Tuesday, 1 December 2015

#leadingtheway part 1 of 4

.Today I'm attending an event run by ACAS in Liverpool called Leading the Way: The Future of People Management. I'm covering the event on social media for ACAS along with the esteemed Tim Scott, so you may see a few tweets and blogs from me today on the subject. 

I'll start by saying how unusual it is to see an HR event take place in Liverpool. It's kind of refreshing to see as so much takes place in Manchester. Today's event is at the stunning Museum of Liverpool, and is in some ways a follow on to another ACAS event that took place in July in Manchester, which I covered here: http://hrtriathlete.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/defusing-timebomb.html

Pete Monaghan from ACAS opened the event summarising the aims of the event and introducing the agenda for the day. Gary Millar, who holds various roles in Liverpool, took over to set some context for the event and outline how he will facilitate the event. Gary handed over to Max Steinberg, CEO of Liverpoool Vision, who gave us a good summary of how Liverpool had transformed itself over the last decade. 

For those of you who haven't been to Liverpool recently, it's almost unrecognisable from its past and it's a truly stunning modern city. I came here today to the Museum of Liverpool having not been to the dockside area of Liverpool for maybe 15-20 years and it's much improved. There has been an awful lot of work going on and Max outlined a few challenges that are still to be tackled by Liverpool Vision. Liverpool currently has a lot to shout about and should be proud of its approach to regeneration and investment. 

Of course Liverpool isn't alone in this, and lots of other cities have done similar. But The Guardian, amongst others, have written about the possible dangers of regeneration left unchecked. See http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/12/50-years-of-gentrification-will-all-our-cities-turn-into-deathly-canberra. And I wonder what this trend could leave us with, if left unchecked? Could all cities be built and run on the same model? Undoubtedly attractive and successful, but will they be places that people - all kinds of people - can afford to live? 

Maybe. Let's hope so. 

My main unanswered question, and only briefly hinted about by Max, is about whether anyone is coordinating the work done by all current and future Liverpool businesses to get the right talent in place for the future success it wants? Individual businesses yes, groups of like minded businesses probably, but who is taking the overall strategic view? Gary Millar answered part of this by talking about the need to engage with primary school age children, which is a point I've made a couple of times in previous blogs. But I don't know whether this is a coordinated effort to tie into one overall project. 

If any of you can shed light on this, let me know. Because Liverpool, if viewed as one entity, needs a hell of a People Strategy. 

Peter Cheese is up next. A lot of this talk echoed some points he made at the Manchester event earlier in the year, and I've covered some of these before, but as he had updated some of his thinking and points in the intervening months then I'll summarise again. 

Some of Peters key themes shaping the future of work have been covered extensively elsewhere - namely the globalisation of the economy, and the rise of social media. 

Peter also shared what jobs are likely to be done by robots or computers in the future. HR didn't appear on this list but many transactional jobs did. I wonder WHY HR work couldn't be done by robots though? Surely if the robots are intelligent enough, they could? Or is Peter saying that HR work involves too much emotion for robots to handle? Maybe Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation could handle the HR analytics side of things, but wouldn't be good in a complicated disciplinary?

What he did say though was that workers will increasingly work in different ways, in smaller organisations and connect in different ways than they do now. And he showed that 80% of business value now comes from intangible assets like employees, compared to a MUCH smaller percentage 20-30 years ago. This is true. 

He also outlined the dangers of continuing to cause workers stress, that we should be looking at how people balance their work and life, and how we make workers content and give them a sense of purpose. 

He challenged us to question whether our people management practices are good enough for the future world of work? Maybe they're not. He says we should focus on employee happiness, now a genuine business concern.

When my eldest daughter was just 3 she asked me what I did at work. I don't know if you've ever tried explaining HR to an adult let alone a toddler, but it's hard. I settled on "I make people happy at work". She was satisfied with that, but now thinks I do something involving painting because that's what would make her happy at work. 

But ultimately isn't that what HR is? Not painting necessarily, but finding that mix of activities that unlock employee happiness, and then reaping the rewards of their engagement and productivity?

He concluded by talking about the proliferation of data that's out there about individuals and work, but how little of this is put to good use. I've covered this in some other posts and very recently in conversation with a Chief Executive of an organisation. HR needs to win the debate with Finance about workforce data and to really make something of it. 

I often talk about the amount of data available on modern footballers and other sportsmen, and how that is used, constantly, to analyse and improve performance. But how often do we find this in the workplace? Not often enough, but the data is there if you'd care to look for it...

His final point drew on neuroscience to understand human and organisational behaviour. We can understand the changing external context, we can draw together our insights and analytics, we can have the right HR practices, but we also need to understand and work towards a better understanding of human behaviour and how they relate to organisations. 

True, that. 

Till next time...

Gary