Tag Archives: CIPD

The one with the blind spot

The CIPD re-launched its beleaguered flag ship title “People Management” yesterday and whilst I am bemused to be considered a power tweeter (when most of what I tweet is about people annoying me on the tube) there was an article that caught my attention about bias and how at an unconscious level it manifests for an individual.

You can find a link to the article here but the big messages are:

  • 40% of respondents favour one gender (overwhelmingly women)
  • 37% of respondents biased against men
  • 51% of respondents would be biased against overweight women [nothing mentioned about overweight men much to my relief, although I’m sure it exists]
  • 7% of respondents biased in support of people with a disability but nearly a quarter biased against those with disabilities
  • Nearly three quarters of respondents reported no bias for age (which does leave the quarter who may do…)

So if you’re an overweight woman or a man with a disability – expect unconscious bias at every turn maybe?

I think the subject of bias is a fascinating one and only yesterday evening I was having a beer with some colleagues and one lady who was being grilled about her love life happened to say “I’d never date a Scottish man”, when asked why she said, “I dated a Scottish guy once and it didn’t go well”. Are all Scottish men not great at dating? But seriously, I think this anecdotally illustrates that for many bias is formed through individual experience extrapolated to form a stereotype. And for the record not all Welsh people can sing… (but we can all hold our drink – that bit is true)

As a man working in HR I have definitely experienced anecdotal bias, something as simple as a senior manager working into a department and exclaiming “Morning Ladies” to which myself or my one other male colleague would inevitably mutter “and us”. This extended to the choice of social event, Christmas party and we were definitely excluded from the wedding conversations when two female colleagues were getting married. This bias we were delighted with! Given the disadvantages women have experienced in dealing with boy’s clubs for so long it always felt petty to comment and given I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin then it didn’t really matter.

As a recruiter I’ve always been fascinated with the point where bias meets reputation – are all people who went to Oxbridge brilliant? (No) Does a London Business School MBA endow the holder with strategic genius? (No) Does the fact that an individual has worked for a particular organisation automatically make them brilliant at the things that their organisation excels at? (No).

Don’t get me wrong – some people who went to Oxbridge are brilliant, some LBS MBAs are strategic geniuses and (for example) Unilever has produced some amazing brand marketers – but it isn’t automatic.

What the People Management article has made me do is stop and think about the bias that maybe influences my decision making, reflect on whether there are patterns in my decisions about people and considering my team are recruiting and I will be involved in interviews challenge myself to surface an unconscious biases so at least I can ‘manage them out’ rather than let them influence my thinking.

There’s a great collection of thinking on bias on Wikipedia which forms some very interesting reading but I would leave you with one question: can you think about an experience that has driven you to be biased?



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The one with the picture that’s too big

I would like to think I have a pretty broad perspective. In fact if I were to read back through my performance management documents from the past I think I would find some comments that at times my perspective is too broad and what is required is a little focus…

I must therefore admit to being quietly shocked when at the CIPD’s HRD12 conference in London last week, Sue Round, Director of L&D for British Gas, opened her presentation with a slide that is most easily summed up as geopolitical context. She cited in her context the Arab spring and the ensuing ‘end of deference’, the rise of China as a global economy and the move from West to East and quoted President Obama’s line that America was “leading from behind”. She used this to signpost the significant change that is happening globally at present.

I may have missed the segue but it felt quite a bump back down to the smaller picture to then be discussing management development, 70/20/10 learning and the 9-box model. All valid stuff and reassuring to people like me that what we are doing is in line with ‘the big boys’. However, in reflecting on the session it did strike me as odd that this context was presented and not explored – but then it’s ‘only’ L&D surely?

I am not one to diminish what we try and do in organisations (there’s enough people doing that for me) and anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that my ego is alive and well but when it comes down to it surely what we about is developing knowledge, skills and behaviours in the context of the organisational strategy? That could be as simple as improving excel skills or as complex as supporting to next generation of leaders in developing themselves but it’s unless you are defining L&D strategy for the UN it is unlikely the geopolitical drivers discussed here are going to be making any kind of appearance in your 12/13 objectives.

