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Collaboration, Innovation and Creativity in the New World of Work

9 Nov
Key note speaker at #CIPDACE 16, Margaret Heffernan. Apologies for the typos, I am trying to beat Ian Pettigrew to it this year 🙂
Margaret starts by telling us about an experiment between 2 flocks of chickens. An average flock of productive chickens and a flock where one super productive chicken gets added to the group… After some time we discover that the first flock was more successful, whilst in the second flock, all chickens but 3 were dead…
The productivity of the few had been achieved by suppressing the productivity of the rest. 
A super chicken does not help. for the last 50 years we have run organisations like the super flock of chickens. We have created spectacular talent contests to identify and promote them. We have discovered that the productivity of the few was achieved by suppressing the productivity of the rest. We have done in our schools and companies and we find exactly the same as William Mure found. Aggression, devastation and waste. Why doesn’t it work? We didn’t start this because we thought it would fail… Darwin didn’t say that success lies with the brutest or the most aggressive. He said the most adaptive succeed. Problems are to complex to be solved by super men, or super chickens… Team work is really important. We do need teams to create something different that we haven’t seen before. How do we do that? We all have experience of working in a team that cannot get things done. And some teams achieve anything. So, what is the difference? Tom Malone at MIT tried to figure this out. The most successful teams were not the ones with the higher IQ. Also not the ones with a few IQ superstars. The teams that were really good shared 3 characteristics: 1) Score more highly on test for empathy. You are thinking about each others. Collective minds and intelligence. 2) The really successful teams tended to get the full participation of every members. No passengers. No dominating voice. 3) The really successful teams had more women in them. It may be that women score more highly on empathy… What really matters is what happens between people. In practice this means that one of the salient characteristics of really successful businesses is helpfulness. Not a sexy word, but it means that have a room of super smart people that share their ‘Know How’.

Helpfulness is fast, efficient, safe… everyone has a higher level of confidence and expertise that wasn’t there before. Fundamental to it is the idea of sharing information because that is what people do when they work genuinely together. ‘Social Physic’ has been recommended by Margaret as a book to read. The author discovers that inside every network there are people that seem to know everybody… The more of them, the more the information flows. It flows fast and accurately. As a test he convinces an organisation to do a 10 minute coffee breaks with a group of colleagues. From that group emerges a productivity increase that can be quantified in 10 million dollars. Helpful and collective intelligence of network organisation increases productivity. The productivity of the whole depends on the productivity of everyone, not just a few.
Margaret looks back at her experience at managing companies. She hired some great people, but the company wasn’t quite working out. In the UK she went to the pub with her colleagues after work, but in Boston it was different. So she encouraged colleagues to stand up on a Friday and introduce themselves. It was awkward initially, but Friday after Friday they started building relationships and things improved.
If you really want to measure the health of the organisation you need to test how fast important information flows. You need to start talking seriously the idea of ‘Social Capital’. Of course people work better together and when they work together they develop trust… Why now does this feel so urgent? It used to be that there was a time that we could safely make 5 year plans on pretty accurate fore-plans and predictions. It did work. It was like running a factory. Globalisation happened. A world that is complication is now complex. You cannot predict how complex systems work. You can’t safely make long term predictions. The safe window for accurate forecasting is 2 years. Shorter than it has ever been. All of those management systems based on predictions, won’t deliver. If you don’t create high levels of trust and a shared consciousness, then you cannot get anything done. That is the nature of complexity. Complexity is not chaos. There are certain behaviours that will get more out of a complex environment than others. What are those? They are fantastic listeners and ask fantastic questions. As a leader, try and sit in a meeting and do not say a word. Listening is really critical. Have the courage, patience and discipline to not interrupt. Giving people opportunity to contribute in other areas and not just their area of expertise. Problems are routinely solved by people working outside of the area of expertise. This is the unused capacity we have in our organisations. How do you get all of this fantastic thinking out of the head of these fantastic colleagues. What are the barriers that are keeping people trapped? What is stopping them achieving their potential? Is we stop the debates, we stop the organisation finding solutions. In an unpredictable, complex world, we are going to make mistakes. Of course we are. Complex environments reveal themselves through experimentation. You need to look at the failure and learn from it. Every decision is just a hypothesis about the future.
Are there any organisations that are doing all of this? Yes, Margaret found one in Seattle… Microsoft. It used to be super-chicken central. Scary track record. They needed to think differently about how they did work. Microsoft in the last 2 years has transformed itself spectacularly. They embraced very wholeheartedly the idea that talent and expertise is not fixed. You want a culture where every single person knows that they are there to learn. They understand that the more mistakes they make, the more they learn. Even the CEO at the beginning made a huge mistake…
Expertise alone is a starting point, not an end point. We want colleagues enthused with a love of learning. We have got to revisit and re-frame the issue of diversity. You need to cherish the difference between people. People not like you have a lot more to teach you. We have to prize curiosity. When we are interviewing people, let’s ask them different types of questions. Who got you here? If people think their success is only up to them, then that’s not great… Hiring managers are more like impresarios.
Massive institutional failures have been caused by knowledge that resided in the organisations, but had not been shared. We have to breakdown the bureaucracy and hierarchy. We are facing challenges that are not going to be solved by super men or super chickens. If we are going to build institutions that other people can trust, in a society that trust is normal, then we need to invest in each other. Our greatest success lies on how you connect with each other. The only way for an organisation to grow is by allowing our people to grow.

