· 85 min read · Features

HR directors and industry experts discuss the future of working practices

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Last month HR magazine invited HR directors and industry experts to debate the role of talent, performance, technology, flexible working and management in the workplace of the future, in an exclusive roundtable sponsored by BT Conferencing.

Attendees:

Sian Harrington, Editor, HR Magazine

Terence Perrin, Chair Association, Graduate Recruiters

Danny Kalman, Head of Global Talent, Panasonic Europe

Alan Warner, Public Sector People Managers' Association

Tony Sheehan, Learning Services Director, Ashridge Business School

Deborah Lee, HR Director Consumer & Enterprises, BT Conferencing

Elly Tomlins, Head of HR Strategy and Planning, Thomson Reuters

Donald Taylor, Chairman, Learning Skills Group

Angela O'Connor, Chief People Officer, National Policing Improvement Agency

Penny de Valk, Chief Executive, Institute of Leadership and Management

 

Sian Harrington, Editor, HR Magazine

Welcome everyone to this Roundtable, which is sponsored by BT conferencing, so thank you very much.  I just wanted to do a quick introduction to set the scene really before we start going round.  The reason for coming together is that I was interested in finding out about how the world of work was changing, what we should be looking forward to and what we should be doing now to achieve what we feel is going to happen in the future.  I thought this format was good to see if we could find some common ground and lessons amongst a number of very different people here, on how organisations should be responding to change and how we can engage employees in this brave new world that we are looking at. 

To give you some context, and I think some of you requested a copy of our research in advance to have a look at, we did this research to discover what was happening at Head Office level currently, and what the HR Directors are expecting to see five years out.  You do not need to have seen it, I just know one or two people asked me because I had mentioned it.  Unsurprisingly we found there was a huge amount of cost cutting going on at the moment, with two thirds of businesses who responded saying they were cutting costs, and nine in ten organisations with a turnover of more than one billion pounds were cutting costs.  The shocking finding from my perspective really was that, despite this, a third were not factoring any thoughts of the future in to these cuts.  Most people, I think it was 97% off the top of my head, had actually said that they had put the future on hold effectively while they were trying to navigate through the recession, which I suppose makes sense on the one side, but there are a lot of bigger issues out there that have not gone away.  I think I was quite surprised that there was at least an eye on the future, but it was really quite categorically that they were practically thinking at all about it, with making these cost cuts. 

However, when we asked people what they were expecting, as HR Directors predominantly, to see five years out, they were talking about a very different organisation than today, and five years out to me is not very long at all.  They talked about decentralisation, empowerment, collaboration, visionary nurturing and leaderships.  90% expected knowledge market places to be widely adopted, replacing more functional team based structures.  They expected employees to work across functions and boundaries, have technology at their finger tips to connect with each other, the skills and mind sets to resolve issues themselves, rather than referring to managers, and that organisations will be designed to facilitate quick decision making.  If anyone has got the answer for how to achieve that I would be very interested.  Then, of course, at the same time we know there is only a finite amount of talent out there in this global world, competition is intensifying and demographics changing, and employee expectations are rising. 

Given that whole context, some of the questions I hope we might be able to discuss today include how do you create a more flexible, agile and collaborative organisation and working practises within an organisation?  How do you create high performance across different sites and geographical divides?  What is the role of technology going to be, and social networking, virtual working, conferencing, video conferencing, etc.  Maybe we might move on to rewarding employees, is there a different way we need to do this?  I think it just depends on our time constraints here and what we can achieve, and what subjects come out that you find most interesting.  The most useful thing to start with would be to go round the table and if you could all introduce yourselves and say a little bit about your perspective on this.

Terence Perrin, Chair Association, Graduate Recruiters

Terence Perrin, I am here as the Chairman of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, although that is not my day job.  My day job is with J.P. Morgan, but today I am here with my AGR hat on.  I think where we are coming from with a number of these issues would be around the Generation Y theory, looking at what the aspirations are of Generation Y coming in to their first role from university.  I am hoping I will be able to draw on lots of findings from other graduate recruiters and other development specialists in the graduate field on how they are tackling a number of these issues, from that perspective.

Danny Kalman, Head of Global Talent, Panasonic Europe

I am Danny Kalman.  I have just taken on a new role for Panasonic as Director of Global Talent which means I have three desks, one in Japan, one in Bracknell, which is the Headquarters of Panasonic Europe and UK, and a desk at home, which links to some of the issues here about home working, or as the Japanese call it eWorking.  It is a fascinating period in my career to be given this opportunity to work in a very different cultural environment and Panasonic traditionally has been a very conservative organisation, very much manufacturing driven, with hopefully brilliant products and a great reputation for the kind of line that we have.  It is now looking at promoting talent management and looking at who are going to be the drivers and the executives who are going to lead our organisation, moving Panasonic from quite a Japanese centric organisation to much more of a global basis.  Therefore, it is putting me in a situation of communicating with people and executives, and the talent team in different regions, both outside Japan and more physically and sometimes politically inside Japan, and trying to move many colleagues from Japan, in terms of taking much more of a global approach.  That is the situation I am now in.

Alan Warner, Public Sector People Managers' Association

I am Alan Warner.  I am representing the Public Sector People Managers' Association today.  I was previously with Hertfordshire County Council, where I was 22 years as the Director of People and Property and Deputy Chief Executive.  Hertfordshire was very much in to some of the things you have just talked about, having reduced its office portfolio, for instance, from 53 offices down to three offices, saving about £3,000,000 a year, changing ways of working, one to four desk ratio for people, that kind of thing.  Therefore very much in the business of trying to change ways of working to reduce costs and also to lift the burden of some of the property that we had around our necks which was getting older and so on.  The interest that I have going forward around this is that I am working with man power at the moment, and there is a big push in the local authority and public sector world for collaboration, either with each other or via outsourcing.  As such, there is a huge step further to take in terms of how the public sector develops, to me what is going to be quite a tough financial scenario over the next three to five years.

Tony Sheehan, Learning Services Director, Ashridge Business School

I am Tony Sheehan.  I am Director of Learning Services at Ashridge Business School.  Ashridge are quite a small, space constrained Business School in leafy Hertfordshire, but number one in the FT rankings for tailored executive education, which I guess begs the question, what is an executive like in a few years time.  It therefore touches certainly on the Gen Y issue and definitely on the multi generational work place.  Immediately prior to that, however, I was Chief Knowledge Officer of a construction business, so I have got this strange interest in this issue.  On the one hand I see the need to share knowledge, and on the other hand the challenge of actually absorbing that knowledge, given the rate at which it is generated at the moment.  So I do quite a lot of research still around micro management, sharing those kind of things.

Deborah Lee, HR Director Consumer & Enterprises, BT Conferencing

Deborah Lee, I am the HR Director for Consumer & Enterprises at BT.  I have a dual aspect to my role, the operational piece, which is looking after the side of the business from a traditional HR perspective, of which conferencing is one of our businesses, and I have a functional need for the BT retail arm which is around high performance.  This includes talent management and also absence, and seeing how we can use technology and get the most out of our performance from a high performance perspective, to be the most flexible organisation to serve our customers.  BT is a global organisation, so we have the global issues of getting people together as well as the talent issues about retaining and getting the new generation working or engaged with our workforce.  Also, right at the moment, one of my main concerns is around the swine flu pandemic, and how we keep our business working when people have to be at home caring after their children or their loved ones and still getting them connected and getting them some productive work.  It is an interesting challenge, but one that we certainly hope our conferencing facilities can cope with.

Elly Tomlins, Head of HR Strategy and Planning, Thomson Reuters

My name is Elly Tomlins.  I am the Head of HR Strategy and Planning for Thomson Reuters globally.  Thomson Reuters is a provider of intelligent information to multiple industries, so we have a vantage point across legal, financial services, health care, scientific and journalism, and we have the Reuters network of journalists.  We have over 3,000 journalists and we are in 93 countries, so my perspective on this is often driven by that extraordinary range of cultural diversity.  We have very big centres in Asia that are much younger, very Gen Y, 6,000 people of which the average age is 26.  We also have big populations in the scientific grouping in Philadelphia which is highly baby boomer and has a completely different cultural mix.  Part of my challenge is therefore, part of my role is to think about our strategies and working with our global heads of talent, reward and operations across the functional priorities for the whole company.  We also have a big commercial hedge on this whole question, because social media is actually core to our proposition.  Everything from how do we use Twitter in our journalist networks, to how do we collaborate with customers through different products to create products is really important.

Donald Taylor, Chairman, Learning Skills Group

I am Don Taylor.  I am here as the Chairman of the Learning Skills Group that is a community of about 1,500 people online who are learning development professionals in a range of organisations, mostly in the UK, but actually across Europe and the world.  However, although technically I deal with baby boomer, my career has been a bit more Gen Y because I have done a bunch of different things.  Until August of last year I have been Director of a software company, which was a talent management software company, for six years.  We eventually sold out to some Americans, just before the crash, so a good time to sell.  In that we deal with a lot of large organisations, helping them look at their talent management issues across the board and things like BAE systems, the National Health Service and so on, and Microsoft, large organisations.  We ourselves are a very small organisation of about 30 people, and heavily in to flexible working and making things as right as possible for our own employees, so we are able to see things from two different perspectives. 

We can also share, which is part of the Learning Skills Group, some of the things of the last 10 years, learning where technology has come from.  I am therefore quite interested in all the technology that goes around, helping people work flexibly, work together, in particular the whole idea of conferencing with BT, and just generally we run webinars very regularly for our members.  We have got a really good community spirit going with that, and I think it is one of the great what I call submarine technologies, that enables people to get together and it has not made a big splash.  It has not really been held very much, but it is nonetheless something which has changed the way people work, certainly people I work with, a lot over the past five years.  I do not think we are really twigging it much, people just do not think anything about anything about, as I am typically, in the morning on the phone to Tehran or Armenia at 8 o'clock in the morning, on a Skype call, having a webinar with somebody in the UK in the middle of the day, and then with the US in the afternoon.  Even five years ago that would not have been possible, or would not have been part of regular practice.  Anyway that is very specific.

Angela O'Connor, Chief People Officer, National Policing Improvement Agency

I am Chief People Officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency and my job is in three parts.  One part is delivering learning development leadership solutions to a customer base of about 300,000 in policing in England and Wales.  We also have links with Scotland and we have international academies, so we work across the world as well, training people in their countries and then they come to England and we train them there as well.  The second part is all around workforce strategies, so developing an agreed direction for people strategies for 43 very independent police forces and authorities.  The third part is the Head of Profession role for the HR and Learning Development People in policing, and our challenges are similar to some of those I have heard along here. 

Our biggest challenges at the moment are that flexibility in policing is actually decreasing.  Police officers who are not employees used to be incredibly flexible creatures, you could send them anywhere and a view of omnicompetence meant that they believed, sometimes wrongly, that they could do anything.  However, with increasing specialisms, with men taking part much more actively now in family life, the appeal of flexibility is not really there in the same way, so we have got some real issues.  The other issue is that we are not one organisation, we have 43 independent and very independent police authorities and forces, and so the ability to work across them, although that has happened, has not been that common.  The other issue we deal with is relatively poor IT, so I would love to have a scenario like yours in the morning, we do not have that.  One of the things that we are introducing is a national strategy around IS so that we can start to pull together a number of very disjointed information practices that are taking place at the moment.

