Not All Who Wander Are Lost – CoCreated Conversations On The Future of HR

For the third year running, the CIPD has kindly invited Meg Peppin and me to their annual conference in Manchester. One of the main reasons we go is to facilitate some cocreated conversations about work, under the banner of HR Unscrambled. Everyone’s invited and our guests are asked to suggest the questions they want to discuss together, over breakfast. Our experience shows this is a welcome opportunity to reflect on and synthesise some of the learning people are absorbing at the conference.

This year – the questions offered up for discussion were:

How can we influence wellness?
How can we drive analytics?
Is employee engagement just about doing the right thing?
If we started again, would we invent HR?

The essence of the conversations were transcribed by Meg and we have now shared them on Slideshare. If the questions interest you, please take a look at the conversation summaries.

In addition to some suggested answers to the questions, further questions emerged too. That’s a benefit of giving people the time and space to talk, and ultimately, action is what really matters. By way of illustrating that, I overheard this snippet as people were in discussion: ‘After this conversation, we need to act. Cary Cooper’s been talking about wellbeing for the last 20 years, and nothing has changed’. You may or may not agree with the detail of this observation – but I’m sure you can relate to this frustration to some extent.

Here are a few more signals and snippets that wafted past my brain as I listened.

On wellness:

We should pursue wellness for its own sake, and if we need to link it to £ in order to release budget, so be it.

Use ‘stealth mode’ – this brings to mind Proceed Until Apprehended and Trojan Mice.

Part time fully present beats full time not there (physically and/or mentally).

Ban internal email two days a week. I’m not a huge fan of banning stuff but if this stick can be used to stir the pot of conversation then maybe it’s worth a go?

On the inclusion of women at work:

What is the gender make up of your future employer? How is that make up represented at senior level – do the two match up? If your work force is diverse and your senior management is stale, male and pale, is this a place you want to invest yourself in?

Consciously target and recruit – make it easier for those women who want to return to work. Truly flexible working – attitude shift away from presenteeism. Job share.

Meg subsequently wrote a powerful piece on diversity and inclusion. Here’s a short extract from it, the whole thing is well worth a read.

Meg Peppin Blog Post Extract

Thank you to the CIPD for their ongoing support and sponsorship and to everyone who came and participated in these cocreated conversations. Without people, you’re nothing.

HR Unscrambled Cartoon

Thanks to Simon Heath for the HR Unscrambled cartoon.

Putting The Confer Into Conferences

A blog post on the importance of weaving dialogue into conferences.

Confer : verb : have discussions, exchange opinions.

People go to conferences to interact and learn. When I sit in a long conference session in a big room, I often get bored. This is not so much a reflection on the speaker, as much as it is a reflection on my limited attention span, and the feeling you get when your bum bone goes to sleep after sitting on one of those conference chairs for too long. The risk of boredom is often raised because rarely do speakers make the time and space for any interaction in these sessions – I feel they assume everyone has come along simply and solely to listen to them. Sure – that’s part of the equation – but I wish speakers would try harder to engage the audience using tools other than their ability to talk about themselves at length, and their brain busting slides*. For further thoughts on the subject of how to give good conference, read this, by Ian Pettigrew.

In smaller conference sessions – it’s much more acceptable to get some cocreation going. I’ve been at the CIPD conference in Manchester this week and enjoyed watching a few sessions taking place on the Future of HR arena. It’s less of an arena, more like a small, low stage and about a hundred seats, and what I’m experiencing here is much more dialogue. Yes – there is some output coming  from various speakers, but they are often conferring with each other and interaction and inquiry with the audience is designed into the experience.

I don’t agree with the general assumption that a big session = being talked at all the time. Conferences could and should be even more interesting and enjoyable, through enhancing opportunities for invitational sharing and exchange.

I’ve been fortunate to be at the CIPD conference and exhibition for each of the last five years. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve taken and what I’ve given on each and every occasion, and the conference team somehow manage to steadily raise their already high game. Finding more ways to intentionally link speakers and audiences and participants is part of what will make future events even better, I’m sure of it.

Thank you to the CIPD for the opportunity to participate in their event again, it’s much appreciated.

*It may be just me, but I find the dissonance caused when trying to simultaneously follow someone’s spoken words and interpret a ton of tiny text crammed onto a slide incredibly off-putting. I believe the speaker when they say they’ve done all the research – I’m not convinced we need it sprayed all over the screen in unreadably small type. Pick your key findings – highlight as you go along, and share the detail for those who want it via your preferred social channels.