I had the opportunity of participating in one of the largest HR conferences in the world last week. The annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), UK, was held at the Manchester Conventions Centre on 5 and 6 November. Today’s column is a recollection and reflection of the reminiscences of the CIPD 2014 conference with the theme, ‘High Impact HR’.
From left: NHRC 2015 Chairman Ajantha Dharmasiri, CIPD CEO Peter Cheese and President IPM Rohitha Amarapala
The CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition is the one event in the year which HR professionals around the world look forward to. There were more than 50 sessions on key HR topics with lessons from leading organisations across all sectors with the associated exhibition providing the latest HR solutions from more than 180 industry suppliers.
I attended the CIPD conference representing the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) Sri Lanka, in the capacity of the Chairman, National HR Conference (NHRC) 2015. IPM President Rohitha Amarapala was also with me. It was customary for CIPD to invite the IPM President and the Conference Chair on an annual basis.
CIPD CEO Peter Cheese welcomed the gathering by highlighting the key features of the event. “At the CIPD, we have great ambitions to build a profession for the future,” he said. “This year’s event pulls together the practitioners and thinkers who are already leading the way, to help us all shape that future.”
He further went on to say. “You’ll find sessions providing insight on the contextual factors shaping our world of work, together with sessions looking at how to develop evidence-based HR strategies that deliver real business value. You’ll also find practical guidance on maximising the capabilities of your own HR and learning functions, alongside cutting-edge thinking and practice which draws on the latest in the science of human behaviour.
“These are exciting times for the profession globally. Whatever you’re looking for, we have something for you, from practical case studies to the big-picture context or from the inspiration to build your capability to the science that will shape the future of our profession.”
There were four conference streams associated with the event. The participants could choose sessions based on the streams, which were:
1. Insights on changing context
Understand business change, external factors and how to adapt HR to changing workforce
2. HR Essentials and Learning Processes
Develop evidence-based HR strategies to provide better business value.
3. Business, Commercial Insight and Analytics
Explore the latest issues that will help oneself to maximise the capabilities of the HR function.
4. Science of Human Behaviour
Understand employee behaviours to increase people performance.
Five session formats were involved in each of the streams. Keynote was the first format that consisted of inspirational insights from leading HR and business experts. Panel Discussion was the second format covering hot topics in HR with vibrant arguments and counter-arguments.
Workshop was the third format with practical, hands-on sessions such as how to design a performance management system. Case Study was the fourth format where leading organisations shared their experiences. Masterclass was the final format where cutting-edge strategic ideas from leading business practitioners were presented.
I personally preferred the Masterclass format where there was ample time for knowledge-sharing as well as for a question and answer session.
People strategies for a competitive advantage
The idea that a ‘competitive advantage’, once realised, is long-lasting, has now been replaced. This was the way Prof. Rita Gunther McGrath of the Columbia Business School argued. She was crisp and clear. According to her, management practices have not taken on the new realities of how companies need to compete in high-velocity and uncertain environments.
“We now understand that continual small changes are essential to maintain business agility,” said Prof. McGrath. She explained why companies need to be focusing on ‘transient advantage’: seizing opportunities, getting the best from them and then disengaging from them when the opportunity is exhausted. She showed that today’s world is all about change and what created a successful past does not guarantee a successful future.
Her message has much relevance to us. Rather than sticking to an old set of tools, we need to understand why our people and talent strategies need to be constantly evolving. Furthermore, the need to challenge outdated thinking about career paths and employee development looms large.
Give and take: A revolutionary approach to success
Bestselling author, Prof. Adam Grant, drew on his own pioneering research to demonstrate the levels of success from different styles of interaction. He was one person I was looking forward to meeting. According to him, for generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent and luck.
“But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others,” said the young professor from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.
“It turns out that at work, most people operate as takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.”
The session featured different interactional styles and how they have a surprising impact upon success levels, what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation and leadership skills have in common and how to accomplish goals sustainably through collaboration.
Developing high performance in leaders was the topic of an interesting session in the conference. Complete Coherence Founder and CEO Alan Watkins shared his insights on how to go beyond behaviour to biology, to permanently change performance, how learning differs from development and how to transform talent by working out the difference. He shared practical techniques to strengthen leaders’ decision-making skills and overall performance levels.
His session gave us an understanding of how physiology and neuroscience positively influence human behaviour, how to differentiate between emotions, feelings and thoughts and why that’s important for how we think and behave, insights on how to go beyond learning to being brilliant every day.
‘Gaining greater impact by understanding behavioural science’ was the theme of another informative session by Prof. Nick Chater of the Warwick Business School.
The session covered the unwritten rules: how virtual bargaining works within the organisation, hiring decisions: ensuring diversity, rethinking psychological tests and removing bias and incentives: can science help inform your financial and non-financial reward strategies? The session helped the participants to gain an understanding of the different scientific behaviours and interactions within their workforce, insight on the changing economy and how policies are linked to human behavioural science and ideas on improving team co-operation, motivation and performance.
Laughology Creative Director Stephanie Davies spoke on ‘The science of happiness: Motivating and inspiring individuals, teams and organisations’. This session covered areas such as what a happy organisation has in terms of productivity, engagement and satisfaction levels, the science and psychology of how happiness works within the brain and how developing five key happiness factors can help increase productivity levels.
It also featured examples of using employee happiness models to increase customer-service levels, tips on how to promote happiness as a learning and development tool and ideas to aid engagement, satisfaction, confidence and business success.
‘Leadership communication to engage and inspire your employees’ was a topic tackled by Good Relations Group Chairman Kevin Murray. The session highlighted the twelve principles of inspiring leadership and how they can help transform leadership behaviours and effectiveness in an organisation.
Examples of best practice from top leaders who truly inspire their employees and the common misconceptions leaders have about what constitutes effective communication were also covered. The session allowed participants to be aware of a framework to inspire the leaders in an organisation to be more engaging, whilst equipping them with tools and ideas to alleviate leaders’ communication failures.
Author and Performance Development Expert Rasmus Ankersen conducted a lively session on curing business complacency. What are the consequences of success? Why do we not focus on these to help improve performance levels? How can you create ‘hunger’ in an organisation to avoid complacency? These were some of the questions he raised and answered with global examples.
The session gave ideas for individuals and businesses to focus on the consequences of success, to improve performance levels, examples of how some business success also leads to the reason for most failures and thoughts on how to continuously improve your people and tailor their development.
Having experienced the features of a global HR conference, now the challenge is to raise our bar in designing and delivering an improved and enhanced National HR Conference next year. Linking HR for national prosperity is the theme in the pipeline. We need to develop HR leaders with a global reach and local roots. High impact HR will be a reality only with such thinking performers.