Without doubt there are some amongst us who will face the challenges presented by say the shift of power and labour from West to East but it will be driven by organisation level decisions to react to those changes and not from L&D in my opinion. At the end of the day L&D is there to increase the capability of the organisation to deliver its strategic goals and surely this is about returning value to the shareholder (or stakeholder) and to anyone outside L&D that is all about pounds, shilling and pence? Or maybe there’s another perspective on value….but more about that tomorrow!


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The one where this isn’t just any OD

For those of you who worry that it’s actually the Illuminati that are secretly running the world you can relax and take a breath. It’s actually the Welsh who are secretly running the world and if further proof were needed it arrived at HRD12 in the form of Nigel Jeremy, Head of Organisational Development for Marks & Spencers (native of Neath).

Nigel took us through what appeared a very pragmatic approach to Organisational Development and it’s credit to him that he made what must be a very complex organisation, both politically and in scale, accessible to a room full of people. He made a number of interesting points, some of which I managed to capture, but those that really landed were:

  • OD translates globally as long as you are aware of the local culture and adapt to it
  • You need to build bottom up from competencies to robust performance management through talent to recruitment and the links they form to engagement
  • To partner the organisation you need line management who are skilled (or are upskilled) in managing performance and talent
  • Getting visible objective data on performance vs potential is key in challenging the organisation away from talent planning based on personal opinion and popularity
  • Unless managers are accountable for outcomes you won’t get traction. For example at M&S anyone who manages more than 5 people gets a personalised cut of the employee survey with their results.

What came through very strongly was how astute you need to be to deliver this kind of role in a large organisation. The acknowledgement that senior stakeholders will have different points of view and you need to adapt how you manage them dependant on their pre-existing views and for those that ‘don’t get it’ they will never get it but you need to work hard to get grudging acceptance (I know that feeling well!!) in Nigel’s words “be patient and sell on success”.

He ended with his view that OD is a system of connected processes that will be different for every organisation and you need to plan your approach with the organisational context and how/who you will influence to get the necessary buy in and his final line was that OD was “a casserole not a sandwich”.

Although he opened with some interesting statistics on how many women would be wearing M&S underwear and particularly bras (I don’t recall the exact numbers) and segued into a joke about bras, which given it was the first session of the day may not have landed as well as he’d hoped, he did stop short of using an M&S style slogan…which I clearly couldn’t resist 😉

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The one with my stage debut

So previously on HRD12….

As I mentioned I was invited as a guest of the CIPD marketing team as part of the press contingent under the guise of being a ‘blogger blogger’. Several of my friends and contacts had been invited to take a more active role in the conference but my attendance was a little contingent until the week before so as far as I was concerned I was going to turn up, watch, listen and blog. Little did I know…

Over the previous 12 months I had watched several friends and contacts taking centre stage at various events within the HR community. Those I saw did very well at presenting a view of the broad people professional as someone who is not insular, short termist or reluctant to challenge the received wisdom. It was great to see them come off stage like conquering heroes feeling they had ‘nailed it’ and done what they could to develop thinking in our profession, enhanced both their personal reputations of and that of their organisations and delivered a good session.

When I was sat at home master minding my job hunt (for that read avoiding watching Jeremy Kyle) it occurred to me that I should practice what I at times preach and write myself some goals for 2012. Some of them are professional, some personal and one is fairly absurd but nestled amongst this eclectic list was to take an active role in a major conference or event during 2012. I didn’t mention it to anyone…

The Friday before HRD12 I received an e-mail from Greg Styger, one of the conference team at CIPD, inviting me to part of a break out session along with Sukh Pabial and Doug Shaw, discussing social media and learning. I of course said yes  and started to think about how I would present my views. Then, about 36 hours before the event, I received a slightly more urgent e-mail from Sara Gilmore also from the CIPD conference team asking me to be part of a panel in the main conference. The topic? Social Media and Learning.

