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HR in the news: 2013 so far

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In the week of our first ever 'HR Talks', I thought I'd look back at two events I've attended this year, and an area of news that is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

First up this year was the 11th annual HR directors business summit in Birmingham. Judging by the standard of some of the speakers and the many phone calls I received prior to this event, I was expecting a lot.

However, the event could draw comparisons with the England football team of recent years: looked good on paper, a lot of pre-event hype but failed to deliver.

Some of the talks I attended were insightful. David MacLeod and Nita Clarke's employee engagement talk around 'Engage for Success', for example, and Richard Peers, head of HR at Vodafone on communication as a business enabler. Also excellent was Jill Shedden, group HR director at Centrica who spoke about futureproofing for sustainable growth. 

However, there just weren't enough of these to make this event a success in my opinion. There was a lot of discussion at the event about social HR - something which is sure to be big in 2013, and something I'm sure I'll be hearing lots about at HR Tech Europe later this year.

January was also time for the annual Learning Technologies at London Olympia - This is one of Europe's largest events centred on organisational learning and development, and I thought it really delivered.

There was such a buzz around the place when you walked in, and I was lucky enough to attend many insightful talks, including one from Kirstie Donnelly, group director at City and Guilds and Nick Denholm, head of global learning technologies, Mars.

As we've made our first dent into 2013, I've finally stopped receiving prediction pitches for what will be the 'hot topics' for 2013.

According to an HR director I had the pleasure of meeting last week, one debate/topic he hopes we have heard the end of this year is: "Does HR have a place on the top table"? He said the topic was "boring" and that if someone still needs to question this then they clearly have "no idea where HR is heading in the next few years".

One area that no one seems able to work out is the job market. January saw major high street retailers go out of business, into administration, and mass firings announced on Twitter. This has obviously dented confidence in the job market - However, I'm continually reporting and receiving figures showing unemployment is falling and is now close to levels pre-2008.

And there are still concerns regarding youth unemployment and reports this week that there are now too many of the Government's much heralded apprenticeship schemes, with supply far outweighing demand. So, I'm sure youth unemployment is one topic that won't be going away for HR news desks any time soon.