It’s that time of the year again – #CIPDACE16

4 Nov

It’s November and that only means one thing and no, it’s not the Red Cups from Starbucks or the German Christmas Markets popping up everywhere, it’s the CIPD Annual Conference. Wednesday 9th to Thursday 10th up here in chilly (wrap up warm!) Manchester. IMHO, this is the biggest and the best HR conference in the country.

Every year it offers the opportunity first and foremost to think about yourself and your own development. Us HR lot are the first to understand the importance of keeping up to date and learning, but we often forget to take the time out of our busy schedule to do so. We all need some time off to refocus.

This time last year, I was listening to Professor Cary Cooper talking about wellbeing. This prompted a blog post with some practical ideas on how to improve wellbeing at work. I knew last year that I was not leading by example. I realise now quite how badly I was looking after myself. I now know, looking back at how I was feeling this time last year, how much the office routine and my bad practices were really impacting on my health.

Reading the post today made me feel extremely proud of all the small adjustments that I have made and that have now become part of my routine and helped me feel better and perform better. I am mentally more resilient and I am happier. I am taking my lunch breaks, team meetings have been outdoors on nice days, I encourage colleagues to take breaks, have breakfast together and I’ve led by example. I’ve even joined our recently formed workplace choir!

I’ve realised in the past 12 months of how lucky I am to work for a company that will allow colleagues to sing for an hour a week, an organisation that allows yoga classes to go ahead, an office with free fruit around every corner and free breakfast. I know not all of us work for companies like mine, however it does start somewhere and it usually needs to start from the top. Are you a HR Director? Then if you campaign for a choir or fitness classes, you may even get a sign off and approval to go ahead. (please note that you may also get shouted at and lose your job…)  You can make things happen and then you can also lead by example. If you join the choir, this will encourage many more to do so and the company’s culture will slowly start changing. I’m seeing this happening every day. Are you a HR Manager? Then take your breaks, let your guys go home a bit earlier if they have worked hard for you and mainly lead by example.

I am excited to find out how #CIPDACE16 may change my life this year. I am looking forward to catching up with the rest of the blog squad that by using the above hashtag will keep the content coming your way in case you cannot make up your mind on what session to attend. No need to stress about it, we have it covered and you will be able to read up on what you have missed. I look forward to talking some more about change, uncertainty, Brexit, as this is already having an impact on our workforce and I look forward to the more light-hearted sessions like ‘Humour and Happiness for More Engaged and Effective Teams’. And I am really looking forward to hearing my first Italian keynote speaker and getting involved in all the fun events around the conference. Have a look at Gemma’s post here for 10 things to do.


And just in case you need somewhere to reflect on all the great things you have learned or you need to catch up on some blogs on the Thursday night before heading home, Manchester has indeed got German Christmas Markets opening that day.

Wellbeing at Work – some practical ideas from #CIPD15

5 Nov

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the opening keynote of such a big event as #cipd15 was around ‘Mental capital and Wellbeing at work’. Professor Cary Cooper’s session was extremely engaging and gave us some shocking ROIs to think about and take to our CFOs. It also highlighted the issue of presenteeism that is just as bad in the UK, if not worse than absenteeism. Find great summaries of the session from Ian Pettigrew and Gemma Reucroft.

