Reflecting on #CIPD12

I’ve had an interesting and fun couple of days in Manchester at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition last week. One of the most compelling reasons why I think people go to conferences is the interaction with other people. I’m no exception and I loved catching up with friends and meeting lots more people for the first time. What else struck me about this event?

The Exhibition versus The Conference

The exhibition and conference although both under one main roof, are very separate in Manchester. It feels like people are just passing through, heads down, avoiding eye contact. And often, exhibitions have a bad reputation as places stalked by pushy sales people, I get that.

In an attempt to check this feeling out, I chose to spend plenty of time on the exhibition floor this year. I found a good number of people who wanted to talk, in context with what they were selling and promoting sure, and importantly, in context with the themes that were emerging from the conference too. Plenty of people with a smile, a job to do and sense of wanting to engage with others rather than try and push product. I’m sure there were pushy people there too but I was fortunate not to meet any.

Later in the event I revisited some of the stands where I’d previously been made welcome to see how they were finding things. The feedback was along the lines of ‘yes, we’re having a good event, making new contacts and we’ve had some interesting enquiries about what we do too’. I’m sure not everyone on a stand had a good time but applying my thoroughly unscientific approach of going where I was made welcome and I didn’t feel hassled, worked for me. If you’ve avoided the exhibition floor of late at conferences – maybe you should check it out again?

On my visit to the Ohio State HR Conference in September this year, the conference organising committee did a great job of encouraging conference visitors to invest time at the exhibition. Ohio guests give feedback that the event is great value for money and the committee are quick to recognise that this is in part due to the sponsorship the exhibitors provide. There’s much more too, content, networking, and enthusiasm enough for all, but the link between conference and exhibition is acknowledged very healthily. Another thing I noted in Ohio was that many of the announcements and regroups between talks were staged in the middle of the exhibition. Perhaps there’s something for the CIPD in these observations?

Pot Luck

Because I was spending more time on the exhibition floor I didn’t get to nearly so many conference talks this year as I’ve done before. One I did make it to was ‘Maintaining Employee Engagement Through SME Growth’. Now for sure – this session wasn’t going to win the snappy title award but it was a very engaging panel discussion. Jill Miller from the CIPD sparked some good conversation between Clive Hutchinson of Cougar Automation, Hazel Stimpson of Harrod UK, and Lesley Cotton from P&O Ferries.

All the panellists were lively and spoke plainly and simply about stuff like involvement, helping people see the bigger picture (damn those siloes), and the demise of individual bonuses in favour of profit share (a la John Lewis). You can read more about what Flora Marriott thought specifically of Clive here, and I share her disappointment that this session didn’t reach a wider audience. It might have been by people with SME experience, but it certainly wasn’t just for them.

So why pot luck? Well ordinarily I might have been put off this session by the title but I chose to take a step into the unknown and I benefited from that. Sadly – I picked up some vibes on Twitter that not all the sessions were so useful and enjoyable. That brings me to another aspect of pot luck. As a conference delegate you rarely know, even if you’re grabbed by the session title, how good the speaker(s) will be. Sure, if you’ve seen them before you’ll have an idea and often we don’t have the benefit of that previous experience.

At this point Flora gets another mention, and so too do Darren Hockaday, Tom Paisley and Perry Timms. I listened to all these people speak, and plenty more besides, and these four in particular had some interesting things in common.

  • They had prepared
  • They spoke with conviction
  • They were funny at times

OK the being funny bit may not be essential, though I think it really helps – but the other two points, without them I think you’re always going to struggle to get a result. So if you are invited to speak, I encourage you to see that as a gift and work hard to make the experience as good as you possibly can, for your audience and for you. In the delivery, try and convey a sense of enjoyment. It’s contagious, and it beats miserable every time. When I get a miserable speaker in front of me, that’s a sure fire early depart.


To close this post, I want to acknowledge the tip top bloggers at the event, and thumbs up to the CIPD for their continued support of the rise of the HR bloggers here in the UK. Here are links to the ones I know about. If I’ve missed anyone – shout and I’ll stick you on the list.