I think what followed was a relatively successful session. The main reason for the success was undoubtedly Perry Timms, the Head of OD for The Big Lottery Fund. For those of you who don’t know Perry I am stunned as he is the most networked man on the planet. He did a great pre-game session with the 3 panelists and once the ‘curtain’ went up showed his smarts as a facilitator ensuring the session ticked along rather than acting as a rather superfluous chairmen as I had seen others doing.

The two fellow panelists were from Save the Children and the RAF and it was interesting comparing a global third sector organisation with a public sector organisation that is contracting. Rather than document the session I will point you to this post that Sukh wrote live from the session.

The two things that have stuck with me since the session? The weird sensation of being involved in a session that people are tweeting about and stepping off the platform to see feedback that has gone on through the session. The latter was the sense that whilst L&D professionals are slowly but surely becoming advocates of social learning (seemingly at the expense of e-learning which got a slating in the session) it shocks me how many are advocating something they’ve not really experienced and have a limited understanding of. It strikes me that building enthusiasm through individuals (as Save the Children brilliantly demonstrated) makes any influencing you need to do at organisational level far easier.

I said it at the time and will say it again here now – if you want to be able to advocate something in your organisation then first hand knowledge and genuine enthusiasm will make a much more powerful statement than the feedback from a conference session! You have to be in it to win it!

But at least that’s another thing from the 2012 list ticked off!


I managed to get asked a question on social media policies. As I did during the session I would point anyone asking the question to this post by Neil Morrison who makes the argument far better than I would!


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The one with the Rock Virgin

Wednesday saw me attending (and taking part in) the CIPD’s HRD conference held in London’s Olympia. I owe thanks to Johanna Ratcliffe and the team for my ‘blogger blogger’ invite and the opportunity to enjoy some really interesting sessions. Some of the blogging contingent (Sukh Pabial and Doug Shaw) took a ‘live blogging’ approach to the event but I warn you now the HRD theme will run for about a week as I ‘ruminate and cogitate’ over what I saw, heard and have thought about since.

If you remember back to September 2007 the words austerity and credit crunch were nowhere near the venacular but in a few days the wheels came off the economic wagon and what has been a very ‘interesting’ few years began. The first really big milestone was the first run on a British bank for over a century and an instituion that had been the 5th largest mortgage lender in the UK and much admired for it’s profitability became a symbol of the credit crisis that was to follow. As Bernadette Bruton, Head of HR Strategy & OD asked the session yesterday, who remembers this photo?

What I hadn’t really considered until listening to the session yesterday was the people who were actually part of Northern Rock. Not the board of directors or the people responsible for the bank’s capital strategy but the thousands of other people who were part of an employer who was much respected in the North East and how it impacted the pride they had felt in being part of that organisation.

What has followed since has been inevitable headcount reductions on a massive scale and restructuring the bank not just at a corporate level (the ‘good bank’ and the ‘bad bank’ being now seperate legal entities) but also in how you continue to operate what remains following the maelstrom that must have followed behind the headlines.

It was interesting to see Burke & Litwin’s model for OD (1992) being part of the process of providing clarity but also the realisation that despite the external factors at play (you know Lehmans, offshore vehicles, sub-prime etc) there were issues both in culture and structure (e.g. too wide a span of control and too many layers of management) that needed to be resolved if the bank were to move forward.

From the sound of things the organisation is moving forward and to the individuals who have lived through the process what follows (in the words of Ms Bruton) not a new chapter but a new story with the purchase of the ‘good bank’ by the bearded wonder Mr Branson. The new story of course involves a whole new set of HR challenges with integrating the existing Virgin Money business with the acquired organisation but what was heartening was hearing of the enthusiasm with which the process has been recieved by the individual employees and the opportunity of giving them something they can yet again be proud of.