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Above all, the session left me wondering what each and every one of us can do to put wellbeing in practice in their workplace?

The clear theme for me is to be brave enough to challenge the culture of the organisation. Start by giving some seeds and start with your teams and with you. Small steps = more steps. Do you manage a team? Show them that you take your break every day. Go for a walk! Leaving the office at lunch will stretch your spine and muscles, releasing pressure and eliminating discomfort. Plus, you’ll trade that sickly florescent lighting and stale office air for sunshine (if you’re not in Manchester!) and a refreshing breeze.

Do you let your team leave early if they have worked hard? Do you send emails early/late?

Working in a different space and environment does help, so have you tried having a team meeting in the park? Or a walking meeting? What would work for you and your company that would make you and your team happy and ultimately healthier and more productive?

I realise that one size does not fit all, but I know I haven’t tried or been successful at keeping up some of the above. Cary Cooper’s session reminded me just how important it is.

Many managers are working way in excess of their contracted hours; 11% of people work in excess of 60 hours a week. 70% of people work over 40 hours a week. Studies show that long hours does not equate to being effective. If you consistently work long hours, you simply will get ill. Survey results from people show the clear impact of excessive working – the negative impact on wellbeing, on families, and on productivity. How much does mental health related absence cost the UK each year? £70bn, the equivalent to 4.5% of our GDP.

Take some personal ownership and responsibility for your wellbeing and lead by example. Challenge the behaviour around email laziness. Go and speak to people and stop sending an email to people close to you! Challenge the culture, introduce small initiatives that have a positive effect on the organisation and will promote different behaviours.

I loved the idea of promoting the ‘curious coffee’ initiative that Penguin Random House have implemented. Two colleagues are selected randomly to meet over a coffee and have a chat. Not only this bridges gaps, improves internal communications and creates meaningful connections in the business, but it also encourages a break and a chat over emails.

These are some of the practical ideas inspired by #cipd15 and mainly the reminder that small changes can initiate a tidal sea of changes in order to help us shape a healthy workplace.


3 Nov

I was very lucky to be able to attend a great event today ahead of the #CIPD15. It is the first time that CIPD organises a Student Event so close to the Annual Conference, but I believe that this was a success in terms of quality of speakers and general engagement.

CIPD have supported me as a student and throughout my career, so it was great to see so many students taking advantage of the great resources on offer.

Peter Cheese’s welcome was perfectly apt. The students in the room will have the responsibility to try and influence the world of work. There are many challenges ahead, but Peter believes that there’s never been a more exciting time to be in HR.

peter chee

Demographic changes, growing skills gap, and vast changing nature of jobs. It’s not ‘job for life’ it’s now ‘a life of jobs’. According to Oxford researchers Fray and Osborne, 2/3 of jobs that kids in school now are going to be doing have yet to be invented.

Topical at the moment is the enormous shifts on corporate culture and corporate behaviour. We have seen recently the corporate misalignment with VW, but this is one of the many number of recent scandals. There is far too much focus on short term profit delivery. Financial stakeholders are important, but our own employees, customers, suppliers, communities and environment need to be at the forefront too.


How do we create more responsible businesses? How are we recruiting differently? The government at the minute is thinking of adapting name blind recruitment as there is still so much unconscious bias in recruitment. Take that test, it is eye opening! Unfortunately, most people whether consciously or unconsciously recruit someone similar to them. When have you last recruited someone scary/different?

How do we support the ‘gig economy’? People will want to do short projects and work independently. How do we deal with contingent workforce? How do people want to work? Recruitment is undergoing a great transformation. Do we outsource? Do we redesign jobs? We need to focus on the kind of jobs we are creating. We need to be at the heart of that debate. We need to design jobs that have progression in them and that engage our employees.

Are our processes fit for purpose? First of all, performance manager. A lot of organisations challenge if PM has delivered what it was meant to do. Has it improved performance? We need to challenge our processes and policies. When we are attempting to shape corporate culture and we are trying to make employees understand responsibilities, adding more rules won’t help. We have known that you can fundamentally alter people’s behaviour by creating rules, but not always in a positive way. Either you try and break them, or you follow them blindly, which isn’t great for creativity and innovation.

