Friday, 20 May 2016


Today I attended the CIPD Manchester Branch AGM and unConference, #socialhrmcr - it was my first time at an unConference and I was interested to find out how they work and whether I could adapt for use in my own work. 

The venue was hard to find but once inside was a good space. There were students doing exams in the building which made it feel different. 

The session kicked off with some Ignite presentations, good for me to listen to as I am making my Ignite debut next month at #CIPDNAP16

The Ignite presentations were delivered by George Whalley, Gemma Reucroft, Tim Scott and Ian Pettigrew, all of whom did very well. There wasn't much of an overarching theme to the presentations although all were excellent, and I am thinking this was as much about throwing out some ideas that might help shape the unConference themes later - and if this was the intention, it was a useful one. 

This also gave me a lot of insight into what makes a good Ignite speech and gave me a bit more confidence that my own Ignite speech next month is going to be a good one as I can build on what I've seen. 

I'm looking forward to it. 

Ian Pettigrew then explained the concept and format of an unConference. Despite lots of coverage of such things on social media, I was surprised that very few people had been to one before (it was my debut too) and hardly anyone knew what one was. This had led to some interesting conversations on my table. 

I like the idea of an unConference and can see how I can use this in my current organisation. 

The conversation on my table took some time to get going, and I wonder how we can encourage the development and sharing of ideas at unConferences to make this a little less forced? But gradually we got there and the agenda began to take shape. 

I liked the ability to vote with my feet and attend whichever sessions I wanted, and even to change horses mid race. I liked the ability to be a bumblebee and cross pollinate between groups too. As a naturally high introvert the ability to choose the level at which I wanted to interact, and with whom, was good. 

I started in the session looking at what is a modern HR function. This appeared at first glance to be something that someone was doing an assignment on, but I wondered whether it probably needed a bit more structure than its initial question provided. However it's a question that I've been asking myself in my new role and wondering about in terms of what role I want my new HR team to play in the organisation. 

The conversation went off in various different directions and highlighted how different HR functions are in organisations currently, and of course whilst there is no one size fits all approach, the myriad approaches to HR make it difficult for the profession to reach a shared understanding of what HR could be in the modern world. 

It was interesting to hear just HOW different HR functions are though, and the different levels of maturity in some organisations. A provocative thought was put forward by one attendee that the modern HR function should not exist at all, and should manage organisational maturity to a level where HR is not required, being wholly devolved to and managed by the line - leaving just a rump OD function to support senior managers. 

I can see how this would work, but doubt many organisations are as mature as they would need to be to achieve it. 

A nice thing happened during this. I was scanning Twitter and noticed a question posed by another group, and answered their question via Twitter. I heard them mention it and it obviously helped them to discuss the point further, so I wandered over to see whether I could help. 

That's the beauty of an unConference and one I could immediately appreciate. 

After a carb loading lunch I went to the next session on how to make flexible working work. I've blogged on this topic more than once, and it was of interest to me as I regularly champion flexible working. 

This was another good session, mainly because the differing views even amongst HR professionals about what constitutes flexible working, and it became clear that organisational culture is the barrier and that even HR staff are subject to the restrictions that culture in some places exert. 

The discussion then went off at a bit of a tangent to focus on HR policies and the role they have in shaping organisational culture. It's clear that there are still big challenges here in most organisations, but improving the flexibility and the brevity of the policy can have a great impact on organisational culture and employee engagement. 

My third and final session was on using technology to deliver and aid learning, something that is highly relevant to my current work as my organisation seeks to increase the amount of learning delivered via a blended approach. 

Some great and very relevant examples were given of just in time learning using technology and how that is used to great effect in different scenarios - delivering learning at the point of need. We also got on to the subject of using technology in conferences, with all the social media usage that comes with that. 

We also covered the accuracy of the 70:20:10 model, something I may cover in a separate blog in the future. I do believe in the accuracy of the model and have a few examples from my own CPD that back this up, and this seemed to be the prevailing view of the group also. 

Like all the other sessions though this one went off at a tangent. I am unsure how to prevent this. Could we reduce the amount of time per session from 60 to 45 minutes to avoid that last 15 minutes of "what shall we discuss now?" - or do we ask for the idea originator to spend the first five minutes of each session really exploring the angles the group could take in discussing it, or posing some questions that need answering per session?

We followed this with some one minute summaries of each session. Whilst this as a concept was definitely useful, it might have been helpful to do that at the end of each group of sessions rather than the end of the day. 

As a concept I really like the unConference and it worked well today. I can see lots of application in the workplace and I think I will plan one. 

Till next time. 


PS in other news, the wedding and honeymoon are all now paid for and we have made all the decisions regarding flowers, decorations, colours, favours and all associated stuff. Less than 100 days now!

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