On the Fringe – In Manchester

This year the CIPD conference is back in Manchester on November 5th and 6th. Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed helping out at this event, and I’m really pleased to be going back again in 2014. In previous years I’ve done a lot of blogging, given talks on social leadership, culture and HR, and last year I had a lot of fun curating content for the CIPD on their tumblr channel. Things need to move on, things need to change, and so 2014 is going to be a little different for me. In addition to meeting lots of lovely people and learning something new, I’ll be playing a bit closer to the fringe this year, most of the time with my friend Meg Peppin.

Reflect and Connect

Reflect and Connect

Meg and I have been asked to facilitate some open space conversation around what people are learning and how they might apply that learning in their work. Reflect and Connect takes place on the CIPD stand between 1pm and 1.30pm Wednesday and Thursday. These sessions are open to all, and we particularly hope that people attending the event on their own will take part and meet new people. No ticket required for this one – just turn up, meet people and share something interesting.

The Art of Conversation

Everyone in HR appreciates the power of a good conversation. Join us for a drink and a chat, and play with some simple ideas to explore the art of good conversation. Come and reflect on the conference and exhibition so far, and connect with other professionals in a social setting. This is an early evening get together at Epernay between 18:45 and 20:00. It’s free to attend, please grab your ticket here so we know how many people to expect.

HR Unscrambled

HR Unscrambled is back for it’s second year. What is it? A mini unconference, where you help set the agenda, and then talk about how to make work better with your fellow HR professionals. Last time out – we spoke about connecting, sharing and learning, and the future for the profession. HR Unscrambled is on Thursday morning between 08:00 and 09:15, it is free to attend and you will need a ticket, available here.

If you are going to the conference this year – it would be lovely to see you at some of these sessions. In addition to all this, I’m particularly looking forward to hearing from Rita McGrath as she asks, ‘Are We All Entrepreneurs now?’ and explores how small changes mean so much for business agility. Small is the new significant – a favourite subject of mine. What are you looking forward to?

A Review of HR Unscrambled

At the CIPD Conference in Manchester earlier this month, Meg Peppin and I were invited to facilitate a short unconference session titled ‘HR Unscrambled’. Here are our reflections from the session.

HR Unscrambled Word Cloud

Whether you’re passionate about improving organisational culture, employee-led change, employee communication or anything else that will help make work better, we’d like to invite you to HR Unscrambled.” Our invitation to members.

We wanted to co-create an opportunity for dialogue between the CIPD, its members and any other people interested in exploring both the CIPD purpose, Championing better work and working lives, and the future for HR. We believe there is great meaning to be found in exploring ways to work co-actively, doing things with each other. HR Unscrambled represents the beginning of that learning.

In the future we shall:

  • Explore ways to broaden the reach – build on the social media energy that is growing, and extend beyond it too.
  • Utilise more open space facilitation at future events and conferences.
  • Integrate research from the CIPD and other relevant parties and involve members in shaping the future.

8.00am one morning in Manchester

Our space was airy, breakfast was available, and tables were set up for four people. Guests were invited in small groups to discuss what brought them to the session. There were 30 contributors from a wide range of backgrounds including, CIPD staff, HR and Learning and Development professionals from the UK public and private sectors, and independent consultants. We were delighted too that Peter Cheese the CEO of CIPD joined us for the first half despite seemingly being everywhere else too!

The emerging themes were connecting, sharing and learning – and the future.

The connecting and sharing through networking – in its most enjoyable sense – included sharing insights, building on those insights, reflecting and thinking through them together and the implications for organisations.

A question that users of social media are asking with increasing frequency – how can we invite in those who don’t access SoMe – how do we extend the conversation?

Learning comes from connecting and sharing, and having space to assimilate the learning. We explored technology and how it is changing the way we learn, what we know about how we learn, and how we can integrate technology into our Continuous Professional Development. There was also a desire to think about generational learning differences.

Implications for the future – what the generational differences and similarities are, what self directed learning means culturally within organisations, and what skills HR professionals need – were all up for discussion.


People grouped together in fours to explore common interests around these subjects. The conversations were self-organised; people went where they had the most interest. During the discussions, we invited people to move tables with the purpose of stimulating the development of the conversation and to facilitate more networking. People were also invited to use flipcharts to capture their thoughts, priorities – what they would like to share with people who weren’t there.

We noticed that across what seemed like a broad range of topics, a dominant theme emerged in relation to learning. Discussions encompassed the tools for learning, how people learn, how technology is changing traditional methods and creating opportunities for people to become curators of their own learning. IT can get twitchy but technology, self-directed learning, and the autonomy it offers has arrived. This has so many implications, and we were left with some big questions:

  • Social Media brought people together in this space – it feels edgy but are we just on the edge?  There’s a huge community of HR people both members of CIPD and non-members.  How can we bring them in?
  • What implications does self-managed learning have for how organisations are designed?
  • What does the HR of ten years time look like; how can we build towards that now?
  • What could we do more of in relation to mentoring?
  • What manager capabilities are needed for the future?
  • Are we too inward looking; how can we engage more outside our community to broaden our perspective?

We’d like to thank all of those who were motivated to get up early and create this event, and we look forward to building on this.

Meg Peppin and Doug Shaw

These notes are available free to download.