Our round up of CIPD Annual Conference

Meeting like-minded HR professionals; helping business to discover new ways of employee engagement; gaining insight into employee relations and the world of HR…all of which are great reasons why we chose to exhibit and attend the CIPD Annual Conference at Manchester Central. We also took along with us our highly-experienced team in order to explore the exhibitions and seminars in further detail and fully take advantage of such a large-scale professional HR event. In this blog, Bonnie and Alicia give us their key thoughts from the event:


Bonnie capita tiBonnie is a Service Delivery Manager for the Technical and Life Sciences vertical at Capita Translation and Interpreting.  She enjoys studying Mandarin and has previously lived in China for several years.

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the CIPD Annual Conference and my designated task was to attend the available seminars and bring back some thoughts and ideas to share with the business on recent ideas in the HR field. I attended several sessions but the highlights were as follows:

The closing Keynote session by Professor Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD who was discussing her new book ‘Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader’. The principle behind this is ‘Outsight’, meaning that in order for managers and leaders to develop, they should learn by trying new experiences and taking action rather than looking inwards and learning only from the past. We should avoid the ‘competency trap’ of sticking with doing the same things well. Finally, she advised against using the excuse of being ‘authentic’ as a reason not to change your attitude as authenticity doesn’t mean being true to what you’ve done in the past but being true to how you would like to be in the future.

We should avoid the ‘competency trap’ of sticking with doing the same things well

My personal highlight was the seminar entitled ‘Developing High Performance in Your Organisation – is talent a myth?’. This was led by Matthew Syed, 3 time Commonwealth table tennis champion and now a writer on the science of success. Matthew was a very dynamic and engaging speaker and regaled the crowd with anecdotes from his sporting and writing career in order to get the message across. He spoke on how talent is not insignificant but is highly overrated, and credits his own success to a small amount of talent and a large amount of application. This can be expanded in business to apply a culture of openness when mistakes are made rather than a culture of blame.  He refers to the principle of ‘Black Box Thinking’ (his new book) – meaning that mistakes and failure should be viewed as a learning opportunity, similar to a black box in an aeroplane!

alicia capita tiAlicia is an Account Manager for the Legal, Finance and Manufacturing sectors. Outside work she enjoys the outdoors, running, biking and walking but when she has to stay inside you can find her in the kitchen cooking up a feast or planning her next adventure.

Having not had a great deal of experience in the realms of HR, I found the conference extremely interesting and the tone was set for the day during the keynote speech given by Professor Sir Cary Cooper.

His tone was friendly and engaging and he really lightened the mood with anecdotes and excerpts from Joseph Heller’s book, Catch 22. Cooper raised some very important issues about the effects of stress and anxiety in the workplace, his research and how we can take steps to eliminate the issues. The concepts were stripped back to see how we can make changes to the way in which we work and the preventative measures that organisations can put in place to “make work fun” and eliminate burn out.

Variation is key when dealing with HR and that one size really doesn’t fit all

The rest of the day followed a similarly positive note and I was able to meet with a lot of visitors at our stand and also had the opportunity to visit other stands where my mind was boggled by the wide array of services on offer; from psychometric testing via gaming software to photography for a more professional LinkedIn profile plus much, much more – the HR world is a lot more varied than I had ever imagined.

The final seminar definitely underlined how variation is key when dealing with HR and that one size really doesn’t fit all. First to speak was Daniel Eley who has spent the last 8 years working within Jamie Oliver’s non-restaurant businesses; the key focus within the company is “No Cynics” and “Think Fresh” –  it’s a place where candidates are required to have 60% character values and 40% skill set. The second speaker, Neil Daly of EDF, demonstrated very different company values, but values that work extremely well within their organisation and help them to break down corporate barriers and engage more with their employees; continuous improvement in their people and their processes are prevalent and have led to higher staff retention and happier staff.

If I were to consider a change in career and leave the world of Account Management, I would seriously consider moving towards a career in HR after the innovating CIPD conference.

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