CIPD Podcast 1 - Annual Conference 2006

Date: 31/10/06 Duration: 00:15:28

This podcast is a round up of the key themes from CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. It includes exclusive interviews with conference speakers: Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Development at London Business School, Gareth Jones, Visiting Professor at INSEAD and a Fellow at the Centre for Management Development at London Business School, Marcus Buckingham, acclaimed author and speaker on leadership and management, Renee Mauborgne, Professor of Strategy and Management at INSEAD, Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Director of the Royal Institution, Neil Roden, Group Director of Human Resources, Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Deborah Loudon, Director-General of Civilian Personnel, Ministry of Defence, Kevin Green, People and Organisational Development Director, Royal Mail and Vicky Wright, Senior Consultant at Watson Wyatt and CIPD President.


This podcast, the first in a series of four, includes exclusive interviews with some of the top speakers at the CIPD's annual conference and exhibition in Harrogate. Spread over three days, the event attracted thousands of people management and development professionals. Over a hundred speakers took to the stage, including more than sixty senior practitioners with compelling stories to tell about how they've tackled people management and development challenges in their organisations.

In this podcast, we'll hear from some of the keynote speakers, some of the best practitioners in the business, and, of course, you guys, the audience.
Rajan: First, our reporter Philippa Lamb talks to Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Development at the London Business School and Gareth Jones, Visiting Professor at INSEAD and a Fellow at the Centre for Management Development at London Business School, co-authors of the award winning Harvard Business Review article 'Why should anyone be led by you?

PL: Is it possible to teach anyone to be an effective leader or is there an innate something that's actually got to be there?

RG: We've always said that it's a modern myth that everyone can be a leader, and the reason why it's a myth is that not everyone wants to be leader.

PL: But if you want to, can you be?

RG: If you want to there are undoubtedly things you can learn. I don't know if you were there when we asked the audience
(cuts to Gareth Jones at conference) 'how many of you here play tennis? Do you get better if you practise? Marginally, that's where I am with it. Who plays golf? Do you get better when you practise? Who wants to be a more effective leader?... (shouts) Practise... Leadership is an authentic, skilful role performance, so if you want to be a more effective leader, be yourself more, with skill. Thank you very much for listening to us and goodbye'

RG: I think the thing you can't really expect to teach is really caring. What great leaders do is they really care about something and they communicate it - by the way, this is one the reasons why they reveal their weaknesses because they really care enough that they're prepared to put themselves on the line and reveal their weaknesses

PL: Do they need to care about their people or just their objective?

RG: It's both. Sometimes we talk about tough love or sometimes it's tough empathy, it's about both the people and the task. The paradox is this: there's plenty of scope for more people in organisations to exercise leadership capability. We expect there's more to come out of most individuals, but does that mean everyone can be a leader? No, it doesn't. Does that mean everyone really wants to be a leader? No it doesn't. It's tough, it's difficult, it's stressful, it's risky.
Marcus Buckingham spent 17 years with the Gallup organisation pioneering research into the world's best leaders, managers and work places. Here he talks about what do great managers do, offering two key messages. The first is that in order to enable people to do their best, you have free them up to do what they're best at:

MB: there's simply no question that the driving factor that drives performance is a particular team's ability to identify the strengths and talents of each person and put them to use. Those teams where people say they're going to use their talent a lot massively outperform those teams that don't, not between companies, but within the same company. So, whether it's productivity, profit, or turnover of employees or whether it's safety, whether it's customer loyalty, whatever measure you use, it is driven by whether or not people think their talent is employed at work.

Rajan: Marcus's second message was that there were three key things that people could do to be more effective managers.

MB: We don't actually manage talent very well at all. In fact, if you ask people in Britain what percentage of the working day they use their talents? 9% of people say most of the time, so although it may be a buzz phrase right now, most people still don't do it very well. Faced with a world that doesn't care that much about your talent, how do you actually put it to use? What are the skills you need to stay on track, each week, where you use your talent, faced with a world that keeps yanking and pulling, and tugging you in different directions. There are three things you've got to know. One of them is: do you know which activities in a week play to your strengths and which ones play to your weaknesses. It sounds obvious but most of us are terrible at it. Second: do you have a discipline each week to deliberately try to push your time towards the activities that strengthen you and away from the ones that don't. And third: do you know how to talk about what you're doing in such a way that the people around you, your colleagues, your manager, actually want to help you.

Rajan: Renee Mauborgne, Professor of Strategy and Management at INSEAD talks about how to get HR involved at the heart of the business strategy so that it can really make an impact on the business. Her book 'Blue Ocean Strategy' co-authored with Kim Chan, has sold over a million copies. Here's a summary of her strategy theory for those of you who haven't read it.

RM: Red Ocean is about how you compete in existing markets which tend to be crowded, filled with sharks, facing commoditisation, declining price points and market share battles. Blue oceans, on the other hand, are uncontested market spaces where you have no competition, in fact, you make your competitors irrelevant.

Philippa Lamb asked her about the importance of HR understanding the wider business:

PL: It doesn't sound like you have a lot of patience with the complaints which we saw or often hear coming from HR professionals that they're not taken seriously by boards, by managers.

RM: I think what I'm saying is that you have earn the right to be considered there. You can't just claim 'I want to be in that room,' and unless you add value so that they say 'Oh my God, we can't go on without that person here' they're not going to keep getting access to those rooms. So that means, do I understand what the organisation is up against, do I understand what that means, do I understand strategic challenges so that I speak in their language system and they can add value about how HR allows them to achieve that as opposed to just talking about HR issues in an isolated way.

