HR Hunger Games

I was lucky enough to participate in the HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham earlier this week, and I had a great time learning from the many speakers and interacting with the delegates – if you didn’t make it this year, here are a few of my takeaways from the event…..

 
Generalisations and prejudice are close cousins and should be avoided
 
It set my teeth on edge every time somebody introduced the idea of ‘Millennial’ behaviour, as +Mervyn Dinnen remarked during our HRD spotlight with +Perry Timms and Peter Reilly – if we all started making generalisations about women, black people, old people, gay people, muslims or disabled people we’d quite rightly be shouted off the stage – so why is it appropriate to group people into convenient age brackets for HR purposes?
 
 
This study is no doubt valid – but trying to fit my family into it would be impossible. My ‘maturist’ father couldn’t care less about his car, sends emails and uses an iPad every day. I’m dead centre of ‘Gen X’  and loathe online meetings, use my smartphone as much as my macbook and certainly don’t demonstrate disloyalty to my employers. My eldest son ‘Gen Z’ prefers to use Minecraft and a desktop Mac to communicate with his friends and considers Facebook something ‘old’ people do. 
 
 
People are people. Trying to organise them into convenient groups is the equivalent of herding cats……….
 
 
Trust the professionals to do their job
 
I spent much of my career in the IT and data management world, and it never ceased to amaze me how often people would come and pass judgement on huge IT projects after completing their own home network installation, or first excel data macro.
 
The HR world is starting to see the same kind of influence occurring, and whilst external perspective is wonderful, and adding those external to HR can strengthen perspective – make sure you walk a mile in those shoes before passing judgement.
 
This was illustrated to me as my taxi driver took me to the station after the event – “Do you mind if I take a different route, it will save you time, but it will take us down the side streets” – I asked him if people ever refuse his advice….”more often than you think” was the answer.
 
There were the two hosts for our event. Juan Señor, the Emmy nominated journalist and TV presenter acted as master of ceremonies for the daytime events – and was completely captivating with both his stage presence and ability to summarise and question the keynote speakers. 
 
I was left however, with the unshakable conviction that the Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman (played by Stanley Tucci in the movie) was wholly inspired by him. A fact pointed out to me during the second day by a friend who shall remain nameless…..(you know who you are)
 
During the awards ceremony in the evening, Jon Culshaw was not only master of ceremonies, but kept everyone engaged (and crying with laughter) as he impersonated everyone from Tony Blair to Les Dawson. Having Barak Obama read out the description of one of the HR awards will live with me for ever.
 
The fact is, if you want the best job done, hire a professional. You’ll get better results, gain credibility and learn a great deal. 
 
Stop using dumb statements to describe people
 
Undoubtedly the worst phrase I heard during the event was “Human Resource Asset Philosophy” – I literally had to bite my hand to stop myself interrupting the speaker. Nobody likes being described as resource or an asset.
 
I’m not advocating a global shift towards “Chief People Officer” or “Personnel Director” – but talk about people as people. Never resources, assets, expenses or any other phrase which brings to mind a dehumanised automaton or a machine.
 
As Pierre Mille of Carlsberg remarked during his presentation “Last time I checked, people were not assets – they need love. Machines just need occasional maintenance”
 
 
If you don’t have an engagement program in place you are being left behind
 
Employment engagement, retention and rewards had it’s own track this year – but I heard about it in every session and within every keynote. Some selected quotes below:
 
“Leaders can be the biggest barriers to engagement and bringing yourself to work” Stephen Lehane, HR Director at Alliance Boots
 
“Engagement and simplicity are the two big issues”
Dr. Graeme Codrington, Futurist
 
“We have changed to a world of employee engagement” 
David Arkless, former President of Manpower Group
 
“Engagement success is directly responsible for higher sales, lower absences and greater mystery shopper scores”
Tanith Dodge, Director of HR at Marks & Spencer
 
“Engaged, enabled or energized – what level of engagement are your employees feeling?” Isabel Collins, Director of Culture & Engagement at Astellas
 
If you’re not taking a long hard look at your own company through the lens of culture and employee engagement, you are ignoring a movement as significant as the introduction of the motor car and the retirement of the horse and cart. Take a look at the government backed Engage For Success movement website if you’re looking for inspiration.
 
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It’s Friday as I write this blog, so in honour of what I’m sure MUST be a Gen Y behaviour started by Micah Baldwin (oops, my bad – he was born in 1971) I would recommend you ‘follow friday’ #FF this group of experts and further your HR knowledge…..
 
 
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  • Patrycja Pyka
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    Good post. Hope you enjoyed the event. I like how you put together the quotes. And you're right it is about employment engagement.

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  • The Jigsaw
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