Penny de Valk, Chief Executive, Institute of Leadership and Management

Penny de Valk, I am the Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management.  I have been in that role for about 18 months now, coming up to I guess 20/22 months, and I guess my interest in this is really through that lens.  What does the nature of leadership management need to look like in terms of employee engagement moving forward in the 21st century, certainly in the current context of recession environment, where we are finding managerial and leadership behaviours doing some interesting things.  Some of which are very adaptive and some are not, but instinctive nonetheless.  My interest is therefore, what are the management and leadership capabilities that we need to bring to the table to be able to make a real difference in this field?

Sian Harrington

From my perspective, what I would like to achieve in the next hour and a half or whatever, is talking about this changing world and this world of work in five, 10 years out or however far we want to go.  To try and identify key issues that we all see as being issues, to have some debate in thinking around those issues and at the end to perhaps come up with some practical thoughts if possible, some lessons.  Or, even if there are some issues that we will say there is not an answer yet but to put that out in the market so somebody comes up with the answer.  Perhaps the best place to kick off is actually the research that has been done.  One of the things that it showed is that at the moment there is lots of cost cutting going on, but most people are just cost cutting the immediate and they are not really thinking about the future strategy.  Perhaps I could have some thoughts on that from people around here.  Are you doing that?  Do you think that is just the way it is or should people be thinking a bit about some of the bigger issues, and what issues?  Would anyone like to jump in?

Donald Taylor

Let me offer an observation because I do not have to worry about saying our company is doing this, that or the other, I can talk about people in the Learning Skills group.  I was absolutely sure in January that training budgets were going to be slashed massively across the UK.  I am very surprised that they have not been.  They have been cut in some areas, but generally the feedback I am getting from a wide range of people is we are expected to do more with the same or with slightly less, but there have not been huge cuts in the training budget.  What this is indicating to me is that people see that cost is important, but they also understand that the value of what people can do is crucial.  They are therefore continuing to take perhaps quite a mature view, organisationally, of what is required.  In other words, they cannot just get rid of people as they might have done, even in the last recession, they either get rid of their training departments, that has happened in a couple of cases, or just get rid of people wholesale, but keeping a base of skills internally is important.  I find that quite positive.  I do not know if that matches with other peoples experiences?

Terence Perrin

I can make another observation there.  I am coming from a similar perspective in that, with the Association of Graduate Recruiters, my views are obviously from across the membership.  We had our conference very recently in early July, with something like 700 delegates.  The AGR membership has 800 members, 90 of the FTSE 100 companies, therefore a very broad view.  One of the encouraging things from our conference is that, whereas perhaps in 2001 we were seeing cost cutting leading in many cases to a complete stop of graduate recruitment and also interns, this time we are seeing less graduate recruitment vacancies.  The survey was indicating over 25% less vacancies for graduates, which, given this is the biggest ever year of graduates coming on to the market place, is disturbing.  Even taking account for that, there is still graduate recruitment going on.  I think lots of organisations have taken a medium to longer term view around, if we stop recruiting, we are going to be left with a whole in our talent pool in the future.  Let us look at what we are doing, let us re-evaluate, let us lay things down, but let us keep recruiting, and we are seeing that across all sectors.  We have seen growth in the public sector, but generally people are still recruiting at that level.

Sian Harrington

Are they recruiting for future skills needs that they are seeing, ie, are they bringing in people who will develop in to making roles that we do not quite know yet, or is it replacement of...

Terence Perrin

I think that is the bit that is missing, and I am sure we will develop that later on, but at the moment, it is a case of let us keep the pipeline going.  We are not exactly sure what that pipeline is going to look like for three or four years ahead, but we need to have that flexible resource in place, ready for that time.  That is the next bit I think.

Sian Harrington

Yes.

Danny Kalman

I think there is a balance between, on the one hand looking at operational day to day needs, and then looking to the future.  Certainly for my organisation, Panasonic, I suppose one of the advantages of working for a Japanese company is taking a long-term view.  I think that whilst the notion in the past that when we come through this particular cycle, are we in a good position to be able to seize business opportunities, and therefore to have that view we need to keep investing in our people.  I think there was a time in the past whereby some companies did not do that and therefore they were not prepared or they did not have the right people in place to take those opportunities.  I therefore feel that you have got to look at your lines of business and you have got to look at, yes, we may have to make certain cuts, we may have to make a reorganisation, at the same time we have core businesses and we still need to develop people.  I think that is the situation we are in.

Deborah Lee

I think BT have been quite public about cuts that we are making in the organisation and certainly the approach that we have taken are to cut where it makes sense to become more productive, more efficient, rather than cutting skills which are short-term.  There is a great deal of effort and focus that we have put in to looking at the resources that we have and rebasing, reskilling, becoming more flexible.  How do we utilise people who perhaps are not in the ideal location to actually do the work for other parts, which include all sorts of resource and strategies around homeshoring and more flexible focus.  On the cost side, the focus has really been around where we can take overhead costs out, such as property or travel.  Those have been a real focus, so you have got technology in a way to bring our staff together. 

I think last year the virtual meeting rooms that we have access to, have become part of our business actually.  We have experienced it through webinars, because we cover in excess of 700,000 face to face meetings.  When you think about the associated travel that goes with the meeting, plus the time that it takes for people to be productive on those meetings, and it is quite a big uptake for us in terms of productive performance.  Therefore, I think there are ways in which organisations can be more efficient and effective and cut costs.  However, it might be more of the fixed overhead time costs, rather than necessarily the people piece, which is the skills stuff, which would be the
short-term approach, particularly thinking about graduates.

Terence Perrin

What is startling as well about the graduates is that whilst we have that 25% increase in the number of vacancies, you would be thinking, every role will be filled, there will be hundreds of applicants and there are hundreds of applicants for roles.  However, even allowing for all of that, at the end of this cycle for example, there will still be a sizeable number of recruiters who have not filled all their opportunities.  That goes back to a bigger debate about skills and what is actually missing in the market place.  I think on the cost cutting side, certainly where I work, and across the HR membership, it has been a fantastic opportunity to just re-evaluate what you actually do around things as basic as going to a face to face meeting on the other side of the world.  It became the norm up until a certain point and now there is the opportunity to look at technology that you may not have been that fully aware of, because you have not had to engage with it. 

Angela O'Connor

I think the graduate thing really came home to me last week.  I went to my daughter's graduation ceremony, which was lovely.  There were hundreds of these bright, sparkly young things, very few of them had jobs to go to.  Luckily for her she is going on to do more studying which I think is a way now of that generation, they study and then they move home and they take all your money, that is just a different way of operating.  We are launching a graduate scheme in policing.  Although about 36% of our entrants are already graduates, what we are finding is that there are opportunities to really start to hone in on the sorts of graduates that we want, and the sorts of things that they have been studying.  The skills that they might have to look at the next 10, 15, 20 years in terms of policing, so it might be flying in the face of a downturn, but we think it is worth investing in. 

I am interested though in some of the gaps that we have got.  I think most organisations are doing the sensible thing.  They are looking at the cost of their properties in the major conurbations.  They are looking at flexible working.  I am not convinced though that we have still got our managers and leaders to deal with a disparate workforce that is spread all over the place.  Video conferencing and all of these things are all very well, but I do think sometimes we miss out on some of the relationship issues that can only be dealt with through a blended approach which involves face to face.  Home working is a real example of that and I have worked in organisations where we have put in place whole tranches of home workers.

We learnt through making mistakes that actually you cannot leave people isolated, and the odd blog or two is not going to do it.  They need human interaction, they need the ability to work with colleagues, to get together and there really is no substitution for that.  The same goes for eLearning, with eLearning you can save lots and lots of money, but it is a very different proposition to cohort learning.  We have now opened a college of police leadership and we are having a real balance between what we can do using technology or what actually matters with a cohort of people learning and developing together.  Even though it will cost us more, we think the benefits are really there.

Deborah Lee

I think one of the mysteries of flexible working is the value of face to face versus virtual team building.  I think certainly we have experienced quite a big challenge with managers understanding this ‘if I do not see my workforce they are not working' discussion we had earlier.  I think that is a challenge.  I think there comes a point at which you need to be able to make the call of when is it beneficial to get together and do a human interaction piece, which I think is really around the relationship element, rather than the business of deciding or tackling the tactical issues, which can be done in a numerous amount of ways.  I think just getting that balance, and supporting managers through that, is a key issue in terms of development, because it can be a mindset change. 

There are benefits from the business perspective as well, because you have got the whole green aspect.  You mentioned the travelling piece, and with individuals and companies being more and more aware of CO2 emissions and our impact on the environment, as an organisation certainly the ability to be able to know when is quite a tricky thing for us to manage.  When you start to deal with it day to day, it does not become an issue, it is a strange thing.  I think certain parts of our organisation are still are quite focused on, I have got to see the person at their desk, chained preferably.

Penny de Valk

It is a different way of managing.  It is a different way of managing performance, so just assuming that managers are going to know how to do that instinctively, and that is real development challenge.  If they go in to really flex the workforce and get as much as they can out of them in terms of their performance.

Sian Harrington

I think that is really interesting, but coming with the Generation Y hat on, we are all talking about the fact that this is what people are going to expect in the future.  Are they?  What is the reality out there and are we going to therefore have to completely reengineer our ways of managing performance.

Terence Perrin

One interesting area before we look at performance on the development side, at our conference recently, talking to a number of suppliers and development specialists who were looking at Generation Y, development opportunities of the future.  This is against the backdrop of there being less budget available generally, looking at can we do more or less of things that we have already explored.  One of the interesting things that came out was this kind of assumption that, while for Generation Y, for development, they would probably be interested in doing things online or remotely, not really with other people, and then when we actually looked at the research around that and started talking to Gen Y, it was the complete opposite.  That opportunity to revisit it, but also to think about having a blended approach or having a range of options is really important.  Otherwise you can make some very big mistakes around just perception and understanding, or lack of understanding around what people's learning style or needs actually look like.  

Sian Harrington

Do we all believe the central thesis which came out of my research that, perhaps not five years' time, but let us say in 10 years onwards, organisations will be much more about flexibility, collaboration and communication across boundaries?  Or do we think this is people's desires, this empowerment, this commanding control type of management.  Is this really what HR Directors and HR people would like to see, or is that really something that is going to happen, and therefore we need to discuss how we make that move to that and what processes HR should be.

Deborah Lee

In order to get to an empowered workforce, HR need to be providing processes and policies and structures that enable people to feel empowered.  I think there is a challenge, and it is the same as the leadership challenge, which is allowing people to be empowered, rather than necessarily being directed.  That is a challenge that we as a function need to open up to a little bit, which is, we cannot have it both ways, which is what the ideal workforce about creating an environment within which our workforce can flourish. 

Alan Warner

I would go a step backwards and say what is the burning platform for it, because I think different organisations are going to move at different paces, as they have already.  Technology companies have moved much more quickly than those that are not in technology because they can.  That is in the competition, and with public sector organisations, you have got people that come in to the business for different reasons.  You have got people that are coming in because they want to do social care with old folks for instance.  To try and get them to move to where you need to, you have got to give those people an explanation, because they are not silly.  They need to understand why you are doing it, and one of the reasons for doing it is to say well actually we can provide more of that if we can reduce some of our operating costs. 

Therefore, you try to get people thinking in a more businesslike way, and I do see organisations moving in that direction.  I think the question is whether they will move at the same pace, or need to, and what the burning platform is that is going to be the driver for that.  Sometimes it is going to be out and out just competition, in the market, in other cases it is going to be because some other set of circumstances have come in to play, that make that the right thing to do.  I therefore do not think there is a set sort of...