Mervyn Dinnen

Rob Jones

Flora Marriott

Neil Morrison

Sukh Pabial



Values – Impose At Your Own Risk

During a Question & Answer session at the CIPD conference yesterday, Simon Jones tweeted something that caught my eye. Peter Cheese, the recently appointed CIPD CEO asked a gathering of around a hundred people, ‘How many of you can recite your company values?’ Three people raised their hands. There was some surprise about the low response among the audience, but I’m not surprised at all.

From my experience, most sets of company values are utterly forgettable, and there seem to be a few consistent reasons for this:

They are imposed from above. Too often, senior management seem to think that company values are something they are responsible for setting. In an even more horrific extension of imposition, some company’s think it would be really cool to get a marketing agency to help them establish the values. Wrong. If they are going to mean something to anyone beyond the board room they should be co-created from all corners of your organisation, and maybe even beyond…?

They are just a list of words. Trustworthy, Honest, Integrity, Open, Collaborative, blah, blah, bullshit bingo. Where’s the context? Where’s the meaning? People don’t want a shopping list of buzzwords – they want something to unite and connect with. A recent piece of research by SurveyLab shows that 86% of people are committed to delivering quality work and 79% always try to contribute more than is expected of them. I think people want values to be a frame of reference that helps them to give of their best.

They are set in stone. The environment we operate in changes, and we are expected to change and adapt to cope or take advantage. I think company values have more meaning when they are reviewed in context with what you are trying to achieve. It doesn’t follow that they will definitely change, but I think they should be reconsidered and people should know about this and have the chance to have their say.

As the Q&A session continued, Sinead Carville tweeted from afar with a great suggestion. ‘Perhaps a better question might be who can give examples of their values being lived within the business? We remember stories.’ I thought this was a lovely, useful observation, stories beat shopping lists every time.

Carnival of HR – This Is England

About a zillion months ago I stuck my hand up to host The Carnival of HR, and the carnival deities decided I would host on November 7th. Turns out they are a smart bunch for it came to pass that November 7th was also to be decreed slap bang in the middle of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (think SHRM only with a funny accent) 2012 annual conference, here in Manchester, England.

England. The land of cricket, stately homes and generally crap summer weather. So welcome all you Carnival folk, and to the many who have journeyed here from across the pond to be here today, I hope you enjoy your visit. Just remember that over here, pants are in fact underpants not trousers. Also what we call chips, you call french fries, and what you call chips, we call crisps. Got all that? Great – then let us begin.

Fireworks of HR

The USA is in the middle of election fever, and here it’s right around Guy Fawkes night. Guy Fawkes was a pretty in your face kind of guy and when he didn’t like what was going on with the English Government back in the early 1600s, he decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He failed, though I think he got an A for effort in his annual appraisal. Anyhoo, in his honour we now spend a small fortune on fireworks every November to commemorate Mr Fawkes’s near miss, hence the title for this opening category.

We explode into life with David Goddin’s Sis, Boom, Ahhhhh – which encourages us to put on our own people fireworks display.

Niki Rosenbaum then suggests we break the golden rule, ‘Never go back to a lit firework’. When those fireworks are your people, they may need you to stop them fizzling out.

No good firework party is complete without a bonfire, complete with an effigy of Guy Fawkes and ours is no exception. If you think Fawkes has a tough time, try thinking about your ten worst days as a leader, courtesy of Dan McCarthy.

Meg Peppin got in touch with a shower of sparks to ask, HR, A Damp Squib or a Firestarter?

We blast off to Canada for our penultimate salvo. Ian Welsh takes us on a combined history and HR lesson with his Biggest Fireworks.

Firework displays always have some spectacular rockets to finish. John Hunter fires off a spectacular salvo as he urges us to eliminate the annual appraisal via none other than the W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog. Kablooie!

Conference Tales

Well I couldn’t not include this as a category given the timing of this Carnival. So who are our keynote speakers? Let’s find out:

Opening this part of the show is Ben Eubanks of Upstart HR. Now don’t tell him, but Ben was one of the first HR bloggers I started to read on a regular basis. So I was pleased when he got in touch to offer us some sage advice on Conference Booths, The Hard Sell and What We Want. This post is Ben at his conference going best.

