reading