Sian Harrington

A lot of this sort of discussion has revolved around talent though.  It has been about talent and the future talent, and this is all part of making sure you secure the best people out there, so I am just interested in whether that really is true or if that is just a misnomer.

Terence Perrin

There is also an expectations issue.  For example, I do not think everyone has aspirations towards being exactly like Google, where you have 20% of your time a week to innovate, a fantastic aspiration, but maybe not realistic for a number of our organisations.  Also from the Generation Y perspective, for those people who are looking to join new companies, it is important that they understand what the proposition does look like, that, yes, okay, we are not paying lip service to selling points.  It might be that you are joining a very creative, very innovative organisation, but actually in articulating what that means.  One of the big things around attraction and marketing and in talent acquisition at the moment, I think, is around that reality and spelling out things exactly as they are.  So using people who are actually working for you to speak candidly, off the record about what the reality of work is like.  Otherwise you have got a whole bunch of people coming in who are holding this matter, will come in with expectations that are just not realistic.

Sian Harrington

Expecting a fast moving career, all the great HR speak is not actually being delivered.

Danny Kalman

I think there is a lot of that around the culture of the organisation and someone just said do we need that to happen, and is it going to?  Therefore, we have got to be careful not to make generalisations that can be really important for some organisations, but is it actually going to help your current need to achieve these goals and objectives?  Again, in the little bit of culture I am working in, there is still a lot about loyalty, a lot about wanting to work for the organisation, an amazing amount of people with the long service and commitment to the organisation.  I recently interviewed a few people who had left Panasonic and came back and I said, ‘Why have you come back?  You have been here for 10, 15 years.'  There is something about the organisation that really engages, whether it is to do with the technology, the culture, the very strong philosophy, the Japanese routes, whatever.  I think you have really got to be careful not to say, well, Generation Y want this and I totally agree.  It is what is going to work and what is really important for my organisation.

Elly Tomlins

A lot of people make a lot of judgements about Generation Y and I think there is some interesting research coming out now that says that whole notion of Gen Y moves on every 18 months.  If that is a given, I do not think that is necessarily true, and I think lots of people are looking to find an organisation where there is a great fit, to really feel at home in an organisation and stay, and some of our research has been published last week that shows that.  The other thing I was going to say was around collaboration.  I think that some parts of knowledge, those ways of working and the accelerating use of technology is just so critical to your strategy that it is only going to take off from here.  For us collaboration is on every single strategy document I have ever seen.  It is a part of who we are, how we engage with our customers and how we engage with each other.  It is that frontier.  That is not necessarily true of everybody. 

What we have also been trying to work out recently is not everybody needs to collaborate, and there was a very helpful Harvard Business Review article back in February or March.  It has had a huge impact and lots of people have been talking about it internally, because what it said was unnecessary collaboration can be a hindrance to productivity.  What we have been trying to do is articulate which groups need to collaborate.  If you take technology for example, our technologies actually collaborate a lot more.  If you move that across and try to look at discrete opportunities that lie between our businesses, where we need to take people out of each business unit, who might not normally collaborate because they are quite a silo mentality.  Making it specific rather than saying everyone has to be wonderful at collaboration because that does not necessarily work, and that is only going to create noise.

Sian Harrington

Tony what are you seeing with people you are working with?

Tony Sheehan

I am just very much struck by that point, I think it is a good example of a number of trends that we have seen in recent years, that we assume are good.  Collaboration is good, acceleration is good because we are all working faster and faster, technology is good and Gen Y.  We all have generalisations around that, and I suppose to some extent, I would try and challenge each of those, and wonder if I take acceleration as one point.  If we look at slow blogging as a phrase that is coming up now, so actually the fact that people are maybe even thinking about something before they do it.  I think we can rush headlong through all of these fads and maybe we just need to think, maybe they are not all as great as they are cracked up to be.

Donald Taylor

I think this point about culture is really important.  It is easy to talk about Gen Y, but a Gen Y company would be a small percentage of the workforce, except in certain circumstances, and the momentum of the cult of all the existing organisations will definitely mould the people that come in more than people coming in a typical model organisation.  Certainly the police should expect people coming in to be moulded by the culture if it is the force they are joining and the force as a whole.  I think it would be disastrous to make any change purely led by technology, as always happens, we have got the gismo, let us go and change that. 

It is much more important to say look at our culture, how does this fit with where we want to be and do we need it at all?  If you are a bus company, collaboration may be important in some areas, but the scope of flexible working with bus drivers is limited.  They have got to be there driving that bus and the same is true for lots of different types of working and indeed particularly in government.  You have got to have people with feet on the street at a particular time.  So I am not making any sort of claim for technology driving everything, but I think that there has been this buzz about all of these trends as you say, but it might be quite valid that the latest research is saying perhaps it is not so good after all.

Elly Tomlins

I think the other interesting point is that there is the strong national characteristics and cultural characteristics, that mean that some of these concepts are quite different.  You probably would have found this in China, but if you take the concept of flexibility for example, we have been doing quite a lot of research around value proposition and in some of the focus groups we have found that the way this was being defined in the US and UK was quite different than the way it was being defined in Asia and particularly the way it was being defined in China.  As you know in the US and the UK, flexibility is about control.  It is about me being able to say I am going to work harder.  I will say when I leave the office and I will work later in the evening if I need to, to make up the time.  That is my choice and I can come in later, drop my kids off from school.  It is about having an aspect of control. 

In Asia, where the cultural dialogue is quite different, and there is still some more of the face time, needing to trade face in the office, not wanting to leave before your manager culture, becomes quite important.  In China flexibility was much more around work life balance and, in my quite British influenced way of thinking, it felt quite old school but it was much more about, I will work certain hours and I do not mind doing shift work because that gives me more life flexibility.  The definitions are completely different, depending on where you come from.  Gen Y as well is more of a concept than a generation, it is a mindset.  I know fabulous 50 something's who update their Twitter like a teenage girl.

Sian Harrington

There was that research that actually said more people using Twitter were over 30 or whatever, is that right?

Donald Taylor

It was J.P. Morgan, and the poor kid has been asked by his Dad to write something.  He writes something, everyone grabs hold of it, this is fantastic, I am down with the kids, hang on a second, the backrush starts, no actually it is all rubbish.  So the usual research is kids say Twitter is nonsense, and the backlash is, well actually, what this kid is saying is all nonsense, because he is just taking a sample of his friends, and he is reaching them anyway, so it makes no difference.

Danny Kalman

It is amazing though how technology quickly absorbs our lives.  If you look at email now and Blackberry or whatever, we take that for granted.  Yet I am sorry to say I am old enough to remember before email, and I guess there are one or two other people here today as well, to think how did we survive without email, in terms of communications? 

Donald Taylor

The way people send emails has also changed a lot.  I remember when email first came out in my office in 1993, and you would have emails that were pages long, like letters, saying I notice in your second paragraph you said this, well I say that in your fourth paragraph.

Penny de Valk

They are using the old technology.

Donald Taylor

Exactly, it was impossible.  Nobody, I hope, sends an email like that these days.

Elly Tomlins

Occasionally; a law firm.

Angela O'Connor

For us, in our sector, we are absolutely looking at delivering an awful lot more for people on less.  The cuts are horrendous, the cuts to the public sector.  We are looking at unbelievable reductions in terms of the money spent, so we have to think about, very much around engagement.  I think the Cloud Review of Engagement is a really interesting piece of work because our belief is very much around how engaged employees really do make a huge difference, so when we talk to police officers about what gets in the way of their work, bureaucracy is a major problem.  The majority of police officers now havehand held mobile devices out there on the streets.  We are trying to cut down a lot of the nonsense that stops people doing their job. 

Another big issue is looking at flexibility.  I do not believe we can have truly engaged police officers if the majority of people who want to work more flexibly are constrained to part-time working.  Part-time working without career prospects, part-time working that, although men are involved much more in caring both for children and elders, is invariably women in lower paid jobs.  That does not make any sense to me.  We can introduce flexible working, one because it is a really good thing for the business, it does not make a huge difference and you can do it when you are involved in custody suites and courts.  It is really about the mind set of the leaders, about what is possible.

Sian Harrington

Absolutely.

Angela O'Connor

Because any of it is possible and moving to properly blended flexible working that includes things like job sharing, compressed hours.  People do not like it because it is more difficult than a standard nine to five, but actually it is entirely possible.  When I look at a workforce of 300,000, how much are we not getting of those people because they do not feel they can be who they are.  They do not feel they can give what they need to do, they do not feel that they can combine that with some kind of a life at some point in the week. 

Sian Harrington

Penny what is wrong with the leaders, why are they not embracing us?

Penny de Valk

We have been talking about the flexible work place for over a decade now and the intransigents of organisations.  We are talking about the design around an outdated model that has not been relevant to the working population for about 15 to 20 years.  So the intransigence of organisations always amazes me, so there is an element of yes, it is a new skillset.  I think often in terms of managing flexibility, we give managers competing remits.  We say we have got these performance issues but also, we do not really design flexible working in a way that enables them.  If it really does not support the business to say no, no wonder they get their policies and put them in the bottom drawer and hope no one comes to the door.  They are expected to somehow choose between Mary's mother with Alzheimer's and John's three year old.  We do not want them making those choices on that basis, we want them to be able to sit down and have grown up conversations around what works for the organisation and what works for the individual. 

We have got stuck to a certain extent and flexibility is about accommodating women with children.  It has become a very marginal working practice as have the women who have been working flexibly quite frankly.  It is about mainstreaming and I think it gets back to your point around why are we so tech?  I think to a certain extent, the flavour of the month thing is very real, and management generally, and HR.  Let us make generalisations about Gen Y and what they need and want, what flexible working needs to look like.  It is collaboration this month and the challenge around that is very confusing for organisations, because they get these flavours of the month raining down on them.  Of course the middle manager sits there defending themselves from the latest initiative that is coming on high and trying to bash it back while they are trying to cope with this work force that is changing absolutely fundamentally. 

Therefore, I do think what all of us probably call the buggars in the middle that stop all the change from happening, are probably the engine room that we might have neglected, as we spend so much time on senior executives and leadership development.  It is a really tough world being in the middle of not being able to make the decisions about all these initiatives that are raining down, but actually being at the front end constantly for people who are changing dramatically in their expectations.  I do not think even within the management profession and the HR profession, we equip those guys well enough to be able to do that tough job.

Sian Harrington

So how can we?  What should we be doing?

Terence Perrin

I think a number of times when you are looking at flexible work arrangements or that flexibility in work style, perhaps in a number of industries the default position of a manager is to say no, that is too difficult.  I think there is a great opportunity for HR generally to be a lot more involved in actually putting across the business cases for flexibility, providing examples of where these things do work and what they lead to, what the hard business case is for doing it, and I think in a number of sectors, that is not really there.  It is more about supporting the manager to say no, to get them out of the position where they need to look creatively at how work is arranged and how a flexible work arrangement would be put together.