As a taxpayer I may have a couple of other questions about return on investment but I’ll leave those for another day because it would be a shame to end of good story with some tough questions…

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The one where the unconference strikes back

Earlier in the year I attended the 2nd ConnectingHR Unconference. Although it was the 2nd for the community it was the first for me both within that community and also experiencing the unconference format. I wrote two posts about it at the time which you can find here and here and don’t want to rehash those but yesterday I attended the 3rd unconference and want to share some thoughts surrounding it.

The first thing to say is what a great group of people. For a group that came together largely through Twitter it’s a warm spirited, generous, enthusiastic and committed group who really do want to improve their businesses and themselves. I am genuinely pleased to be part of it and will continue to be so (I hope). It’s a credit to the people who put the passion and energy into driving it especially (for me) Gareth Jones @garelaos.

Being as this is social media (ish) what follows are 3 ‘episodes’ which have informed my reflection:

Episode 1: Monday Oct 17, Twitter

A Twitter conversation with @neilmorrison, @thinkingfox and @garelaos this week prompted me to think about what ConnectingHR’s purpose is and is there an opportunity for the passion and enthusiasm to drive significant change. Some involved in that conversation questioned ConnectingHR’s position to be able to do that with a comment along the lines of HR not being a community that needed a forum. My response at the time was that it was a group of people needing a community and truthfully that’s what it is for me. What followed was a spirited, although I believe, well intentioned exchange about the community as is.

Episode 2: Tuesday Oct 18, A London restaurant

So over a glass of something alcoholic, I then had the opportunity to continue the discussion with said same @neilmorrison, giving us both the opportunity to flesh out the discussion we had been having online but also discuss some of the potential that ConnectingHR represents (to me at least). I must point out that I had consumed a few drinks at this point so may have editorialised a little but there was definitely a conversation about how ConnectingHR could be an agent provocateur to spur the CIPD to evolve but the challenge of getting people truly engaged with it beyond the current committed bunch remained significant.

Episode 3: Thursday Oct 20, The Spring, venue of Unconference

I then had a conversation with a fellow unconference attendee yesterday @samlizars about what would happen if you walked 10 big hitting HRDs into the unconference. Would it completely stifle the free and open conversation? Would the HRDs feel frustrated about the lack of structure or directly applicable ROI to their organisations? Or actually in order to achieve its true potential does the ConnectingHR community need some big hitting practitioners to get involved and help it evolve? Another point of interest in the conversation was the perception (at least from Sam & my perspectives) about how little those big hitters ‘publically’ network and that actually getting your message to them was quite tricky.

Where this leaves me in my reflections I’m not quite sure. Likewise I’m not sure where ConnectingHR is on its journey. Whether it will remain a community of great people wanting to support and challenge one another or whether the horizon has a tipping point which could see it play a role in driving broader change is yet to see. Personally, I am frustrated that more practitioners aren’t engaging and taking the opportunity to get involved but would ‘they’ levy the charge that we just haven’t done enough to help/make them engage?

As it’s after midnight (and I’ve just had to edit all the todays into yesterdays) I think it’s time to stop reflecting and start sleeping but in closing there are a few people I would like to make specific reference to as contributing to my day at the unconference:

Natasha (@StirtheSource) for some great conversations

Gavin (@gmcglyne) for not only telling me I was talking bollocks but then using a Michael Jackson song to make his point

Dave (@Changecontinuum) for a great chat and some interesting thoughts and context

Michael (@MJCarty) for great departure from a comfort zone and fighting his corner

Sam (@samlizars) likewise for some great conversations (in addition to those referenced here)

Sarah (@sarahfmatthews) for great homemade biscuits and being one of the few people who has achieved genuinely embarrassing me (but in the nicest way)

And finally Gareth (@garelaos) who is just the guvnor (although probably cross with me for writing this!)

To the rest of the usual suspects, doffed caps and thanks for a good day.



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