Principles driving good business: ethics and not short term profit. Our HR agenda has never been clearer. It is a huge agenda, but now more than ever we are engaging with it. Sometimes we still don’t have that confidence to challenge corporate practices that are compromising long term positive culture and we need to start doing it more often.

Of course we understand that the economic system we live in is all about wealth creation and profit before people, but there are things that we can influence and we can give meaningful future and opportunity to our people.

What a great way to kick off #cipd15students – have a look at the rest of the day through this Storify.

An International Perspective

9 Nov

I had never heard of the CIPD before moving to the UK. When I studied for my CIPD qualification, it had (of course) a major focus on the UK job market and on UK employment law. So when this year in the exhibition I kept on hearing Italian, I just had to find out if delegates had actually come from Italy for #CIPD14. Guess what? They had!

Amongst others, I met Chiara Colombo and Valentina Marini, two passionate individuals that work for GSO an Italian HR consultancy with a very strong social and modern approach. These two HR rising stars only had an exhibition pass, but their days were absolutely packed with things to do and content to hear. They could not believe quite how many free sessions there were and how much great content.

Chiara was instantly attracted to come to the #CIPD14 when she saw the partnership between IBM and Monster. She had never seen the social recruitment and technology come together on the HR field before and she is a big fan of both the sponsors. She also wanted to come to develop new contacts, meet new people and compare this to events in Italy.

It was Valentina’s second time at the conference and she had already heard of the CIPD as she moved to London for a short while to attend a course on ‘Performance Management & Reward’. She found it very insightful and she loved CIPD’s approach with learning. She was already sure that her second exhibition was not going to be disappointing; in fact she was even more impressed with the organisation of the event. Valentina and Chiara are both involved with organising and speaking at events around Social Media in HR, employee engagement and psychological capital, therefore they were impressed with all the visual branding not just from CIPD, but from the sponsors and the stands. The quick and innovative way to register and access the exhibition, the scanning of the code by the stands, the materials provided, the attention to details and the fact that you can already register for next years event, are some of the things have impressed these two Milanese HR practitioners.

What they found even more exciting was how even before the conference they managed to link up with some of the attendees via social media and then meet them at the event. They were pleasantly surprised by the willingness of so many delegates to have conversations and ultimately share their knowledge and experience with them. This is something that resonates with me. I remember the first time I attended the conference as a HR student, I was shocked by quite how many senior HR professionals were willing to share their tips and time with me. Had the conference been in Italy there would have been very little chance that a senior HRD would have approached me. Gosh, had the conference been in Italy there would not have been so much free content either. The approach is different and I suppose that back home good content and knowledge is still not quite accessible for everyone.

When I asked them the most important question of all they answered: ‘Of course we will come back next year and we will also make sure that we have the full conference and exhibition ticket! We are also bringing our teams with us as they have to try it out! This is not just a conference, it is an indescribable experience!

See you next year at #CIPD15

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It was always going to be HR

2 Nov

September and October have been crazily busy. I had days when I could not stop for a minute to think what had just happened or how I was feeling. I finally found a moment today to look back at my 7 years in the UK. I was only 19 when I moved here for university and so much has happened since. These 7 years have been intense and I have set myself so many goals. I feel like the more I achieve the more objectives I want to have. In 2007 when I landed I only had one goal in mind: graduate in 2010. Believe it or not, I was an introvert back then, therefore I was also determined to survive the whole ‘living-in-a-shoe-box-sharing-communal-spaces-with-strangers’ experience.

And that is where it all began. I surprisingly loved living in university halls of residence. I loved meeting new people and sharing my journey with them. I was not thinking of a career, but when I suddenly got involved with associations promoting the learning of languages in schools and subsequently found a job as an Italian language assistant, I took up the challenge and once again, surprisingly, enjoyed it. I was making sure that my students were achieving the results they wanted while learning and developing in a stimulating environment. I was also being approachable and supportive and trying to have a positive impact in their life. I never thought of teaching as a career, but I was enjoying myself and finding it very rewarding.

I did indeed graduate in 2010 and thanks to all the connections made, I knew I wanted to stay in Manchester and look for a job here. I did find one and it taught me that somewhere along the journey I had developed a very strong work ethics and I took pride in everything I did. I discovered the world of work and I wanted to play a big part in it. I discovered HR and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). With the support of my employer I embarked on a whole new adventure and all of a sudden my goal was to obtain a CIPD qualification, a decent MSc result and be part of a HR Department in 2012.