Angela O'Connor

I find that managers really look at one end of quite a long spectrum.  At one end is saying no to everything, because it is too difficult, the other end, and sometimes it is even worse, is saying yes to everything.  I remember various organisations going in to bits of the business and saying it is not working.  They say that is because so and so does two hours on a Wednesday and someone does that.  This is ridiculous, this is a business that we are trying to run, a service that we are trying to provide.  That is our core purpose, but around that you can create flexibility and some common sense.  The best resolution I have seen is when you actually give some of the matters over to staff, because there are competing demands and I always like the term sandwich generation; so many of us are in that.  We deal with as many cases of issues of staff who have elder care problems and are trying to work with the state to work through those issues, which are incredibly difficult, as indeed it is with people with children, but giving sometimes those issues over to a group of staff and saying, here is the bottom line, we have to deliver this business or research.  Here are the outside outcomes we must achieve as a minimum, what can you agree between you, because sometimes you cannot legislate for this.  For the manager, it is an impossible task, but put groups of them, they have to be empowered staff, because they have to be able to have some very grown up conversations.  Often they will come up with a much better solution to the service than a manager ever will.

Donald Taylor

I think this is the other side of the coin, something you were talking about earlier Sian.  You said there is a tendency to portray modern working life, or perhaps companies in the future will be very flexible, responsive and what have you.  I think that with all these very glossy terms, there is a flip side.  Along with the idea that you can be more flexible, perhaps there is a flip side which is that you also have to be responsible enough to have difficult conversations with other people.  Perhaps with your manager, perhaps with the other people you work with, to say how the heck do we work this out?  Along with the idea that you can have flexible employment, perhaps is the idea that your employment may be less stable, and be able to let go more easily.  I think if we get a lot of information from HR professionals saying that the future of one looks a certain way, maybe that is the positive side we are looking at and perhaps we are not getting the negative side, or the perhaps slightly more difficult side of it; that people need to be engaged as well.

Terence Perrin

There are certain things that we know are coming down the line, when you look at demographic trends and we have an ageing population.  That is only going one way, and with people's needs to look after parents, relatives are only going to go in one direction as well.  Therefore, let us use the opportunity now to start thinking about what impact that will have on working needs, working arrangements and come up with some practical solutions for how we address that.

Sian Harrington

Is the primary driver for something like flexibility in retaining the best people, is it in just a fact that actually the way that the world is changing is that we are going to need people working more 24/7, so you are going to need flexibility, going to work across different geographical boundaries.  I know for different companies it would be different, but what do you think are primary drivers for this, or is it a cost related thing?

Deborah Lee

We have just had a recent issue where we see customer interaction with the business very differently, so if customers wanted to be able to call our call centres, when they want to call them, not between nine to five, and similarly they want the visit of our engineers and they are at home not when we say they should be at home.  There is a customer pattern here and I think in order to be competitive, organisations need to respond to what customer, consumer individuals need, to win that business, and as a result we have had to look quite drastically at our traditional shift patterns and come up with different ways with which to get people in the right place to respond to those customer needs.

Therefore, we took a little bit of what you suggested, which was actually that we created a series of patterns which we then said to the staff, you choose which one works for you within the remits because there is a limit, but giving them enough flexibility within the context of the commercial environments to chose.  So there is a feeling of choice and then maybe one of the days of the week is not so great for me, but it is only one, I get this day off.  So, I think there is a way in which organisations, certainly HR, need to think, what are the market needs?  How can we be creative and innovative?  It might mean a little bit more of our work and effort upfront to create the flexibility for individuals to feel they have a choice and it is this balance between the two. 

Danny Kalman

My experience of, I have to be a little bit careful not to say for HR, because often it is the line manager.  HR can put out policies and procedures saying we should be more flexible and the person running that operation, that line of the business, is saying, no, I want this to happen, that to happen.  I therefore think there has got to be some, I think someone said, educating of our managers and leaders as well, to recognise why is it important to have that flexibility, but coming on to your point about is it retention, is it awareness of peoples needs?  I think it is all that, but I think it is also a bigger picture, why do people stay in organisations?  I think we have come out of the, there is a little bit happening in Japan still, job for life, and you join a company from graduating university and there is a reasonably good chance that certainly for many Japanese companies, you will stay there till you retire.  The chances are that outside Japan, you are going to be loyal to some extent to the company, but you are loyal to your family, you are loyal to the work life balance and what you want to get out of your career as well.  If the organisation you are working for can respond to some of those requirements, then I think there is more chance that you will stay with them.

Elly Tomlins

I think that loyalty retention point is critical.  I think the other important one is around accessing new forms and new pools of talent.  If you look at all the research around, take women as a demographic, and that whole notion of actually the linear career path is breaking down, because a lot of women need to step out, and men obviously, but it is actually around the, women need to step out at a certain point of their career, and actually companies that help women in creative ways to get back in, in different ways, and break down that notion of extreme jobs, so that they can actually fit their life around their work is really important.  The reason entrepreneurship, amongst particularly the female demographic in the US, has been so successful in the last five to eight years, is because people have more power of control over what they do and when they do it.

Sian Harrington

In the UK as well actually.

Alan Warner

Just mention flexibility from the perspective of more flexibility for an organisation rather than from employees in the organisation, because there seems to be now more of a trend of people wanting to recruit for a period of time and then not have those people in their books.  There is a big head count reduction issue that is appearing in PLCs particularly, where they are saying we do not want to increase our head count because it does not look good on the books.  They do not mind paying so they will bring somebody else in and I think BT is doing quite a lot of this actually, and IBM, and so on, where organisations are now looking at having a more flexible resource, rather than a flexible workforce. 

That creates all sorts of other issues because you end up almost with a virtual organisation.  Back in the days of the last conservative government, there was a chap called Nicholas Ridley, who you may have heard of, who said that the ideal counsel for instance would be the counsel that meets once a year to get the contracts and monitor the performance of the contractors.  We all laughed at that time and said it is probably not going to happen.  I tell you it is moving that way very quickly now and you could find organisations in the public sector where you just have a very small core, and then five, six other organisations delivering those services to the community.  I have raised that because the conversation that we are having is about an organisation, but actually what I am talking about now is a federation of organisations that create an organisation.  I think it is quite complicated.

Tony Sheehan

To some extent, particularly when we look at flexible working, it is about business need and using an individual for a specific knowledge area.  Frankly you could not have that filled with someone else.  It is so critical that you say actually the organisation must flex because the knowledge of that individual is so important.

Terence Perrin

That is the massive change, when we have this situation where you had loyalty from an individual and the company provided you with a job for a long period of time.  We have now moved to a position where you as an individual provide talent and the organisation provides you with opportunities, and if those opportunities dry up or are not in line with what your development plan or your aspirations are, you take your talent elsewhere.  

Elly Tomlins

I think that is absolutely true, and I think the other shift that goes along with that is the notion of moving from the idea of work life balance.  I work and then I go home and my home is different to my life, to that notion of work, life integration and actually who I am at work is, that complete integration of those two, that fluidity between the two is really critical. 

Sian Harrington

All of this all brings back to how to manage it.  The one thing standing back and reading all these great things that everyone is doing in the market and looking at my own company as well, is I am constantly thinking to myself, this all sounds really great, but with the exception of some people like BT, there is very little flesh on the bone.  I am finding it quite difficult to get to how then can you actually run this virtual organisation or group of people or how do you set up structures because that is what it comes down to.  From the other side, I think again lots of people say these words, but from an employee's perspective it is not being delivered.  They are actually wanting to say they are talent and they want to do various things but they cannot actually find people who can embrace their lifestyle.  There does seem to be a real big disconnect here, so this idea of managing output for one, is one thing, who is actually doing that, how do you set structures in place.  Is anyone actually doing something?

Tony Sheehan

Can I just add a comment; some of the oil companies for instance are very good at understanding a rich picture of the individual skills.  So rather than just say those are your qualifications, yes I see that you have got a masters in x, y, z, they also look at hobbies and interests etc, and then use that as a means to find people.  To me that is a critical step in actually letting go of some of the conventional shackles of labelling people, HR 20 years ago, you are competent in these areas, actually taking a flexible look at what social networking skills people may be developing outside work and actually then the point you raised: allowing them to bring some of that in to work, retraining them and that sort of stuff, is very critical.  For me the first step is have a fuzzy look at skills, rather than a very precise one, allow people to develop their own skills that suit them and that really goes to this network of an organisation.  It is a much more fluid organisation than we have had in the past, we are training people according to who they are rather than according to a defined role.

Sian Harrington

But you need to be able to select them very well because if they are coming in for a project type thing, then you have not got time to train them up and do all the things that we all tend to do.

Terence Perrin

I think lots of organisations are constrained by size in that approach.  When you look at the energy centre, there are examples of companies there who have more of a strength based assessment approach, so rather than maybe the traditional HR development approach, which is you are very good at that, you are not very good at these things, what are we going to do to make you better.  It just goes straight for the strengths area.  Some of those companies at the energy centre are looking at, okay, here is an individual, let us do an audit of the skills that they have currently.  Let us look at their strengths and look at mapping out where those strengths can take you, and if that meets your trajectory, great, if it does not then let us look at your preferred trajectory and see how we can close the gap.  That means that you identify a number of projects, opportunities along someone's life cycle of their career, but clearly you have got to have those opportunities there in the first place.  If you are not of a critical mass to do that, then you have got a real issue there, because you are almost saying, we cannot offer you what you want, what do you do?  You go somewhere else maybe.

Donald Taylor

You have to have opportunities, but you also have to have the structures that enable managers to make it possible for people to do that as well.  We have to have the granted responsibility to make that and all the people in the organisation have to work with them to enable that to happen.

Sian Harrington

And that is the sticking point I would think.

Danny Kalman

We are trying to encourage that, but coming back from my own subject of talent, there are a lot of discussions and debate about talent and who is talented and who should we be investing in.  I have a strong belief that everybody has talent and it is trying to recognise that talent and to be able to move forward.  My particular responsibility is looking at the talent from a global basis, so who is going to be the future leaders of Panasonic.  I am looking at executives and Vice Presidents and business units heads etc, but what we are trying to get in our company is the recognition of the manager.  Often it is the well known saying that people do not leave companies, they leave managers, and it is recognising the role of the manager and what is going to retain people.  More and more it is recognising their talent and what they can achieve and where they would like to go, and this is where we are coming from at the moment.

Angela O'Connor

I have an intrinsic dislike of over talent managing.  I think it just feels to me sometimes, and we do it as well, that every now and then we have to stand back and say we are not a parent here.  We are dealing with well educated sensible grown up people.  What we can do is create an environment where people can make difficult choices and where there is development available, but it is very much about that individual designing for themselves the life and the career that they want.  One of the things that is becoming quite interesting is a blurring of the boundaries between the sectors.  If you look at communities, for example, most of the people that will not open their front door are looking at the things that happen around them.  What is my street like, do I feel safe, are my kids okay, is it dirty, what are the schools like, what is the park like?  It is actually a blurring of those service providers, so for us as borough commander, often we will have a closer look at the relationship with the local authority than with their own force. 

The leadership of the place and those sorts of things are starting to really chip away at that view of I am a council worker, I am a health worker, I am an education worker, rather than something that is focused much more on the delivery of services and the vocational aspect of work.  That lends itself to different education, different leadership and we are really having to rethink all of our education programmes, because our education programmes have been far too focused on silo workers and retaining that individual persona.  What we are looking at now is much more education that looks at how you develop as an individual and how you can put yourself in a situation where you can innovate.  I cannot imagine you would ever do the Google thing of police officers having 20% of their time to innovate, it could be interesting though.

Donald Taylor

What do you do if the force decides that at some point in the future they are going to need a cadre of a certain number of officers who can do something, but the officers themselves do not show much inclination to go down that route?

