Changing the world one day at a time: CIPD 2018

The CIPD’s annual conference and exhibition ended yesterday after two days of conversations encompassing how HR can lead and support in the new world of work.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese welcomed delegates on Wednesday with the launch of the professional body for HR and people development’s new Profession Map.Introducing the principles-led, outcomes-driven and evidence-based framework, Mr Cheese said it is the result of “a fundamental rethink of our core competencies and the context of our profession.”
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Citing the opportunity for today’s people professionals to scale up to address the significant challenges facing the world of work today, including inclusion and diversity, managing work and relationships in the digital age, skills and agility, Mr Cheese rallied delegates for the days ahead.“We are at an incredible point in time where we are rethinking that is the real heart of business. It’s people – humanity. This really is going to define our future. What an opportunity for our profession to step up and deliver these opportunities.”

Making a positive impact at work 

What followed for over 5,000 delegates and visitors to Manchester Central were 38 conference sessions and over 60 free, bite-sized learning sessions across five streams in the exhibition hall, which all aimed to support people professionals make their greatest impact on the world of work.Academic Rachel Botsman delivered the opening keynote “A New Era of Trust and Why it is Key to Success.” Through academic research, the lecturer at Oxford University's Saïd Business School and designer of the world's first MBA on the collaborative economy aimed to demystify trust and challenge assumptions about what many companies regard as among their most important assets. “Trust is a human process and a continuous process that happens between people,” she explained. The speed at which we can now communicate and take action has meant we have given our trust away too easily, she suggested, giving new meaning to the Dutch proverb “trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback.”

How can HR help build trust on organisations?

The question is how we can rebuild it. Trust, acting ethically and speaking up with confidence as a profession came through as overarching themes in the two-day annual conference and exhibition. Exploring ethical culture and how transparent HR should be in a panel session, Peter Cheese was joined by Shakil Butt, honorary treasurer of the CIPD and HR Hero for Hire, Rebekah Ayres, HM Revenue and Customs, Martyn Dicker of The Pod Consultancy and Kate Griffiths-Lambert of Charles Stanley.In a conversation that continued the debate from Rachel Botsman’s earlier keynote, it was clear that trust and transparency is a core subject for HR practitioners and one meriting ongoing discussion.Trust at the team and line level was also a key theme in the session with Dr Yves Morieux of Boston Consulting Group. In a clear-sighted reappraisal of the link between the prevailing focus on strategic alignment, productivity and engagement, the session looked at organisational culture and its impact on performance, and what happens when we trust each other and ourselves more.

HR, trust and the age of automation 

Crossing over to the question of HR’s role in building trust in the digital age, a number of sessions looked at automation, AI and its application, for example, in recruitment.With public confidence battered and bruised by poor leadership decisions at large technology companies, the narrative around AI, automation and data analytics in people management has largely been negative, misunderstood or overblown.A panel session with Atos’ Cheryl Allen, Andrew Spence of Glass Bead Consulting, Robert Nitsch of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Megan Marie Butler of CognitionX dispelled some of the myths by highlighting real-life practical applications and the developing role of HR in delivering the benefits.Former head of campaign group, Liberty, and current shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti also offered her insights around the reputational risks and data security dilemmas around employees' digital prescence. Recognising the issues are here to stay, she advised HR and global mobility to take the issues seriously and respond sensibly.

HR with confidence

From the perspective of recruitment – a real challenge as skills shortages deepen – Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill of StepStone, and Jessica Hayes of McCann, gave inspiring case studies of how they are combining digital recruitment tools with employer brand to great effect.In a field that is all about people and enabling them and organisations to reach their potential with confidence, there were sessions on this, too. In what set day two of the conference buzzing, John Amaechi inspired delegates' resolve to take up the mantle of giants and move the conversation from human resources to human beings.An energising start to the afternoon session on day one also served to remind HR professionals of their vital role in organisations. Scholar, educator and practitioner in the field of Organisational Development, Dr Mee-Yan Cheung Judge called on HR professionals to “rise up” and define a vision for dealing with megatrends impacting us all today as HR's strategic focus shifts.“HR is the heartbeat of the organisations – you have an indispensable role,” said Dr Cheung-Judge, who has published research and written books with Dr Linda Holbeche.

Getting it right and achieving results

To highlight how HR gets the people aspect right so organisations achieve commercial success, Michael Kerr of Aston Martin and Stuart Henderson of Together Housing shared their experiences of leading large-scale structural transformation to maximise efficiencies.In Aston Martin’s case, this took place over national borders and is achieving the Holy Grail of managers buying into team members’ international mobility.

Improving working lives

At the heart of the two days was a real sense of HR’s ability to make the world a better place, whether it is through nurturing human connections, which Dan Schawbel discussed in his ACE Talk, "Back to Human – Creating connections in the age of isolation", or developing a decisive approach to inclusion and diversity.The endnote from academic, actor, social activist and comedian Lenny Henry tied all these themes together in what was at times a challenging delivery that moved many people out of their comfort zones.Following Greater Manchester’s elected mayor Andy Burnham on the stage, who quipped he'd "never thought he'd be the warm-up act for Lenny Henry", Mr Henry continued the mayor's message of how a lack of social cohesion, through racism, poverty for example and blighted prospects, leads to the inequalities we all see today.

Business can be a force for social good

The message from both Mr Henry and Mr Burnham was that business can be a force for good.“Inclusion and diversity are applicable and relevant to all sectors and organisations," said Mr Henry. "Actually, we have to do something. You guys in HR are uniquely placed to effect real change.“Today I am highlighting D&I because a lack of it impacts on our society. You just have to look at the news and see impact. This is a fight about who is and isn’t considered and whose voices and lives matter. "Despite our victories, D&I is in a critical condition. Look at Nelson Mandela. These things take constant pressure and time. Even if we can’t do it ourselves, we just have to go on to keep trying and applying pressures.”

Making a difference

Bringing the 2018 annual conference and exhibition to a close, Mr Cheese responded, saying the business case for inclusion and diversity is growing all the time and sending the delegates in the packed hall off with the final message: "What a great way to finish. It’s a great affirmation of what is important to us and the big difference we can make."We will keep doing what we do. We will make the world a better place. Go and do what you do best and thank you for coming.”Head to our HR section for more news and insight from the 2018 CIPD annual conference and exhibition.  
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