Next up is Robin Schooling with some cracking observations on the then and now of conferences. I love Robin’s blog the HR Schoolhouse, and she is a prime mover in Louisiana SHRM which is conferencing again on 8th and 9th April 2013. I’ll be heading out there for some serious fun – will there be ash trays on the tables? Damn right there won’t!

Here’s a piece from Cirrus Connect on a session they’re running at this year’s CIPD conference. Their session will be done and dusted by the time the Carnival goes live – but the question they close with, ‘What are the big themes emerging from this year’s conference?’, will still be very much alive.

And why do you go to conferences? Broc Edwards asks this question to close this section and suggests that a new breed of DIY events is reshaping the conference landscape. I agree with him – and though they’re not everywhere yet…watch out folks, change is a coming!

Other Crap You Can’t Be Bothered To Categorise

This was the most popular selection by a country mile, so in a vaguely unbiased attempt to be fair to everyone who sent me some other crap, I’m going to curate this part in the order the posts arrived with me.

Robert Tanner from Business Consulting Solutions kicks us off with a nice mix of lists and visuals relating to Influential Events That Shaped Gen Y. Ahhhh, video games, the years I invested getting good at Space Invaders…

Next up is Jesse Stoner who writes about How To Surface and Align Team Values. Importantly for me, Jesse affirms that change does not have to begin at the top of the organisation. Absolutely!

Suzanne Lucas got in touch from CBS Money Watch with  a super post chock full of real, and less than glowing, reference checks.

Andy Spence from Glass Bead Consulting asks us to consider the impact of an ageing workforce in so far as it relates to tools and technology, change management and more.

Steve van Remortel from Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream (What?! I like vanilla ice cream…) talks about Creating Clarity Through Your Vision. I appreciate that he encourages us to think about things from the customer perspective.

Michael Haberman writes powerfully about Punishing Failure Versus Punishing Lack of Failure. I’m a fully paid up member of the Mistake Makers club and it’s great to see that Michael’s post produced a lot of dialogue on the subject, check the comments section.

Chris Young over at The Rainmaker has a Zero Tolerance on Mediocrity policy.

Stuart Rudner urges us not to react too hastily toward misconduct in his When Trust Has Been Destroyed: Just Cause For Dismissal post. As in most things in life – it’s all about the context folks.

Gautam Ghosh thinks Social Teach and Social Media Will Not Make Your Employees Engaged. Instead he thinks what matters is: relationships, culture and a sense of purpose. I think social tools can help – so long as the culture fit is right.

Here comes Steve Browne, The President of The United States of HR (he gets my vote) with a great post called All You Need Is… This post is rich in music and friendship – two things Steve does most excellently.

Next up is Bingleby. Bingleby is an unusual blogger in so far as he is a plant. Yep – you read that correctly, a plant. Today he’s getting his leaves in a twist asking What’s The Point of HR?

Being a part of something like the CIPD is in part about wanting to feel part of a community. In this post, by CIPD member Sandy Wilkie, we’re invited to Allow Community Back Into Our Workplaces.

Jon Mertz from Thin Difference has been in touch with a blog titled Live an Unlife Life. Love the style of this post, uncommon indeed.

Susan Mazza swings by from Random Acts of Leadership (gotta love that title) and poses the question, What Is Your Leadership Promise? My leadership promise is to finish and deliver this Carnival on time. Don’t let anyone tell you different – this curation lark is hard work 🙂

Great Leaders Serve is Mark Miller’s blog, and he uses baseball as a theme to talk about The Cross Functional Team Advantage. I’m a big fan of cross function collaboration, and beyond, so it’s good to see Mark hitting a home run with this one.

And just when I thought I’d finished, I got a late arrival. A day after the deadline this post called Social is for Marketing – Period! arrived from Alex Raymond at Kapta Systems. I happen to completely disagree with Alex’s assertion and it would have been easy to leave this post off the list. I mean – he was late right? But I decided I would schedule it in, because I think we need to share stuff we don’t always agree with, otherwise we always do what we’ve always done and we always get what we’ve always got. And that’s not what the Carnival or I are about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed wandering around the Carnival stalls to see what people have to offer you? It’s been a pleasure to serve as your host and I hope to see you again sometime down the road.

Peace and Love – Doug