Angela O'Connor

We are in that situation already.  If you look at part of the work we are doing at the moment, a 10 year workforce plan where we are mapping what the creative objectives that people will go for are, which ones are over subscribed, which ones are undersubscribed, and who is in?  What does a detective today look like.  What type of person are they, where have they come from.  We have got a massive debate about graduates, on the one hand people are saying, getting Russell Group graduates in to policing is a really good thing because it is part of a broad recruitment process, it gives a nice balance.  Other people are saying university of life is the only kind of education that you need to get out there, so there is a very complex and quite fast changing debate about the nature of work and the nature of the individual contribution.

Penny de Valk

I think the development piece and the whole talent management, and how do we formalise it to your point, in terms of some of the practical examples.  I was talking yesterday to a customer who absolutely understands that the quality of their managers is the best development asset they have in the whole organisation.  Some of their people are just really good at doing that and they have decided to reward that.  People also hold on to their talent and do not get rid of it, so actually they have got this sort of export, import and they reward this manager for the calibre of the fast tracking, the ability to coach and develop talent underneath them, and their ability to export.  Therefore, they are a net exporter of talent and that has been the absolute value of this organisation.

Elly Tomlins

Do you mean they reward as in recognise or reward as in pay?

Penny de Valk

A bit of both, but in terms of understanding that that is that manager's talent and it is quite scarce in the organisation.  We always assume that managers are good coaches but...

Sian Harrington

How were they actually identifying that because one thing that always comes across to me is that, dealing with big companies like we have got here, it is quite easy for lots of smaller companies, because they actually do have day to day contact quite often with these people.

Penny de Valk

They asked the staff if this manager was meeting their development needs.

Penny de Valk

So they literally got their people to tell them who they thought was a good approach.

Elly Tomlins

It is a really interesting idea. 

Terence Perrin

There is a big issue in the number of organisations.  An individual is choosing that organisation at the beginning of their career, the key difference is the amount of investment they are going to put in to me from a learning and development perspective.  If, for example, you have graduate entry talent coming in to an organisation on maybe a two, three or even longer year programme, where the development is incredibly prescriptive, you have a timetable for the nth degree of what I am going to be doing in a year's time, six months' time.  What projects I am working on, what course I am going to do, and then suddenly at the end of that you fall off a cliff at a number of organisations.  Unless, I think for a lot of organisations, for a lot of managers, given everything they are doing from the development perspective, they are going to be facilitating development or being involved in that relationship between the individual, maybe the development community in an organisation and the line manager, there has to be something in it for them.  That may be very cynical but if there is not either recognition and, or some pay involved, why are they going to bother? 

Penny de Valk

It means the organisation does not really value it if they are not prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

Deborah Lee

I think it links to your point about outputs and measures, because you get what you measure.  If you are not aligned in terms of what output you want and the measurement process and the reward processes, you are not going to get it.  Therefore, expecting managers to adopt more innovation and flexibility to their approach to handle their workforce management, to your point, it cannot be noise.  It has got to be one of the tools that enable them to get to the output they are going to be measured on.  If it is just noise or a nice to have and a bit too much bother, you are never going to get there, so all of those things around how do you actually measure and reward your managers, and does that align with your business strategy.  I think there is the need for us as business people to really focus on what we are looking at in terms of the flexibility question, because again, flexibility is only worth doing if the business actually requires it or needs it now or in the future.

Tony Sheehan

Quite an interesting one in Gen Y, there is one organisation I was working with a few years ago where they had very structured programme for graduates, because they were trying to bring people through to where they all became chartered engineers and things like that.  As Gen Y was starting to come in to this organisation they were frankly taking one look at what it would be like to be an engineer on such a meagre salary whilst doing this, and a number of them discovered they could make a damn sight more as entrepreneurs or actually using the time whilst at the desk to be doing other stuff outside.  Their turnover is therefore atrocious and they just could not hang on to the people, and in essence have really struggled to try and find people with flexible training issues.

Danny Kalman

Going back to Angela's point about her daughter's graduation, my daughter graduated last year, but a number of her friends are just coming out of university now and these are capable young people and they are just not getting jobs.  Now they are saying I would have liked to have got in to marketing, I would have liked to have got in to blah, blah, blah, but now they are thinking, I would just like to get a job.  Will someone give me a job and to get my foot in the door somewhere.  It is a real issue for many of her friends, they are saying what the hell am I going to do.  It is really frustrating.  They have built up certain expectations.  They have seen siblings or they have seen friends who are lucky enough to have graduated a couple of years ago when the jobs were there.  I do not know what advice you are giving to graduates at the moment on what to do.

Terence Perrin

There is a very interesting piece of research that came out today about barriers to the professions.  I think in 10 years, what we largely already know, unless you have connections in certain professions, you are less likely to get internships.  You are less likely to build the relationships that you need and less likely to break in to those industries.  Of course, when you are at university, maybe in your first and second year, there is not enough emphasis on getting internships, getting relevant work experience.  Maybe some of the quality of careers influence and the provision of careers advice needs to be widened. 

Sian Harrington

I worry a bit, picking up on talent and what it means, because we are talking here about, okay, it is difficult for these new talented graduates to get a job, older workers feel that their talent is not recognised anymore.  Who is actually out there in a job?  Aside from us, who are obviously all talented, it seems to me that we are talking about talent, but talent seems to be 1% of the workforce in reality, it seems to be these high flying, done an MBA, Harvard, City.  It just seems to be nobody feels, and I have seen quite a lot of research on this, that they are talent, in terms of the employee, so what is going on here?

Donald Taylor

Do you think because they are regarded as talent in an organisation or they have got it themselves?

Sian Harrington

They do not feel they are regarded as talent.

Donald Taylor

Right.

Sian Harrington

I think only very top high level fliers and I think we are talking about going forward as well, that we need these older people in the workforce, we need the younger people who will be providing the money for pensions in the future.  We need this big wide range of people and we are not really exploiting people's talent properly in my view.  Every group thinks that they are the ones that are not being seen as being talented, so we are not doing a very good job somewhere really.

Angela O'Connor

Going back to the start of the debate which is around flexibility and using technology, and the way in which we operate, I was thinking about many years ago, when we were on three day weeks and we all had candles in our houses, a long time ago.  It is interesting when you think so many of us work ridiculous hours, we spend all our time, talented or not, and I do not think that really matters much, but we spend so much of our time and our peers spend so much of their time exhausted, travelling, working silly hours.  Then we have got people, particularly in the sector I am in, because of the way that pensions are structured, we are losing our best people just when we need to keep them.  You have got things organised in such a way that we train, we develop, we invest in people, get them to mid 50s and the tax implications for their pensions are so great they do go, their accountants say to them go now, because you will lose out.  That is madness.

It is the same with young people, I feel the same about seeing all these really lovely talented people, not just those who are graduates, but those who leave school who have not had the opportunity of education.  They are our future and they are the people in our societies who would do well or not do well, and part of me wonders why are we not thinking much more realistically about our approach to work.  We are pushing really hard now in terms of being able to bring people back, not allowing people to go at 50 plus, but not necessarily expecting them to work a 70 hour week where they have to travel on the tube in to big cities.  That is not necessary, and with younger people as well coming in to the workforce, my people would never expect, they would not know what a 70 hour week looked like.  They have never seen that much daylight. 

Do people really need to work the way in which we work, which is a few people earning money, work all the hours, do all the travelling.  That is not using talent effectively or wisely, and I think it is down to us to be much more imaginative in the way in which we access and make use of people.  For us, for example, police officers who are retiring, I am not going to let them go out the door, we are going to bring them back and make use of them as coaches, as mentors.  They are so full of experience.  They could work with some our new graduate groups, our high potential development people that we are bringing through, put them in front of people who have been there, seen it, lived it and smelt it for 30 years.  That really makes a difference, but we are only just starting to think about the flexibility that we have available in our workforce.

Penny de Valk

It is interesting, the whole intransigence of the full-time week now that we have been talking 24/7 for nearly a decade and I often wonder what it is about it that stays so stuck.  I wonder if part of it is that anything other than a full-time job is not valued, but then there is also an element of, are the individuals prepared to trade money for time.  I think until we are prepared to trade money for time, we will not be saying actually I only want to do five hours.

Elly Tomlins

I was going to say I think increasingly we are, and some one was telling me this story from KPMG this year which I thought was fascinating.  KPMG had to save a significant percentage of their wage bill, so they went round to their workforce as a whole and said you have got three options.  One, you can work four days a week and take a 20% pay cut, second, you can take three months off and take a 25% pay cut or third, you can do both, or, you can do none of them.  The vast majority of them chose number three.  They chose both.  They wanted 40% of their time back for a 12 month period.

Sian Harrington

I think, obviously we have been covering quite a lot of these changing working hours during the recession, and the key thing here is yes, the KPMG is the fresh fields, so for people like that who already earn a lot of money and cut their time, money does not matter.  The BAAs, on the other hand, when they are asked to do it, people who are in more manual roles, they do not earn a lot of money.  For them they actually need a full-time job, and that is another disconnect between everything I think.  Quite often when we talk about this agility and flexibility, we are talking about people who tend to be in better jobs, or managerial.

Donald Taylor

The two are not disconnected.  The people who are earning lots of money, particularly in London, then cause a general inflation on a number of prices, particularly house prices, that make it very difficult for everybody else to get by on less.  Therefore, you are in part of a large economic situation and it means your future is not in your hands.  You cannot take less of a salary for more time.  I think you raised that point about part-time jobs or flexible working not being valued as much.  I think that is still very much the case and against your managers, what their expectations are, also I think it is against your peers as well, particularly for men.  If you say you are working part-time and flexibly, you cannot therefore be doing it seriously.

Penny de Valk

You must have somehow taken your foot off the accelerator.

Angela O'Connor

Although there is some interesting research that shows that men are taken much more seriously when they reduce their hours than women are.

Donald Taylor

Yes, probably, but are they taken more seriously than men who are working full-time, because that is who they will judge themselves against?

Angela O'Connor

That is part of the cultural issue you touched on earlier, it is about what we design in terms of culture in our organisations.  I remember having worked in both part-time jobs and working in job shares, and working in a job share, in an environment where that was seen as no restriction on your ability to get promoted, is very different to working in a part-time job, where you are utterly sidelined.  There is a huge difference, but it is down to us and we talked about what HR can do, what organisations can do.  If we are not doing business, not having these conversations, I am not sure who is.

Angela O'Connor

We have totally over engineered it.  We have over engineered development to the point that we have stopped treating people as if they are grown ups.  The business I am in is a risk business, but we have over engineered.  Can you imagine if you are out on the street and something kicks off, it is no good looking to find the bit that says well what do I say now?

Sian Harrington

Common sense is what we would call life experience. 

Angela O'Connor

It is the introduction of a bit of nous in to development and a lot of the development we are having to look at now, we are having to unpick and get our people to unlearn everything that they have learnt.  For example, we are looking at the training of middle managers, middle ranked officers, in terms of people management and where we first picked up what we were delivering, I was absolutely horrified because you start off with pre reading employment legislation.  I said that is great, why are we doing that, because we have to work out what they have to worry about.  I said if cops on the street are worrying about employment legislation I am getting my coat now, I am off.  We had to reverse all of that to start thinking about people, about situations we have got our staff in, about risk, about real human beings who are different in every way.  I think we are going to have to increasingly do that because you are absolutely right, we have over engineered everything.  We measure anything that moves a millimetre.  It is ridiculous, we have got to get back to common sense.