I attended my first CIPD Annual Conference in November 2011, I sat in a ‘Social Media and HR’ talk where most people in the crowd had their phones out and were sharing what was being said. They were doing this through Twitter. I had to join and understand what all the fuss was about. I was excited to have found a large and supportive community. I shared their values and wanted to be part of it, it was simply perfect for me. I was humbled by the number of HRD’s that were willing to help out a student like me. I interviewed some of them for my qualitative study. Of course this ended up being on ‘Social Recruitment’.

Social Media did not just help me and some of my university colleagues with our dissertation; it also helped us find our first HR job. I saw a vacancy for through my manager’s Twitter account and that is how I applied for it. I have now been at rentalcars for nearly 3 years as an HR Advisor. Social media did serve a purpose for me at the time as I got all the help I needed from it. Crikey, I even got a job interview and subsequently a job…! It was a tool that I used to connect me with the right people. People that I am still connected to. Thanks to those people I feel that I have developed as a HR professional in ways I could have not otherwise. The same people that helped me throughout my dissertation I now call friends and mentors. Some of them have helped me tackle challenges that I faced in day job. One of them is Ian Pettigrew.

I met Ian just after the annual conference in 2012 and we decided to start organising events called ‘Tweetups’ where HR professionals from Manchester and the North West could finally meet. When some of those professionals walked into the room, it felt like I had known them for a long time. Our first event was a success and since then we have organised another 5 #connectingHRmcr events.

Thanks to people met on Twitter and at #connectingHRmcr I was picked to live tweet for the biggest HR event of the year: the annual conference in 2013. The event’s hashtag was tweeted more than 7,000 times and more than 800 people tweeted in 2 days. This is simply incredible for those who are not able to attend and creates such a buzz and a sense of inclusion for those there. It is fantastic to have been chosen to be part of #CIPD14’s blog squad and I cannot wait to see the numbers and stats after next week. I see social having a more prevalent role in HR as the weeks go by, so it will be interesting to see if we will have more contributors and delegates tweeting this year! Eek, I am so excited to see what #CIPD14 has in store for us.

#cipd14 blog squad

This is my 4th annual conference and I am sure that many will agree that it is inspiring to see quite how many professionals, departments and companies are working hard to make a difference. This is clearly a profession that wants to keep up with technology and trends. We are out there sharing our experiences of the world of work. We like sharing knowledge so much that some of us wrote an Amazon Kindle book together! ‘Humane, Resourced’ is the first crowd sourced book of blogs that provides a fascinating insight into the world of work both now and as it will be. It has a foreword by Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD and it draws on the experience and expertise of over 50 international HR and business professionals. The book was launched just before #CIPD13 and its sequel was announced today. This is an example of why our profession is great and what can happen when people that have never met each other collaborate and share their thoughts by putting them into writing.

I am sure I have missed out many examples of why social HR has had a positive impact in my life, however I felt so strongly about ‘social’ that that I wanted to make sure that our local CIPD branch was also positively using it. Just before the annual conference in 2013 I contacted the CIPD Manchester Branch in order to try and help them out with their social media. Thanks to this I was eventually appointed as a CIPD Manchester branch committee member. As it is important for every committee member to organise events, I just knew what mine had to be on.

This is how #socialHRmcr was born. And of course Ian Pettigrew was the man for the job. Of course we knew the perfect speakers for the job: I had interviewed some of them for my dissertation back in 2012. And of course it could not be a ‘normal’ conference: it was on social and on HR, therefore it had to be an ‘Unconference’. The event was on the 16th October and it came around very quickly. The CIPD Manchester branch is well known for organising many successful events every year. It is the biggest branch outside of London and thanks to our enthusiastic chair Olive Strachan it has finally embraced social media like no other branch has. A CIPD Manchester blog was born and Ian ran a series of Google Hangouts with the speakers and facilitators of #socialHRmcr.

At the beginning of the day and for weeks prior to the event I felt a bit petrified and full of doubts.

