CIPD 2014: Roundup of the first day

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The whole HR magazine editorial team (editor Arvind Hickman, deputy editor Katie Jacobs and news reporter Hywel Roberts) are at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester. As well as the main stories on today’s news bulletin, here is what else they learned.

- In his opening address, CIPD CEO Peter Cheese said the body’s focus will be increasingly international in the year ahead. “We’ll be focused on engaging with growing international interest,” he said. “Attracting, developing and engaging talent is an increasingly global challenge, and we see a rapidly growing interest in developing stronger HR capabilities at a national and an organisational level.” The CIPD will also be engaging more with national and international thinking on how standards can contribute to strengthening HR practices and principles.

- HR increasingly needs to look outwards, and play a leading role in strategic external partnerships such as joint ventures, according to Lancaster University Management School professor, and HR Most Influential Thinker, Paul Sparrow. “More and more of us are having to take responsibility for employees outside of our organisation,” he said. “We have to cope with risk, capability and governance challenges across boundaries.” Sparrow has developed a collaborative HR framework to help HR professionals tackle these challenges and believes getting involved with strategic partnerships will give HR the opportunity to be more aligned to the business.

- Again looking outwards, HR should consider maximising the reach of employability and training programmes by helping to roll them out throughout the supply chain. That’s what Marks & Spencer does, Claire Maydew, employer engagement lead on the Movement to Work initiative, revealed. “It was challenging for our food suppliers as they are nothing like us, but they have found ways of working with local providers and Jobcentre Plus,” she said. She added that one of the main reasons for doing programmes with young people was the business benefits that come from an engaged workforce, as well as increased diversity.

- CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese has said HR standards are one way in which HR should evolve, but they would be principles- rather than rules-based. In a session on the future of HR, Cheese said it is important HR standards are not prescriptive on process, but are able to hold practitioners to account on principles. The British Standards Institute recently released its first draft standard on HR for public comment on managing systems for valuing people. The UK is not the only country to introduce HR standards; the US is attempting to create its own HR standards that are more rules-based.

- London Overground Rail Operations HR director Darren Hockaday has urged HR professionals to become business and commercial savvy if they are to have a real influence. He said HR should work across all functions to better understand real business issues. “Good HR people are always visible,” he said, later adding: “Why shouldn’t the finance director be my friend?” General Mills UK, Ireland and Nordic HR director Sue Swanborough said the function needs to adopt a commercial mindset, which includes understanding exactly what customers want.

- Even Dave Ulrich is calling upon HR functions to look beyond his original model and “stay relevant” in the marketplace by updating its methods, according to CIPD new markets director Alan Ovens. Apparently Ulrich himself said that as he created that model at a time when he used a Nokia phone, some elements were of their time. By this he means it was great then but now needs updating, like upgrading to a smartphone. Ovens added: “The world is changing around us and HR needs to be very aware on the changing context in business.” Poor Nokia, Rita Gunther McGrath had a pop in her keynote too. We should point out that other obsolete communications devices are available.

- If you put lipstick on a pig you still smell like a pig, apparently. The serious point that New Yorker Frank Douglas was making is that HR functions generally know where the problems in their department are. It's HR's job to take those problems to the senior leaders and make sure something is done about it. “In my mind the best way to create a high-performing organisation is to get rid of the low-performing part of it,” the Caerus chief executive, and former TfL HRD, said. 

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