Deborah Lee

I am laughing because I was with a couple of call centre managers last week and I did remind them that with every pair of hands and legs, we have got a brain that came as part of the package, but I do think that you are absolutely right in terms of the over engineering.  It is an interesting concept because in terms of responding to customers, actually, we, BT, know that people who are talking to the customers day in day out are the ones that are experiencing all the pain that we have inflicted on them and the bereavement point was an interesting example.  Last year a group of our advisers got together to say this is broken, the stuff we put people through just to close an account or whatever it is, is ridiculous and they got together, got their task force, came up with a much better, slicker, cheaper actually.

Deborah Lee

That is thanks to the intervention of our advisers, nothing that the managers came up with and I think that that is a talent and a resource and it is not necessarily, it is because of the experience that they face day in day out.

Danny Kalman

I also think there is a piece about people having to take ownership of their career, they have got to say this is what I would like to do, this is my aspiration or even dreams maybe.  I have to say within my 17 years of working for Panasonic, on three occasions I said this is what I would really like to do.  Perhaps I am lucky, but all three of those opportunities came up.  I keep saying to our managers in our seminars, unless you tell your manager, unless you tell someone in the company this is where I feel I can make a contribution, and sometimes we get pigeonholed in to particular jobs and roles through circumstances and that is it and then we get stuck rather than saying, I would really like to do this.  I would like to go in to marketing, I would like to work in HR, I want to go to customer services, and people do not do it enough.  I said take ownership, speak up and tell your managers or tell whoever this is what I want to do.

Donald Taylor

Is this not one of the expectations we should be persuading our new hires that life is different and you have the responsibility to drive your own career.

Sian Harrington

Then we might be not delivering on it.

Donald Taylor

Part of it is that sometimes the answer may be no.

Elly Tomlins

The other point that goes along with this, in addition to owning your career, is it is important to understand the formal learning is less and less the core of how you learn in your day to day job.  I assume everyone uses the model, I think it is the CRC model that says, we talk about 70% of your learning is on the job, 20% is between mentoring and relationships and only 10% should ever be in Charles model.

Donald Taylor

Is that the Charles Henning's model?

Elly Tomlins

It is and we use it everywhere in the organisation and it works really well because it helps people sit down and say I am not going to be learning less, I am in a class room, but it does take a while to bed down.  Sometimes you get a manger who says, I have not been in the classroom for four or five years.  Does that mean you have not learnt anything in the last five years?

Deborah Lee

I think it is interesting, because I think sometimes we focus primarily on careers and jobs and that is the answer, but actually I do not know many kids that are at school saying when I grow up I want to be a call centre agent.  However, the reality is that some people are call centre agents, and I think then the trick from a flexible working perspective is to enable the experience they have when they are within the work place to be as rich as possible.  The connections they make with their team, their manager and the other people that they work with is such that that it is actually fulfilling for them and although they did not think they wanted to be there, they are glad that they are and they get some benefit from that.

Sian Harrington

Particularly in call centres you might get women who have had children who want to come back.  I know quite a few people who have done that, but of course, when they have to go through these screens, they are intelligent, thoughtful people who have had careers before.

Alan Warner

It is back to the point about, is there a job?  The graduates are now coming in and they are call centre people.

Sian Harrington

And they will be going to that sort of role.

Alan Warner

And they are massively talented, how do we get those people who have gone through?  We have spent a fortune educating them. 

Donald Taylor

The jobs will come.

Alan Warner

How do they make that step once they have gone through a period of two or three years?

Deborah Lee

A call centre job is a good job, I just want to make that clear.  The job will come, the job is there.  It is how do you get the most out of it?

Donald Taylor

If I was hiring, I would rather hire someone that had been at a call centre, than had not been doing anything for the last two years.

Angela O'Connor

Part of what we have done is we have educated our children to expect careers and it is really sad when you go in to school and I have talked to kids in a lot of schools.  In the independent schools they are so focused on careers that they are having nervous breakdowns at 14 and 15 and really worrying about what their future holds.  I think it is desperately sad that any child of that age is worrying about their career and that is our fault.  Then you go in to other schools where kids do not even think about the future.  I feel we had such luxury growing up, there were jobs and if you had a handful of O-Levels, or anything, you could pick up a job.  There were opportunities to progress and there were opportunities to learn and develop and we are in a different world.  I am with you, it will come back and it will change.  In the meantime we have got a whole generation of people who are not sure what to do.  I am also concerned about what we are doing about that.

Sian Harrington

The other thing is, we, the people who have done all that, who have been lucky as you said, are the ones who are in a position to make the change here, who are hiring and what have you.  So why is all this great stuff that we should be doing still not happening?  I want to come back to that really, the thing that has come up a couple of times today is the word blended, so blended flexibility, blended learning, those things, and obviously that means quite difficult to manage, is how I interpret that from an outside perspective.  The other thing is how can we sell this in to our bosses effectively, how do you convince the MD and the Chef Executive on this?  What should we start doing, what lessons can we be learning?

Tony Sheehan

I am reminded of a report I read on Northern Rock, sponsored by your company, excuse the horrible English, but the comment was that no amount of regulation can ensure that wrong decisions are never made, and if you exclude all the double negatives, it is actually a very telling point.  The conclusion was actually they need people who are able to think across boundaries and ask those kind of questions about how can we do this differently?  I think there is an element of complexity about decision making at the moment that we have to accept, and in doing so we then have to accept that some of the regulatory models of HR are perhaps broken in a broken company and really do have to change.

Deborah Lee

I wonder sometimes, I look at some of our policies, and I think actually they are written for the tiny miniscule percent of people that are badly behaved, as opposed to assuming that everybody should behave in a particularly good way and then let us deal with the louts.  I think perhaps if we had a different approach, maybe we would get more from our employees, because the bench mark, our expectations are, we expect you to behave in a sensible way, and I think sometimes we do take that.

Penny de Valk

I think that is a good point, it is risky and most managers are promoted and rewarded on managing risk and probably being prudent and conservative, in spite of our current situation, and so it is almost, the people that are competing remit, it has to start from the top really.  Why would we do this as a business, and you talked about flexible working, where I have seen it really work well is if they have very compelling business cases.  When managers say I said no, everyone up the line goes but why, we have an issue in this organisation, so it would fit the purpose around talent, around 24/7.  These are the four business reasons that this organisation is investing in this and to start at the top so the Board can order it, so it does not get marginalised, but I do think the challenge is around the risk management piece.  It is risky to be creative and innovative and for managers to put their necks on the line, so actually I do not know what the solution is, but, a new skill might be, instead of me being an expert, I might facilitate my teams to come up with new solutions.

Angela O'Connor

We have to learn to manage failure, to make that work, because we have got so good at managing, measuring everything and telling HR for everything and people are not stupid in organisations.  They work out what happens by the rewards and retentions and they know when something goes wrong, watch what happens to Fred, and someone's career is marginalised because they made a relatively well thought through mistake that ended up going wrong.  That is what really makes the difference and I do not think we understand in organisations how to take it further.  I think Penny is absolutely right, it has got to lead from the Boardroom but it is at that middle bit, how do we manage?

Penny de Valk

It is sending very mixed messages.

Angela O'Connor

And I feel sorry for managers in the middle who are being told to take risks and then they have got one toe out the door.

Sian Harrington

There are very few top level business people who have not had a complete failure, if you look at entrepreneurs, they have all gone under a couple of times before they have made it.  Yet in the corporate world, and in big public organisations, we micro manage talent at such a level that we are not encouraging that.  On the other hand, everything I am hearing, particularly with these tools, like social networking, how to get the most out of video conferencing, co creation, dealing with people who are not even contracted to you, but to come up with ideas like Procter and Gamble have done.  This is all about risk and talking to people that are not within your confines.

Penny de Valk

It is just supporting the status quo.

Danny Kalman

It is about rewarding those who take risks and recognising it as well.

Sian Harrington

Without too many risks of course.

Danny Kalman

There is still a piece about values and coming back to that as well, I know I am influenced by the organisation I am in, but I strongly believe that more and more people, if the values and this is the way we do things in our company.  It is based on these values and we live the values and the managers live the values, and I think that has an impact on people and they can recognise that.

Penny de Valk

It is about setting expectations right.

Danny Kalman

Absolutely, and I have developed my strong sense of values from the organisation, the Founder of our company actually talked about his values and philosophy in 1932 when he talked about contributions to society and the origins of CSI, etc.  That has a big impact on people in our organisation.

Sian Harrington

If somebody had taken a risk and it had not pulled off, what would be the impact in your organisation?

Danny Kalman

If the risk was a gamble.

Sian Harrington

Unless it was something that was illegal of course.

Danny Kalman

Exactly, if the risk in any way impacted on following the values then that would be a problem, if the risk was we took a risk.

Sian Harrington

Trying something new.

Danny Kalman

Yes, and we have examples of that, then it is recognised.  It is rewarded if it goes well, and if it does not go well, let us talk about it.

Sian Harrington

Learn from it.  I am really interested in risk and reward and this brave new world that we are going in to.  It is obvious from talking about it that there are very few good examples of how to do this and that is what everyone is struggling with.  When I talk to my own HR Director, she often says it is quite simple really, can you just tell me somebody who has done this and give me some examples of how they have done it and then I can go to Michael Heseltine and say they have done it.  That is almost good enough in our organisation, because somebody has done it and there is a case study effectively of how they have done it.

Donald Taylor

Part of this is there is no single hit.

Deborah Lee

Yes I was just thinking that.

Donald Taylor

There are lots of different things people are doing.  BT have a very successful ability of getting people to do call centre work from home, is that right?

Deborah Lee

Yes.

Donald Taylor

I have worked in organisations where very highly skilled programmers are working flexibly part of the time on a very small scale, because that just happens to work with what they do.  It is two very different situations.  I think we all know organisations where they are using web conferencing facilities because that is actually a very strong business case for reducing costs and reducing the amount of time wasted in getting people up and running in a quasi flexible way quite quickly.  Perhaps the whole flexible working thing is not just a single pot or individual bits of it.  I would say in answer to your point, what do you need to make it work, it is the managers that need to be able to deal with the risk and also they need to have the business case and that is absolutely crucial.  They need to say look, the reason we are going to do this is not because it is the right thing to do, although it may be, it definitely aligns with the value of the organisation, but most importantly I can show you that, we are going to save money or increase.

Penny de Valk

That is my job as a manager of this organisation, to create value and that should be the only conversation I have.  I think it is interesting this whole inertia to the status quo which drives me mad all the time, but it is around how we reward managers and the type of people we put in the risk aversion generally.  It is going to be really interesting to see what happens in the next few years, depending on which economic theory you believe in, many people have seen every 25 years the swing and the spike and the crash and the predictability of many aspects of what happened. 

Always on the upsurge there is a massive spike in innovation, and again, it is what drives that, there is an element of burning platforms, there is an element of the whole world is risky, so we might as well just go for it because actually what made us successful yesterday is not what is going to make us successful tomorrow.  All the balls are up in the air, and I am not talking about invention, I am talking about real innovation, organisational changes.  Suddenly this organisation looks really different to what it did before, and it would be interesting to see if in this round, because we can make that more transparent, to see what is driving it and a lot of it is that the stakes are so low that people just go for it.

