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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 in Manchester. As well as today’s top stories, here’s what else we learned on day two...

  • Confusion still abounds within the rest of the business around what the HR business partner (HRBP) role actually entails, according to a panel. “I think among ourselves it’s quite clear… but [in the past] I regularly got asked by managers what I actually did,” said Emily Barrett, head of HR operations and partnering at the Wellcome Trust. “We hadn’t done a very good job of advertising what we did as a function.” HR mustn’t get too “hung up” on the identity of the HRBP though, caveatted Claire Spurdell, head of HR business partnering at Agilisys. “You don’t have to have a business partner job title to influence the business in that way,” she said, explaining that strong HRBP impact is about being a “critical friend” to the business and coaching and empowering colleagues to reach decisions.
  • “Despite all the product innovation in every industry, global productivity [and employee engagement] has fallen,” said Boston Consulting Group’s senior partner and managing director, Institute for Organisation, Yves Morieux. “So there must be a hole where all the productivity has fallen.” This “work crisis” is the product of “strategic alignment” (firms matching their strategies with processes and systems); something he said is “the enemy” and “lobotomises” employees. Organisations have created “a complicated mess in the process of strategic alignment – but for zero impact”, he added. Instead co-operation and rewarding employees who co-operate is key to creating an agile organisation.
  • Christian Cormack, global head of workforce analytics, and Tom Palmer, workforce analytics partner at AstraZeneca shared their story of using predictive analytics to better understand the impact of individuals on quality control. Palmer explained that the analytics found a correlation between employee turnover and quality assurance KPIs, “but to turn it into something actionable we wanted to see how big the relationship was… so we introduced a predictive model”, he said. Palmer gave three pieces of advice for implementing predictive analytics: start small (break the problem into bite-sized chunks, proving value as you go), partner with the business to design the analysis and interpret the findings, and make sure the answer is business relevant and not just a statistical answer. “[Predictive analytics] might seem complicated but it’s not – getting business buy-in is the most important thing,” Cormack added.
  • Analytics should be used to identify employees likely to fall victim to phishing or virus attacks, said Ben Hawkes, selection assessment lead – HR analytics, and Sathi Banerjee, leadership assessment lead – HR analytics, at Shell International. By finding links between tenure, skillset and assignment type, “we are able to focus training and a targeted awareness campaign to those most at risk”, said Hawkes. Banerjee added that Shell “has psychologists working alongside data scientists” to get this right. However, Hawkes said that in the age of GDPR it is “vital that the ethics of the analytics team and the controls of the data are very strong as the team sits on lots of data on employees”.
  • We must rethink the idea of empowerment at work, according to Steve Wells, scrum master at Giffgaff. “At Giffgaff we don’t try to empower our employees because we know that it’s not always possible to do that. We employ them and then we try not to disempower them," he said. "I always think about General Motors' two-word dress code ‘dress appropriately’. When I go shopping I would constantly pick up items of clothing and wonder if they were appropriate or not – and that’s just not empowering. It’s better to just have no dress code at all and to trust people. Why not ask them: ‘what would you wear to do your best work in?’”
  • …and finally we learned, via a thrilling (ok, probably accidental) name-check in his ending keynote, that comedian Lenny Henry thinks HR magazine should feature a picture of a naked human pyramid on our next cover. Watch this space...