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I was wondering if the North West was really ready to discuss social media in HR, recruitment and L&D. I was beginning to think that an ‘unconference’ was a bit too much for employers to be endorsing. I felt the pressure, but perhaps I knew deep down that I had nothing to worry about. Lots of people turned up! Perry Timms began his presentation, the crowd was smiling and getting involved and I started breathing. By lunchtime I think I was actually enjoying myself. I helped a few people get on social media, a few eggs were hatched on Twitter, a few selfies were taken and before I knew it the conference had ended and a few tears were being shed at ‘Pets at Home’ crowd sourced video.

It was a huge success.

#SocialHRmcr was the event that made me stop and think about these past few years in the country and in HR. This event is what made me look back at my social journey with a big fat smile on my face. Was this path always going to lead me down the HR road? Where would I be now without these social tools? I am not sure, but I somehow got a bit of clarity after 16th October. I enjoy my days. I enjoy what I do. It gives me a buzz, it makes me feel alive. I am proud of everything I have achieved. I am not sure if ‘it was always going to be HR’, however I would not have it any other way. All the people that I met on Twitter, at #connectingHRmcr, through CIPD, the Manchester branch and at #socialHRmcr have taught me a lot. You are the reason why I feel I am doing something meaningful, you have taught me a lot through your writing and through sharing your experiences with me. I believe that most people I met in this journey would feel exactly the same. We have all grown thanks to one another. Communication with our connections either virtually or in person is what makes us realise that we love what we are doing. If we are having a moan about our job, talking about a meeting, our objectives, our day, our failures and successes, we are doing it passionately. We might even get emotional about it. And this is because we care. This is because we enjoy our job. How many people can say that?

Thank you to everyone that has been on this journey with me. You are the people that remind me everyday that I am on the right path.

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Damiana Casile – #socialHRmcr

16 Sep

My first Google Hangout and not the best of pictures to introduce it… I am dreading to watch the video again. I am not ashamed to admit that despite my love for social media, this is my first ever Google Hangout. This shows that you do not need to know everything there is to know about these new technologies. You can choose what suits you and your needs. Pick and choose from a big and exciting catalogue. Try something out, love it and use it daily or vice versa never use it again. There is no need to be obsessed with social media and none of the speakers at our first ever Social HR conference are. We see the potential in this tool and we understand the change that it has brought to the profession.

Ian Pettigrew has interviewed 4 speakers so far. All the Hangouts are available for you to watch on the CIPD Manchester blog. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to hear/do on the day. I don’t fancy watching my interview again, as I know I will hate it, however it is exciting to be promoting this #socialHRmcr conference.

As I explain in the video, social media has helped me during my studies and professional career. I genuinely believe that it played a huge part in the success of my studies at University and it helped me find the job that I am in now and that I enjoy. I am a HR Advisor heavily focused in employee relations and of course social media has not changed the way I support and advise managers, but it has changed the way I think about myself, the profession, its future, what needs to improve and what needs to change. The learning that is readily available to everyone will trigger some thoughts, will encourage thinking and will ultimately develop you. The blogs I read, or even a tweet might strike the right cord and make you rethink the way you go about things in your professional and personal life. Social keeps you on your toes. It never allows you to become stale and outdated.

As the ‘Social Media Co-ordinator’ for the CIPD Manchester Branch since January 2014 I have spent a bit of time trying to increase our presence especially on Twitter. Since the new year we have had a 40% increase in followers and some incredible coverage from conferences such as ‘Megatrends’ in March 2014, the Annual General Meeting in May and the NAP Conference at the beginning of June. The Branch committee has engaged with new and old members and is keen on getting everyone on board, as we wouldn’t want anyone getting left behind in this social media revolution. This conference/unconference is for everyone, from experts on the subject, to beginners, to business owners, to HR professionals and students. It will be a great chance to experience a different way of learning and a different approach to HR, Recruitment and L&D.

This conference promises to have something for everyone and the best speakers on the subject. You will learn new tools and feel confident in using them and giving social media a go. Book here and see you there!

CIPD Manchester

CIPD Manchester are running an exciting conference, Social HR Manchester, on 16th October 2014. We’re interviewing each of the speakers to give you an idea of what’s in store. For details/to book:

In this fifth interview, Ian Pettigrew is talking with Damiana Casile.

We hope to see you there!

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A few things I did not know before attending the #cipdLDShow

2 May

I was invited to attend the CIPD Learning & Developing Show at London Olympia on 30th April and 1st May. I found it fascinating and extremely challenging as my day job has officially very little to do with L&D. Here are a few things I learned at my first conference of the year.

