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CIPD annual conference round-up: Day two

What the HR magazine team learned on day two of the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition

The HR magazine team has been at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition 2019 in Manchester. As well as today’s top stories, here’s what else we learned on day two...

  • Making a success of a four-day working week requires an organisation to work smarter, according to panellists speaking during a session on the concept. Ffyona Dawber, CEO and founder of Synergy Vision, spoke on her experiences rolling this out: “We needed the same productivity in less hours. The first few months were horrendous because we didn’t have the right systems. We now have project management systems, an HR system… Without those it wouldn’t have worked. You can’t just reduce the hours and days and expect the same thing.” Describing the wellbeing benefits the change has brought, Dawber shared how most staff predicted they’d use the extra day for a new hobby or exercise. But in fact the majority use it for getting errands done so they can spend quality time with their families at the weekend. Jean-Christophe Fonfreyde, head of reward at Wellcome Trust, shared insight into why his organisation decided against a four-day week in the end: “We were going to put a lot of pressure on people to do five days of work in four days, which we really didn’t want to do… [it would have] erased all the wellbeing benefits.”
  • It’s not possible to have all the answers when organisations are going through acquisitions and mergers. Instead HR should focus on communicating as much as possible and engaging people in the process. “Things change again and again and leaders often just don’t have answers to everyone’s questions. Finding ways to engage people throughout the process, to keep them informed the best you can, and to solicit their input helps to create transparency,” advised Kate Guthrie, group HR director at CYBG.
  • “HR can be a lonely role and you have to be able to make tough decisions... so you can’t always have a lot of friends in the business,” according to Ann Pickering, CHRO and chief of staff at O2 (Telefónica UK). In a session on how HR professionals can increase their impact, profile and influence, Pickering explained how at the start of her career she felt she couldn’t speak up in difficult situations. This has “stayed with her” so she now feels it’s important for HR to speak up, she said. Pickering lost her voice again at other points in her career, she added: “When I was the only woman on the board I lost my voice metaphorically. Now we have five women on our board of nine – it does make a difference.” Pickering gave her top tips for HR professionals, including: self-confidence; understanding your business commercially (as “if you want to be an influencer you have to be commercially astute”); “think[ing] about what makes you different”; being resilient; finding your passion; retaining a sense of perspective; and “learn[ing] how to deal with imposter syndrome”.
  • HR shouldn’t be about “swooping in” and saving situations when things go wrong but supporting line managers to find the solutions, said Jo Mosley, HR director at the Salvation Army. “I believe in proactive HR rather than superhero HR,” she said. “That also means HR giving up control in the power dynamic." Mosley shared how most line managers at the Salvation Army “don’t sit in front of a computer but work in hostile situations” so their time needs to be freed up to better support the frontline. “We need to mistake-proof policies,” she added. “Policies seem to breed like rabbits. Every time something bad happens a policy appears.”
  • Women could vote before they were allowed into the underwriting room at Lloyd’s of London in 1973, head of talent development and inclusion at the organisation Pauline Miller shared during a session on gender pay gap reporting. This fact provides a sense of the scale of the challenge when it comes to addressing a typically very male-dominated environment, she said: “The market is seen as very male, very traditional… and also very relationship based. If you’re a relationship-based market and you do lots of socialising then women in our industry find it difficult when they gain extra [caring] responsibilities to maintain that.” Miller also spoke on getting ahead of the game with ethnicity pay gap reporting, ready for potential legislation on this. “It’s got to be simple and it has to mirror what we do with gender,” she said. “You should be thinking about what to do with the ‘prefer not to says’. The gap [across all organisations] is still 20% ‘not disclosed'. That gap sends a message.”
  • Taking on feedback, both formally through data and through discussing issues with employees, is vital said Tim Jones, group head of HR at London Stock Exchange: “You can't give relevant answers or take effective action if you don't know what people are thinking and feeling. Be open to comments and concerns, even if they don't seem supportive of changes. Genuine and equal openness to criticism and praise sends the message that people matter more than opinions and fears."

CIPD annual conference round-up: Day one