Rajan: It wasn't just about the big platform speakers. We also heard from over sixty senior HR practitioners from across the UK and beyond. Many of them were conscious of the importance of preparing for a future in which the definition of work has evolved.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, and Director of the Royal institution, gave a session called the future of work, and she talked to us about how the HR manager can and should prepare for this.

SG: I think increasingly work is going beyond just merely having to eat and provide shelter for ourselves, I think the fact that many of us work ludicrously long hours and take our work home with us and think about work all the time means that it means more to us. As in the past, but increasingly now, I think it defines us. It's the first question you ask someone at a party 'what do you do?' So I think people have to realise that work is your identity. In a world where there's no obvious caste background, class, religious categories, we turn to work to do that for us, and I think that perhaps the manager of the future must realise that that person, if you can give them a sense of individuality and fulfilment at work, and a sense of self, than that would actually be very, very rewarding, both for you, and them, and the organisation.

Rajan: Neil Roden, Group Director of Human Resources at the Royal Bank of Scotland, picked up on the challenges set out by Susan Greenfield and the ways HR professionals need to respond to ensure they and their organisations are equipped to meet these challenges

NR: There's a shortage of people. There's a shortage of good people. There are big issues around labour markets, there's big issues around the management of people at work, there's big generational shifts around what people's expectations are when they come to work these days. There's a whole range of huge, big issues. Now if you're stuck processing maternity leave forms, you're not addressing those big issues, then I'm not sure who is if the HR people aren't. So my view is, the HR folk need to get themselves into a place where they do all the traditional stuff, but then organise and structure themselves in a way that creates time to actually deal with the issues that organisations are all facing, because I don't think you can be an effective HR person without understanding the business you're in.

Rajan: Deborah Loudon, Director General of Civilian Personnel at the Ministry of Defence has been making just this sort of change:

PL: You have developed a new HR architecture you're putting into practice as we speak. How does it work, what does it involve?

DL: It really involves what many big organisations are doing, which means moving the everyday transactions to a service centre - we're doing ours in-house because we believe we can do it better and more efficiently - and then having a small corporate centre which deals with the big strategic issues, particularly talent management and succession planning, and then having these business partners up with the business, to pick up that crucial link, that we are doing what the business needs.

PL: It's relatively new this for you, but, in terms of your experience, how has it been, in terms of its successes and failures?

DL: I think that the major successes are that we've made significant efficiencies, in our case that means direction of major funds to the front line, which is what we're about. We're also doing some very exciting work on developing the right skill mix and re-skilling people in our workforce, and that's in an early stage, but I think people are finding that a very exciting prospect.

Kevin Green, People and Organisational Development Manager, the Royal Mail, talks about the challenges implementing this type of change entails:

KG: Our Change journey is one that's been quite difficult, and our people are struggling with it and coming to terms with it, and are starting to change, but it's a big quest to change behaviour and ways of working and getting people to do things they've not done before. People like certainty, they like things to remain the same. So its human nature, and how do we convince people to do things differently. There needs to be some kind of psychological keys, and psychological triggers that'll get them to do things differently.

Vicky Wright, the CIPD's new president, as someone who's visited the event for several years, talks about what the conference offers delegates:

VW: I'm looking for nuggets of information, that little something that sparks your imagination and certainly one of the other things I come to Harrogate for is to sit there and think 'where is the profession going at the moment, what are the key themes running through, what's really interesting people, where are people really making some differences which I can learn from. It's interesting in Harrogate because you've got a mix of two sorts of speakers. There are the people who've written the books, and you sit there and think I've now met the person and had the opportunity to ask them questions sometimes, and really see how they think and have formulated those ideas that you read about in the book. But the other thing is, you meet a lot of people you wouldn't normally meet who speak very, very well, the practitioners who've really got some good common sense and you'd have never learnt about that unless you'd actually come to the conference and heard them speak.

(cuts to delegate interviews)

-Why have you come to Harrogate?
-I think it's a really good opportunity to attend seminars on a huge range of subjects.

-So did you find that you actually took stuff away from that, and thought, yeah, I can take that back to my company and really use it?
-Absolutely, I'm designing a new performance management system and listening to the different approaches that Orange have taken, and Royal Mail, have given me lots of ideas, and I now have to find a balance between them.

-So what brought you back for a second year?
-It was the opportunity to network with people, and attend seminars, and get fresh ideas. Really it's just a great industry event

-It sounds like, for you, the networking's almost as useful as the formal conference sessions?
-I've met some great people today and swapped ideas, over lunch and things, so it really is as important as the speakers themselves, so yes.

(cuts back to Vicky Wright)

We've heard a lot about leadership, effective leadership, leadership at all levels of the organisation and what does it take to be a leader? We've also heard, that linked to that, is the HR contribution, how can HR be leaders in business, how can they get change, and in that sense we've had a number of sessions about the link between business strategy and people management. And that comes up with another theme about HR being involved at the strategy table but also a lot of themes about making it happen. I think a number of people leaving this conference are going to have one change in the way they're thinking about themselves. They're going to be more confident. There's been a real buzz in the conference this year, about being confident in the profession and as a profession in what we can do.

(cuts to delegate interviews)

-Do you feel you've learnt stuff you could take back with you and use?
-Absolutely. I'm taking something back for my management team straight away about how we can make more of people's strengths rather than focussing on their weaknesses, and I think that's going to be a really big plus.
-You never take time to reflect on what you do, and these three days give you time to reflect, and to start thinking, 'what am I doing? Am I on the right path, yes or no?' And that's so valuable because in normal day life you just run, and you never take time for that.


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