Angela O'Connor

Are you sure it benefits that we have got to really crush the stifling hand of bureaucracy around our necks.  We have got to really start pushing back at regulation now.  If HR wants to make a difference, it could scrap 90% of the ridiculous policies that it has.  I got an email yesterday telling me how to wash my hands.

Sian Harrington

That is interesting, because everyone thinks that is what HR is about outside.

Angela O'Connor

But it is.

Penny de Valk

How to wash your hands, because someone said duty of care, we have got to tick that box.

Angela O'Connor

I know we have got swine flu, but do adults really need to be told how to wash their hands?

Penny de Valk

How much time would an organisation take to send that message out?

Angela O'Connor

Sadly, every HR department I have worked in is still in the business of regulating, so that is what we have got to do now.

Sian Harrington

Is that something you do independently in your own organisation, or is that something that everybody needs to come together for.

Deborah Lee

I think everybody needs to come together and find that person.

Angela O'Connor

I think working across the boundaries of the sectors is really important and I am part of a whole range of different groups that work across both public and private and it is great when we get together.  We can really challenge each other on the best of some of the things that we do, that we share, and the best that we can steal as well, and sometimes it is only by getting together and seeing some different models.

Penny de Valk

That you loosen up your own models.

Angela O'Connor

You do and you start to think of things in a different way, so I find that the most valuable.  I absolutely do not want to be stuck at doing that thinking within one sector.  The other input that we often do is working with academics, business schools and again coming together across a number of different disciplines.  Sometimes it is a bit like the 20% of the time Google might spend.  That is my 20% of time spent in time with other people, listening to their ways of working, thinking, sharing ideas.  That is what we could do with investing a bit more in there.

Terence Perrin

Within AGR, one of the key reasons people come back year after year and buy their membership of AGR is that opportunity to cross fertilise or get ideas from completely different sectors, different geographies, different global zones, and take what is relevant for them from that as an idea, put together a strong business case and develop it from there, but it is getting you right out of your box.  Lots of financial services firms arguably will benchmark against other financial services firms which is great but there is a whole range of other ways of looking at things within your day to day that you may not even consider because you just do not know they are out there.  Networking in different sectors is hugely powerful there.

Elly Tomlins

I totally agree.  I came across an organisation last week who runs talent and diversity research projects in the US, and they run these sessions called Thief and Doctor, come and steal it and we will help you doctor it for your organisation, such a fabulous piece of branding.

Alan Warner

Going back to something you said earlier on Sian, about how to teach common sense.  I think the point you made Angela about someone sending something round and of course the academics do not like that kind of line of development, but with HR folk, because probably some fairly junior person sent that out, how did we train them to do that, and there is something about common sense that is missing.  I remember sitting in meetings with people and they would say this seems to be the way forward and you would say, does that make any sense, and they would say well not really but that it how it works.  You think well why are we going to do it then?  Well, because that is what the policy says or whatever, you say but that is wrong, let us just move on.

Penny de Valk

It is interesting that people think that they would draw, and it is that whole dominance of the rational model, where they are actually just a bunch of new figures.  So we are trying to recognise and systematise everything.  What we are certainly seeing coming out and what a number of academic institutions are thinking about, is this latest fracture in trust between what were these people doing and where do we teach things like judgement, the values, character, common sense.  What responsibility do our business schools have for actually plunging people in to organisations without actually ever acknowledging that we might want a self aware manager who might have some qualities in that regard.

Terence Perrin

I mentioned earlier on that for those graduate recruiters that do not fill their roles, and there will still be lots of them even this year, that they have skills that are missing and the areas that come up are nearly always around what is either called entrepreneurism or commerciality.  I think a lot of that does go back to feeling comfortable about taking risk, not doing it in a way that is against your values, but very much in line with your values.  I think for a number of graduates particularly, entering the market place, there is a bit of a dilemma around, okay, I am buying in to an organisation because of the set of values that they have, maybe around corporate social responsibility, whatever it be.  How much of a role is there for me to actually come in and shake things up and change and innovate?  Maybe that is not always articulated as strongly as it could be, so long as it is within the way that you do things around here, that is actually a lot of the reason why you bring in fresh talent, to take a look at things from a fresh way and change them.  Perhaps we have got more to do there.

Sian Harrington

Danny, with your global hat on, is this sort of debate going on in other countries, because I also think this is a bigger issue than just our individual organisations?  This is about Britain and Britain's employment and us as a nation.

Danny Kalman

I was just thinking of that.  Just listening to the conversation, I was saying how is this going to apply in China and Brazil and, you know, there is the bricks countries where many organisations, this is where the growth is going to be, Brazil, Russia, India, China and Vietnam etc.  The truthful answer is I do not know, in terms of I do not know enough about those markets.  I am beginning to and I know a little bit more about Japan now from frequent visits there.  It really is identifying those issues which you can work on a global and which of those issues are going to much more applicable on a regional, possibly even local situation.  From Panasonic I think we recognise that, those of us that work for big global companies, it is absolutely nonsense to send out memos from headquarters to say, look, I think you should be looking at this and looking at that.  Where that might apply in an Anglo Saxon or American or British perspective, this is not going to work at all in China or in India, so it is really recognising what is going to work and what is going to apply.

I was very much taken aback when Panasonic went through a very difficult period around the year 2000/2001.  We are an organisation that is 91 years old and structured and very much influenced by the founder, and we had very enlightened President at that time who took risks, and he broke down the values, he broke down silos.  He challenged institutions that had been carrying on for year after year and he said there is one thing that will never change, that is the values of the company.  I will change everything else, I will really challenge people's mind sets and way of thinking what we are going to do, in terms of which businesses and how we are structured, however, the values, this is what we call our basic business philosophy.  That is the point he was saying, from an organisation, what have we got to tear down?  Do we deconstruct, he used that word, and then reconstruct Panasonic in to different business domains?

Additionally, with such a large organisation, with so many product lines, etc, recognising what is going to work for the future and what is not going to work.  I work in a very fast moving environment.  Who would have thought even four or five years ago, television is now going to be part of the plasma world; the old traditional televisions are hardly in the shops any more.  Technology is moving so fast, so we should not hang on to things because we have loved them.  We had a wonderful audio called technics, I was in love with it, but now we do not have it at all because of the way the whole iPod and the whole music generation has changed.  Therefore, you have got to recognise what to hang on to, and it is the values and philosophy, and this is how we manage our company, and I think that is where we are coming from.

Deborah Lee

I am just interested, how many of the senior teams demonstrate flexibility in the way that they work, aside from Chairman?  Chairmen cannot be part-time, and you look at the senior top two layers of our organisations, how many of them work from home, work part-time, are actually experiencing and demonstrating that it is okay.  I think some of the reason why we have the challenge is that there are no role models.

Elly Tomlins

In our company, we take flexibility for granted.  I have been reflecting on this a bit during this conversation.  Our leadership team and our CEO completely 100% wanted flexibility and he will structure, I am going off to play tennis or equally he will make commitments to drop his kids off, and he works extremely hard.  Part-time I think is much more challenging.  We do have a couple of examples of senior men and women who do part-time, but not many.  It is much more common to see that flexibility, but it ripples through.  I was really struck when the Head of HR for the UK, just said that he wanted people to stay at home in the snow dome back in January.  Unless you are obviously in a front line role for a particular reason in the data centre or you have to be, pretty much most of the UK workforce can work from home.  We almost took that for granted and forgot that it is actually quite a big deal and a lot of companies would not even be able to be anywhere near that, but we do have both the role models and the technology.

Deborah Lee

I think that is what we have.  I was just thinking of BT, that is probably what makes us a little bit different, we have senior managers that are part-time, who work from home, who have days where it is the conference call days so everybody knows that, quite often it is Fridays but not always.  The snow day was the same for us.  We were able to, because we had the technology and the access and the mentality that it was okay.  I think that might be part of it as well.

Angela O'Connor

It is much more challenging in a traditional, commander control structure.  A structure where the senior leadership nationally looks the same and acts the same and actually as a public we demand when it all goes wrong, you want people there, you want it controlled.  You are not going to know that someone is actually job sharing this week.  However, within that I think there are huge opportunities for real flexibility and I think there are a number of different angles we will come at this from.  Role modelling is absolutely critical, and what we have to say to a number of people is we do need to push some of these models and there is no enjoyment in being a trailblazer.  It is demoralising, it is exhausting and it is demanding because people face criticism, but it is absolutely critical in changing hearts and minds.  If we have to use the economic downturn as our opportunity to say there are ways in to flexible working that make sense to allow more resources to the front line, I do not really care which is the way in if we get the outcomes that we want.  However, it is very challenging.

Deborah Lee

I am happy to offer any of our senior leaders to talk to your guys and explain how they have changed their mindset because they did not wake up and say be flexible.  It is not because they are nice, kind, soft people, it is because of the real business benefit of doing that.  We have got figures and facts and so forth, so it will probably look quite appealing to those that are moving cost savers, but I think until you get in to that mindset, you are right.

Angela O'Connor

Some of what we do is accept that sometimes you cannot change what you have got now, but you can change what you have got in two years time.  We are spending a lot of our time on the education of the people who will be the leaders of the future and a lot of our education now is very cross sectoral, because policing is a 30 year career.  It is very unusual to come in as a youngster and train in a cohort and study in a residential and learning with people.  It is a very different world.  The military has some similarities in that way.  What we are doing now in our education programmes is bringing in people from other sectors, not just to talk to people, but to work alongside.  We have now got agreement to change some of the regulations so that we can have secondments in to the private sector, in to other sectors, for people to work to learn to see those different ways of working.  We have to start now and although the difficulty in policing is part of the culture, it is target driven, it is pace driven, and people want answers now.  We, therefore, have to say, we can change things probably in three years, four years or five years.

Penny de Valk

On the next level, and making sure that they know that change is possible, there is also this massive tissue rejection, people who change their expectations, they look up and go nothing is ever going to happen around here.

Angela O'Connor

Yes.

Alan Warner

Interesting though, graduate trainees, maybe it is other people's different experiences, but young folk coming in to business are looking to spend a lot of time trying to impress the organisation and therefore will spend a bit more time and more hours and so on.  I had someone come to me once and say I am going to have to have a word with the trainees because they are working too long and working too hard.  I said that is not a conversation we really want to have with them which is actually saying, welcome to your world of work and by the way, you are working too hard.  What I am trying to say is that it is not all bad in terms of the culture, as long as there is some kind of measure in it, which says when you do want to knock off as I used to always when Chelsea were at home during the week, I would always leave work at 3.30, because I could go home, get my son, and then drive down to Chelsea and watch Chelsea.  That was not the normal culture, but as long as I could do that, that was fine.

Penny de Valk

It is important to you, imagine if you were in an organisation that wouldn't let you do that.

Alan Warner

Absolutely.

Penny de Valk

What a disengager that would be.

Alan Warner

Absolutely, so there is something about trying to have a balance in it, which is actually, sometimes it is absolutely necessary and we want you to and other times it is not so important, and how do you do that?  It is difficult. 

Elly Tomlins

I have to say maybe people are not working as hard as you think, just because I was in the pub on Sunday night with a bunch of corporate finance lawyers, and these are guys that work really hard, and all of them turned round telling me how they nicked off on Friday for up to four hours to watch the cricket.  It was quite impressive.

