Tuesday, 31 January 2017

#hrdsummit17 blog 4

I took myself a longer break after the Connecting HR Africa session to process what I'd heard, get myself a sugar boost and generally reflect. So far this has been a very good conference and quite different to previous years. Last year at three days felt too much and too spread about. This year has been back at two days, and more seems to have taken place on the Exhibition floor in the mini theatres, which has meant much less walking about. 

The next session was introduced by Mark Martin, CEO of Foundation Stones, talking about how we can get HR to the top table and keep it there. He outlined his perspective on how the world of work is changing and how that makes it more critical for organisations to win the hearts and minds of their employees. 

The next speaker from PwC highlighted some of the changes he is seeing, for example a move to cloud based technology for HR systems, and the challenge was whether HR teams are ready for this. A lot of this is how HR is seen by the business, which is an issue I've experienced both extremes of in my career. 

Amanda Williams from Quorn Foods took over at this point. She reiterated these points. The HR team need to understand the people in the business, and whether they are motivated for the future or any future change. She isn't sure that most HR teams do, and she feels they need to do this in order to be taken seriously by the business. 

Mark followed this up by asking about other people's perceptions of HR and asserted there were three things we could do to make change happen so that we are at the top table:

This was an interesting and important topic but none of the three speakers really had enough time to cover it in the depth it justified. All had useful thoughts to share but not enough opportunity to do so. 

I've then moved over to another session about building the digital employee Fiona Mullan from Facebook. This talk was packed out and promised quite a lot as it's a brand almost everyone is familiar with. 

Facebook are obviously a mobile first and digital first organisation, and Fiona said lots of people are surprised to learn they are even an employer of staff, such is the power of their customer facing brand. 

Fiona qualified a lot of what she said by pointing out that Facebook is still a very young company, only 13 years old, and are growing and evolving all the time. As a result though of being staffed mainly by Millenials, it has been digital since the outset, and comfortable with little or no rules and policies, and with viral change and news spreading informally. 

She also mentoined how frequent hackathons take place, and how idea implementation is encouraged without permission being sought. This is a very unique culture but a hint at what many organisations can expect as demographic change works its way through society and into most organisations. 

I recognise this works for Facebook and some other organisations. But how easy is it to change existing organisations to work digitally and informally like this, without simply letting the organisation evolve through demographic change? That could take a decade or more, but can organisations change faster without employee turnover?

What do you think?

Fiona made another good point that people's Facebook profiles are used almost like a kind of company intranet, and therefore everyone brings their whole self to work with no secrets and it helps build better relationships. I can see this working but a lot of companies would shy away from it. I myself would have shied away from it just 3-4 years ago. 

As Facebook grows though Fiona outlined some of the challenges they face in terms of taking on more staff and having to introduce things like career structures, so there are some tensions coming into the organisation. She encourages people to be honest, be themselves and be open to seeking and also receiving feedback. It's the concept of the Authentic Self. 

This was an interesting talk also and, whilst very company specific, it contained many lessons for all organisations to think about. 

And that's me almost done for today. I'm missing the keynote closing speeches for today because they are starting too late - a bugbear on this event annually - my train home is 5 minutes past every hour and Clive Woodward finishes at 6pm. I'd never make the 6.05 train at New Street so would have to get the 7.05 train and get home after 8pm and miss my youngest daughter go to bed. Can this event finish earlier in future years?

But I'll be back tomorrow. 

Till next time...


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