  • I didn’t really know what a MOOC (Massive open online course) was… Not in detail anyway. I know a lot more about how it all began and how it has developed in the last couple of years. I wish that the conference had shown me how it all works and what it looks like once you have enrolled. However, it left me curious and I can’t wait to find out more. The session made me realise the how this could be an incredibly powerful tool for personal development and an easy sell in departments and companies. Please have a look at Tim Scott’s article on the MOOC session here.
  • Companies like Google and Deloitte are using a similar learning approach to the MOOCs. It is social, it is fun, interactive and you have the freedom to choose what you want to learn next. Those companies trust you to know what development and what new skills you need to become an even better professional. They really did showcase some great L&D practices and I came to the conclusion that I want to work for them!
  • The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic. A great example of resilience and leadership. Fascinating story, check it out by reading the second part of Julie Drybrough’s storify here or this brilliant summary.
  • I survived the London tube strike by getting on a taxi. It wasn’t as expensive as people say. And London cab drivers are lovely! Also, when it rains in London, it really rains!
  • I had never seen or heard of ‘Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy’. If you haven’t either, do have a look, it’s brilliant.
  • L&D professionals love selfies! And they are smiley, positive and creative people. However, I knew that already!




  • If not fully appreciated or not given the freedom to experiment, L&D faces very similar challenges to the HR departments. However the potential is enormous, so please let learning and development lead the way. The case studies at #cipdLDShow would prove to any board of directors the enhanced potential for business growth provided by a well thought out L&D practice. It has been great to hear those case studies and I wish there would be more success stories around as I have yet, in my life as an employee, to come across L&D practices as superb as the ones showcased in the past two days.

First day of #CIPD13 as part of the blogsquad

9 Nov

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As Ian Pettigrew realised I think I was feeling the pressure. How can you compete with blog posts that are out the minute the crowd starts clapping the end of the presentation? I’m think of you David… Or how to write better than Gemma or Sukh? So I’ve mainly live tweeted at the event, engaged with the exhibitors there, took pictures and videos on Instagram and interacted with the incredible number of new young and old professionals that decided to open a Twitter account during #CIPD13. I think this was great to see, and an incredible achievement and a legacy for the online HR community.

I did however want to briefly comment on my first day of #CIPD13 and on the opening keynote and a couple of the other sessions I attended… 

Creating The Best Workplace on Earth – Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee 

What a title! Wouldn’t we all want to do that? Wouldn’t we all like to work for this type of company? The keynote started off exciting and positive, analysing the reasons as to why anyone would want to work for a specific company. People are normally proud of working for a company because of its:

– Culture/values

– High performance

– Employer brand

– Engagement

Think of your company and ask yourself, why should anyone work here? Is it because of its culture and values? This has been a popular answer since the 1980s, which makes us think that this might be a modern management fad. It is true that there are different contexts and different values.

You love to work for your company because it is successful, doing well on the stock market, highly performing? Is this always a good thing? Think of Blackberry and how quickly that can change or think of companies like Enron that want to win at all cost…No, no one would like to work for a company like that! Certainly not me! I’d rather feel engaged with the job, find it exciting, fair, motivating and meaningful.

Wouldn’t it be great if you asked someone why they work for your company and they replied: ‘it’s the organisation of my dreams’? No one says that…

Rob and Gareth believe that a ‘dream’ organisation mainly needs to have 6 things. They’ve explained this through the acronym ‘Dreams’.

D – Difference

This meant difference beyond diversity. I want to work in a place where I could be myself. If you can be yourself, you will lose yourself. Is this why there is now, in Europe and in the UK a real epidemic of work related stress? We’re always in work, so you might as well be yourself. I completely get that. I really do. The speakers’ suggestion was to ‘resist the machine’ and ‘close down the department of rules’… I’ll give you a guess as to what that department is… The HR department. The department that has the insatiable desire to wrap process around everything…

Benefits of being different? Commitment, creativity and customer experience. Waitrose is a brilliant example of this as they do not want all supermarkets to be the same. Difference is one of the organisational imperatives. Arup, also believes in making cohesion with shared values, without homogenisation. They want to encourage conflict, while in HR we always try and smooth over conflicts. Don’t kill the characters, nurture characters. Recruit some people that don’t quite fit in.