Angela O'Connor

It is what we should be hoping for.  With my CVTs[?], wherever I have worked, I have never cared where they are.  We are a national organisation, I never know where they are, so they will text me or email me, but every now and then I will say, what country are you in, where are you by the way?  I do not care, and I really have no interest when they are at work.  The only thing I care about is do I get what they say they are going to give me and the majority of them have either got kids or elders to care about.  We always set them up with really good technology at home, so I have got audio conferencing from home and everything, so that it does not matter where they are.  One of the things that we fight against at the moment is a culture of presenteeism, which is horrific.  I have not really worked in that before, but I do not care if my people are working Saturdays and Sundays, well that is up to them.

Terence Perrin

That is a big one that needs to be nailed because when you look at the survey for example and look at findings there, we still have this culture that rewards presenteeism as opposed to performance.  Talking to people across the AGR membership, there are very few examples out there at the moment of where performance is actually defined in a different kind of way, so looking at the total reward which is a concept we have had around for a long time, looking at that mixture of these are the expectations of me at work.  This is what I need to perform, this is what I need to produce, but how I do that, when I do that, where I do that, is my bag, and there are other benefits that come with it.  Again using Google as an example where that has gone to a fantastically high level and that will not work for every organisation.  There is, however, some need for definition around performance, not going down the route of HR getting out a whole load of policies and procedures again, but actually just making people feel comfortable and becoming engrained in the companies values, that it is okay to do things that way.  That can either come from leadership in respect of being a role model, but there is also a role for HR at the centre I think around defining what that looks like, so everyone feels comfortable.

Danny Kalman

I think there is also something about working globally, reflecting on the question you asked me, which is also working and appreciating across different cultures and we are talking about a culture of presenteeism etc.  One of the things I am noticing is that working within different regions of Panasonic and certainly working in Japan, is embracing diversity, embracing culture more and more and recognising that in order to be able to achieve our business targets, achieve the goals we want.  It is really engaging our people across all the different regions of Panasonic and now more and more we have got vertical lines of business which means that we have people in the same business, working in India and America and Europe, etc.  It is when they support each other and when they can share best practice and they can really respect each other.  That is when we are hitting some really good numbers and achievements for business results, so I think there is more and more about diversity and understanding working in different cultures, and certainly I am recognising that.

Sian Harrington

One thing that has come out to me is this idea of role modelling, not just for flexibility, but for a number of different new ways.  This blended approach is quite difficult to execute in practice, particularly because we need to define performance a different way, which I totally agree with and you have just really reinforced my view that there are not that many examples out there yet for us to be talking about.  If anyone hears of anything, please do tell me, because we would love to be able to write about that and make sure people heard it.  Being a trailblazer, at the moment with this economic downturn, is the key opportunity with the business case being efficiencies and cost cutting to make this big change.  The fact that Generation Y may not be what we think it is, and that it is certainly not one homogenous group, and very importantly, probably most importantly, is the role of the manager in all of this.  They are the sort of things I have got out of this meeting, but I would be interested to end up, if everyone would say, is there still one big challenge for them that there is no answer to yet, or is there maybe one piece of learning that they would like to give us?

Terence Perrin

My biggest learning point from today, and I think it will be a fantastic article for the magazine, is just around why are there not examples here?  Why are there not practical examples, and there is enormous variety in richness of issues here, why are there not any tangible, practical examples from HR, where we address this?

Elly Tomlins

That blended approach, can you just articulate for me what you mean about that, because I think there might be examples.

Sian Harrington

There will be on that, I think there is on flexile working and there is on learning and face to face learning and things like that.  What there are not really very good examples on are how you measure the outputs and how you reward the outputs that way rather than it being a very structured approach that we currently have.  How do you recognise some of this talent and create roles around it rather than a job spec?  Quite a lot of this wider stuff we are doing, how do you give managers the free reign to make decisions, but without saying yes to everything as Angela pointed out.  I think there is just lack of people really doing this.  They all know that they should and there are little pockets here and there, but I think seeing it from an organisation, it is a cultural change.

Terence Perrin

Maybe there are more examples at a highly individual level.

Donald Taylor

Or smaller organisations.

Sian Harrington

There is quit a lot there, but I think that is quite a difficult for the bigger organisations.

Donald Taylor

William Gibson said the future is here but it is unevenly distributed, so I think there are bits of this happening all over the place, but we cannot point to anywhere there is a large mass of it.

Sian Harrington

Yes, and it will not be something that everyone can learn completely for their organisation, but there might be bits in it, the way they have approached it.  Even if it is learning from how the senior team have tackled this issue in the first place and started things moving. 

Angela O'Connor

But there is no silver bullet and to me this goes back to employee engagement and discretionary effort and each individual person that is working with us has something really special to offer.  For us it is about unlocking that and if you have not had a chance to read the McCloud Review, which is a bit preaching to the converted, but there are some really good people who were involved in that review.  I am quite hopeful about what might come out of it and there were some very useful case studies.  I think there is good practice and it is different in different organisations, but I think part of what is useful for us is to share some of the things that we are doing and share some of the experiences.

Terence Perrin

The other thing that struck me today is going back to those basic principles of what employee engagement looks like, and how that needs to be at the individual level, rather than trying to look at the corporate wide solution because that will never work.  It is too hard to get off the ground for one, but actually looking at those drivers of an engaged person and that discretionary effort piece you mentioned, is a great start point, and I expect we are all doing that to a certain degree. 

Sian Harrington

Danny?

Danny Kalman

Everything I was going to say has just been said, but I will just add one point to say that I think, and I am sure there are good examples, generally speaking we are fairly bad at sharing good practice, both internally and externally as an HR profession, certainly in very large organisations.  The one I work for, it is something that we need to improve and we are doing.  Also, I totally agree about this employee engagement, I am a little bit of a sceptic about some of the employee opinion surveys, about ticking boxes and trying to read too much in to results, but generally speaking when you do it on a one to one basis, or some of the surveys, and you can really recognise why people are coming and get up in the morning and come to work and why they stay with our organisations, what motivates them, what is it about the company or the product etc.  I said before, about talent and unleashing and recognising this potential, and giving them the opportunity to develop, and if they are motivated, if they enjoy what they do and see some end result, they will give that discretionary effort for sure.

Alan Warner

A couple of things, engagement again, when Hertfordshire moved its 4,500 people, there were 4,500 independent, individual private interviews with those people.  So that was right at the individual level and people could say what they felt, which would be anything from I do not like the journey through to what is it going to be like, where are we going to sit and all that kind of stuff.  For me that was the key to having no disputes about it or highly humanised environment, and having probably only two people that left the organisation because of it.  So there is a lot to be said around that. 

The other thing I would say is that HR, from my perspective, needs to be more innovative and spectacular in what we do really, because we talk a lot about managers and so on and it is a kind of almost everybody else's problem if we are not careful.  There is something we need to look to ourselves and say, what is the most imaginative thing, creative thing we have done today, or this week or this year?  Are we making that difference, because there is no doubt about it, and this is a slightly different debate, but the HR people that are going down the structures in their organisations and there is more credence given now to the finance people and the corporate services type folk.  We really do need to fight back by being creative and providing solutions that are very tangible in a practical way to the sorts of things we have been talking about to be honest.  It is no good just describing them, we have to gradually come up with the solutions.

Penny de Valk

I guess my big unanswered question would be around that intransigence, the shift in the status quo all the time, because organisations are of systems, and managers are around reducing complexity and managing risk.  How do we take this opportunity going in to such an ambiguous environment, to hold off doing that for long enough to see whether we can come up with new solutions and how do we support organisations and managers to be able to do that?

Angela O'Connor

Once this economic meltdown is over, there will be something else to worry about and the challenge is really around how we engender curiosity in our people to keep learning, and for all of us, we are all really busy people.  I cancelled a whole day's worth of stuff to be here today because I think events like this are really useful in learning from other people and sharing and thinking differently.  If that is the only thing we can do with our people, which is to get in to other sectors, to talk to other people, to learn, we never expect to have a brilliant idea, but we know that someone else probably has somewhere, we would be very happy to steal that.

Tony Sheehan

I would just okay that, I think this thing about innovation, you mentioned Procter & Gamble earlier on.  The ideas do not just come from within an organisation or boundary and so, as HR professionals, we have to be able to do that and encourage that, in terms of some of our policies.  I guess as a business skill, the other thing that has come through is teaching common sense, debunking the myths has to be one of the roles that we take.  If all we do is persist in the same theories and teach industrial society models of management, then we are failing.

Deborah Lee

Engagement for those roles for which traditional flexibility that we talked about is not necessarily an option, so the ability to knock of and watch the football when you are actually needed to be there for a customer, is not always an option for our staff.  I think that looking at ways in which they feel engaged with the organisation to deliver high performance is probably my biggest challenge.  Certainly the flexibility aspect for our workforces is I think part of the part of our culture.  80/90% of our managers could not live without our flexible options, whereas I think a few years ago that would have been a little bit more of a scary thing.  I think once this had shown the light, then they see the potential of that, but certainly the challenges are more around those roles where a customer is dictating how we need to operate the business.

Elly Tomlins

I think one of the things I have been observing and reflecting on is that over the next five years, the core challenges are pretty enduring and the core approaches that HR need to focus on, are employee engagement, empowering managers.  Those have been true for a while and they will continue to be true.  That is the universal view.  I think one of the things we did not spend much time talking about that is an interesting area for me, is around this notion of the real impact of social media on the organisation and the leadership model, and what that new forms of communicating and engaging are going to do for that leadership model.  If you think about the way Obama engages with the world, and the way that he engages with not only his immediate staff, but his entire grass roots campaign, that is a fundamental shift in that notion of one too many communications.  It requires a certain type of individual to be able to do that in such a transparent way, put themselves out there, to really be so confident and comfortable with themselves. 

It is hugely risky but I think that is that new frontline for management and from real leadership, to be able to start to do that, and for us in HR to help them experiment with that in ways that does not feel risky and feels engaging, but it could be so powerful for the organisation in terms of employee engagement.  We have a CEO who does put himself on Facebook, and it is amazing to see the amount of people in India in employee surveys who come back going, I love Tom because I am his friend on Facebook.  Tom must be one of the most befriended men in the country, but it does have a very tangible, real impact. 

Donald Taylor

A couple of things, I have been thinking about two companies where I can think of where this has happened, one is Infra Basis where I used to be the Director, which is now salary.com, and the other is Word Price, which runs the worlds most popular modelling tool.  They have both got fewer than 50 people on word processes spread all over the world.  It is a pan global organisation, it works entirely by getting people to do things, not by presenteeism.  In mind with those two cases was the drive to have flexible working imposed by HR.  Maybe this is an HR thing, maybe this is something which makes operational sense or it does not and it is up to HR to say when you are ready to see the benefits.  I can tell you how this can work, you have got to see it first.

Sian Harrington

Great, thank you very much everybody.  I think I have still got lots of questions but we do not have time to go through them all, but that whole social media is definitely interesting.  Then there is a whole other discussion around some of the technology, and particularly when we are talking about maybe doing virtual conferencing and things, how you do have what feels like face to face contact over that.  So there might be another one to come.  Thank you very much for all of your time and do keep in contact with thoughts and if there is anything more you would like to add to this debate because I would like to keep it going.

Elly Tomlins

I have a feeling there are more examples.

Sian Harrington

I think there are but we will probably hear about them, that is the great thing now, maybe we can link in together and tell each other these or something, let us do something like that.

Donald Taylor

And I am sure the online area.

Sian Harrington

Dave is in control of our online side, and we Twitter.  He runs the whole online side, so this is the sort of thing that we can get moving on there as well.  Thank you again for your time, I know you are all very busy.