My Thoughts From #cipdACE16


Last week I attended CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition (#cipdACE16) in Manchester, for 2 days of learning and sharing at the biggest event in the HR calendar.

I love this event, which has now become a regular date in my diary, as it gives me an opportunity to fully immerse myself in my profession and learn from like-minded people.

This year was going to be a little different for me as it’s been a busy year, i’ve changed roles, i’ve made lots of new friends in the HR world, including some on Twitter who I was fortunate enough to meet IRL (thats ‘In Real Life’ if you’re not down with the lingo) at this years conference.

So firstly, for those I did get chance to say hello to and talk to, although in most cases very briefly, it was great to meet you and I look forward to our paths crossing again. For those I didn’t although we were in the same place at the same time, I hope i’m forgiven as this was a very busy jam-packed event.

So I attended lots of sessions and I can’t talk about all of them here, so i’ll mention the highlights.

It’s worth mentioning, before the conference kicked off, I attended the People management drinks reception the evening before. I stayed for around an hour (the socially awkward guy in me can last around that long!) but was lucky enough to make some new contacts and speak with the folk behind People Management magazine. The hospitality was excellent and I was made to feel very welcome. So thanks guys for the invite!

First up on day one of the conference, as is customary, was Peter Cheese, the Chief Executive of the CIPD, opening the event and talking about the need for HR to step-up in this time of difficulty. I saw one of my connections on Twitter call this a ‘rallying cry’ and this is exactly what it felt like. Peter inspired the room and those in attendance by explaining that the time for HR to step-up and be counted was now and our bravery and passion was never needed so much. I felt really proud and enthused by this call.

Peter shared a slide with the room (I believe it was a Haikudeck by the way, of which I am also a fan…) that disclosed CIPD’s principles for the future. This slide outlined the principles as;-

Work Matters, People Matter, Professionalism Matters

These 6 words sum up perfectly what I believe in and want from HR. This is a great step from the CIPD which I am really encouraged by. Also, there is a talented, marketing genius somewhere that came up with that, so hats off to you!

Following Peter’s opening was the keynote speaker, Margaret Heffernan, who, amongst other things, is the author of the book ‘Willful Blindness’. I enjoyed Margaret’s session and learned more around the growth mindset . Margaret made two comments that stuck with me, which were “Expertise is a starting point, not an end point” and “expertise is not fixed. Talent is not fixed”. These remarks about what talent mix and skills mix are required for a successful organisation was an interesting and enlightening take, that challenges the old myth that organisations need the most talented individuals or the biggest groups of experts available, in order to be successful.

Later on day one, I managed to sneak into a session that was fully booked, which was that of Neil Morrison and Clare Thomas of Penguin Random House talking about the candidate experience. Putting it like that does this session an injustice. This workshop, facilitated by Sukh Pabial, made up a mere 45 minutes of my day as I had to leave early to get to another session, however this 45 minutes left the biggest impression for 2 reasons. Firstly, I was encouraged to think about treating candidates like customers. Just that simple suggestion I cannot stop thinking about and have already started to put into practice.

Secondly, a person on my table who I don’t know and is a HR professional turned to the table and said “I know we work in HR and we’re supposed to love people, but I hate people”. I’ve no idea why they came to say this in order to contextualise it, and I had no time to challenge the remark but I thought it was worth including in this post. I guess i recognised when reflecting on this, that not everyone will be aligned to CIPD’s new principles.

Next on to day two where I was booked to spend the morning attending the Evidence-Based HR workshop with David D’Souza of the CIPD and Rob Briner from the Centre for Evidence Based Management. I’ve talked a lot on EBHR so I’ll restrict this post purely on what I learned from this session. Despite broken air-con feeling like the first half of the workshop was set in an igloo, this session was full of great discussion, honest debate and fantastic humour. The igloo-effect in no way detracted from the enthusiasm and interest from the delegates in the room.

In this session I learned that EBM/EBHR is not just about scientific evidence, that it has its sceptics but that it has reinforced my belief that its important for the future credibility of HR. What worries me generally is some being reserved towards EBM in the view that it might be a ‘fad’. This eludes me and is for a future blog post i’m sure. On the flip side however, I was encouraged by the openness in the room and the desire and acknowledgement that EBHR is simply a tool for better, more-informed decision-making. If its ‘faddy’ to be discerning and to want our tools to be grounded in substantial, effective evidence, then where do I sign?

On to the next session and the final session I want to comment on, a panel discussion on how HR can improve operational performance. I must admit, this was something of a pleasant surprise for me. A  moment of honesty; there was nothing on the agenda at this time that really interested me and so I reluctantly picked this session. I’m very pleased that I did. Whilst I cannot recall the names of the panel members I do remember that two of the three panel members worked together at a senior level in a charity. One panelist was Head of HR and one panelist was an FD. Neither seemed particularly polished public-speakers and both were imparting wisdom to the attendees in a roundabout fashion. But what was so great about these two speakers was the dynamic. The proactive, professional approach they took and supportive relationship they had formed demonstrated the importance of cohesive teamwork between these crucial business functions which is often incorrectly stereotyped as a repellant relationship of ‘People Versus Numbers’ that some feel the HR/Finance relationship is branded as.

So those were my #cipdACE16 highlights and key learning points.

Oh there’s two more, practical tools for conference goers too, both of which involve the cloakroom! If you use the cloakroom they give you a ticket. Take a photo of the ticket. Trust me, I lost 2 of 3 tickets! My second tip, the cloakroom queue is huge at the end of the day – collect your coat before and not after your last session and save yourself 30 minutes at the end of the conference!

Until next year…