The speaker experience – #CIPD11 Day Two

I’m a lover of words, that is part of the reason that I write a blog and also a big part of the reason I work in the organisation that I do. But if I’m honest I prefer words in the written format rather than spoken. I do speak at conferences but whereas some people are dying to get on the stage, I tend to do it more with a mild sense of trepidation.

When the opportunity came to speak at the CIPD conference, I didn’t think twice.  Despite how it can come across sometimes, I’d like to do anything I can to support the profession and in turn our membership body.  But the time gap between being asked to speak and actually having to do it always makes the decision a lot easier!

This morning, I ran a session with Matthew Hanwell from Nokia, chaired by Gareth Jones who many will know from the ConnectingHR community, entitled “HR, Harnessing the Power of Social Media”. Matthew for those who don’t know is a regular speaker on the circuit as well as a top guy and uber knowledgable professional.

The session was slated for one and quarter hours in front of, I’m told a couple of hundred people.  Given the circumstances, the last thing you want to happen are any last-minute hassles, blunders, or admin cock ups.  You just want to have time and space and then to get up and deliver.  And this is where the CIPD came into their own.  I’ve been kicking around conference since Tuesday morning, but the moment I moved into speaker mode, I couldn’t have been better supported or welcomed by the CIPD staff.  The professionalism of everyone from the meeters and greeters, to the chaperones, to the AV guys.  Every thing was top class.

Now this may not seem a lot, but believe me in those circumstances it is exactly what you need.  Add to this the fact that I had some friendly faces up close and personal in the audience (thanks Rob Jones, Natalia Tomson, Mervyn Dinnen, Doug Shaw and Rob Moss) and it helped to ease the nerves nicely. The list of CIPD people is too long to mention, but from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU……you’re all stars.

If you want a summary of the session (and to see my ludicrous shirt) then I’d check out Doug Shaw’s excellent blog here.  Now, I’m looking forward to relaxing a bit, attending the CIPD “Tweet Up” this evening and practising a little of what I preach on social media. But if you’re ever asked to speak or support a CIPD event, then I’d grab the opportunity with both hands – they really know how to make these things work.

But enough of that, I’m thirsty…..whose round is it? Make mine a large one.

Enough with the case studies

How many companies are there in the FTSE100?

Daft question right?

So how about this one….what percentage of UK companies do they constitute?

The answer is less than half of one percent. And even if you take out sole traders the number doesn’t quite reach 1%.

SME’s employ 13.6m people within the UK and firms employing less than 100 people account for 65% of new jobs created each year. If you include the companies sub FTSE100 but not classified as SME you get somewhere near to 90%.

So why is it that we seem so fixated by a limited number of companies explaining the “right” way to do HR and people management?  If you look at any conference list or journal article you will invariably see the usual suspects arise.

Now I should add that I don’t have anything against these companies or the people who speak per se.  But I don’t think that the constant focus on a select group does anything to improve the collective knowledge of a profession or helps creativity, entrepreneurialism or innovation.

When I was learning my trade it was Marks and Spencer’s that were being hailed as the people to aspire to.  That was in the mid 90’s and of course not many years later they were experiencing the worst, self-imposed, decline in their history.  Likewise not so long ago Royal Bank of Scotland were being hailed and recognized for their success in people management – I don’t need to add much more to that. And one of the latest entrants to the scene seems to be Nokia, which I find curious given their current “burning platform”.

So given that there s why does this happen? Well I think there are a couple of factors at play,

–       We think that big is beautiful and assume that because an organisation is large it is good. The only reason a company is in the FTSE100 is because of its financial muscle, not its intelligence

–       Once you’re on the circuit, you’re on the circuit – easy for lazy conference organisers and big brands require no explanation (is there anyone in American HR who hasn’t been made aware of Zappos?)

I’m not saying that interesting ideas can’t come from the big boys (although I do think size inhibits not enhances innovation) but by the law of averages there must be a whole host of other people out their doing good things. If we’re really interested in driving innovation and creativity in the profession then we need to hear from companies and HR Directors who are doing truly intelligent people interventions, ones that are culturally sensitive, business focussed and have demonstrable value (no this isn’t a pitch for business!). And from the feedback that I heard recently, I’m not alone.

Conference organisers/journalists – take note.