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CIPD conference round-up: Day one

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What the HR magazine team learnt on the first day of the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition

The whole HR magazine editorial team is at the CIPD annual conference in Manchester. As well as today’s top stories here’s what else we learned on day one…

  • We’ve all heard about those organisations ditching appraisals, but what about taking a more strengths-based approach to performance management and motivation? Ailsa Suttie, operations director at CSMA Club, and Rachel Collier, chief talent officer at iCrossing, shared their experiences of switching to strengths-based performance strategies. Suttie said that having a clear focus on outcomes was critical, as was letting go of traditional practices. “All our people have one sentence describing their job role,” she revealed. “An outcome focus is important to keep things simple.” Collier explained that highlighting strengths rather than weaknesses had led to a valuable cultural transformation in her organisation. “Strengths are unique, enduring and everyone has them – not just top talent,” she said. “Value people whose strengths correspond to your weaknesses.”
  • HR professionals have to learn how to deal with Hippos (that’s the highest paid person’s opinion) according to former Transport for London change lead Steve Foster, who spoke about how HR business partners can best support cultural change. For HRBPs to be successful change agents they need to know their methodology, “beware of Hippos”, and be curious, he said. He added that HR professionals leading change must recognise that transformation is often an emotional business. “Think emotionally, not rationally,” he advised. “There’s an emotional connection to change.”
  • We should stop pretending we are Ubers, according to leadership coach and neuroscience expert Tara Swart. "Your body isn't just a taxi that walks you from meeting to meeting," she warned, stressing the importance of caring for your health for a sharp mind. "Remember your brain is part of a system.”
  • Want to encourage innovation and a culture of sharing ideas? Take a leaf out of Penguin Random House’s book(s). Group HR director, UK and international companies Neil Morrison revealed the organisation had introduced “curious coffees”; an initiative that involves people across the organisation being paired up randomly to go for a coffee and share ideas.
  • If you think your leaders are good you should step up and reward them, according to Indi Seehra, director of HR for LSE. "In the UK we're a bit embarrassed about recognising good leadership," he said in a session on leadership development. "We're nervous about giving awards to our leaders, but that's part of best practice."
  • The recruitment challenge at EDF Energy is that people don’t “immediately think ‘that’s who I’d like to work for’,” in the words of employer brand manager Neil Daly. “We don’t have something you can eat, we don’t have something you can wear. People don’t turn the lights on and think 'that’s EDF electricity'.” So EDF is rising to the recruitment challenge through initiatives such as getting new recruits to audio blog about their experiences so candidates can see exactly what would be involved, and using social media to break down the “corporate barrier” often associated with big companies. Daly reported a significant cost per hire saving, which saved £1.2 million last year.
  • HR magazine was heartened to be told by CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese that “fun is a legitimate subject”. “Happiness is just a denomination of engagement,” he told us, adding that “we can now use science to show this". Cheese continued: “Of course we can’t escape that there’s a lot of routine things we need to do [in all jobs]. You can’t make every hour of every day great fun. But if in the round we can design jobs with more meaning, and people feel happy because line managers are looking after them, then we can create more productive workforces.”