R – Radical Honesty.

What is going on? What is really going on. Let’s not try and be keepers of corporate secrets. Those days are over. There is the internet, social media, so tell people the truth or they will find out.

I loved the example of the ‘travellers complaint’ as it is true that what annoys travellers the most is to not know why there are problems or delays. What annoys them is what they don’t know.

Do not try and sanitise bad news! Tell the truth before someone else does.

The organisational imperatives of using radical honesty are:

  • Share information, don’t hoard it
  • Use all channels of communication
  • Be proactive, not reactive
  • Be the place where the best want to strut their stuff
  • Let people grow through what they do
  • Think creatively about training. Use clever, modern technology in order for people to develop through their work.


E – Extra Value

When employees’ strengths are magnified. Think of the added value that people can give to an organisation. Think of ‘Loco mobilisation’ during the Olympics. Those volunteers added value.

McDonald’s spends a fortune training relatively unskilled people.

Ducati recruited 150 ‘Ducati nuts’ that use to love stripping down engines at the weekend in order to help them develop their next engine.


A – Authenticity

You know where we’re coming from and what we stand for. Apple for example still has a sense of identity. Brand/culture is actually lived obsessively.

In order to be ‘authentic’:

  • Be vigilant on brand and culture.
  • Be clear about what you do well.
  • Be suspicious about fads.
  • Acknowledge legacy


M – Meaning

The meaningfulness of the job comes from connections to others, community and the cause. So make sure you work on internal and external connections and make sure that you build the right social architectures


S – Simple Rules

Despite suggesting to ‘close down the department of rules’, Rob and Gareth still believe in rules, simple rules. Be different does not mean anarchy as freedom still rests upon constraints.

What do good rules look like? They should be simple, agreed, not complex or imposed. So be vigilant, involve and check and make sure that your rules are fair.

I couldn’t help to carry on feeling that obviously this would be the perfect company to work for, however I can’t think of any that get the entire acronym right. We can work towards getting it mostly done and I think this is great advice for a start-up or an SME. All of the examples in the presentation were of big corporations, however I don’t see how the ‘DREAMS’ acronym could not apply to an individual or a much smaller company. Hard to get all of the acronym done, but of course we can all try and improve, change and one by one make things happen. However this is obviously a testing and difficult agenda.

The good news is that people want to do good work. They want to invent new things. People need to work and it is an insatiable human desire to do good work as it is a defining human characteristic. HR is about doing the right thing. We might have to draw a line from times to times and tell people that yes, we get all the business stuff, but this is not right. Good workplaces, good and meaningful work will equal to better societies. HR can help this happen as HR is in the business of building the organisation of your dreams!


First keynote over, I headed off to see ‘Techniques to Enable Transformational Employee Engagement’ with David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. This was an extremely tweetable and jammed packed session. Find the storify of the session below:

I was then about to head to an auto-enrolment session as it would have been very interesting to find out any tips on how to communicate this to staff, however one of my favourite words caught my eye: ‘networking’. I therefore went ‘speed networking’ which I missed last year and thoroughly enjoyed this year. It was so popular that I think next year it should be given an even bigger space. A couple of tips on ‘speed networking’: remember your business cards, go there to communicate something different and something that people will remember. You have 3 minutes, so be yourself and go for it.

There were so many great blogs and tweets during ‘Leading People through Organisational Change’. Andrew Wolstenholme led us through a great early afternoon session and if you would like to read more about it I’ll direct you to my favourite blog that summarised perfectly the essence of the session.

As every year, I look forward to this conference more than any other business or HR event. I had high expectations for the key note and despite setting the tone for the day, I found that the conversations that followed and the rest of the day (and wonderful evening), was really what made it all special.

In between sessions I was wandering about the stands, taking photos and videos of all the great exhibitors, funny gadgets and great photographers/magicians and initiatives. I kept on thinking how the 60 free learning events are a great opportunity for passers-by to really engage with CIPD and the topics and learn while talking to some of the companies present. Those speakers are so passionate about important topics such as workplace motivation, social recruiting and internal communications that this passion really did shine through.

The first day was over too quickly and I didn’t get a chance to reflect on all those sessions until now. The Centenary Dinner was upon us and this was a lovely opportunity to really celebrate the 100 years of this great professional body and have an incredible time with some of my favourite people.

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