A Review of the 2013 CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition

I’m just back from a busy, fun few days in Manchester at the CIPD conference, and a little more besides.

Northern OD Network

On Tuesday morning I took the train from London to Manchester with Meg Peppin to take part in a Northern OD Network meeting. The session was held at the BBC HQ in Media City and we got a tour of the building including a visit to the set of BBC Breakfast. Here’s a picture of me in the studio grinning like a kid in a sweetshop.

Doug at the Beeb

After the tour we settled down to listen to David D’Souza talk about his forays into the world of social media, and his compilation, editing and publishing of the HR book of blogs, Humane, Resourced. Here’s the essence of what I heard David say:

Six months ago he began tweeting, meeting and exploring – David met people who challenge and push boundaries, are open to new things and care about their profession. He met a lot of bloggers.

He noticed that a lot of these people are intent rich – time poor, and settled on the idea of curating a book of blogs. The pace of the project ebbed and flowed and people were very generous in supporting David and sharing experiences to help him along his journey.

David wanted the project to be crowdsourced, low on control – high on opportunity.

The book got published, fame and fortune now ensues (David didn’t say that I hasten to add).

The conversation developed into how HR professionals can make use of social communication to drive ownership action and even, *shudder*, engagement. I enjoyed the dialogue very much – it was a good mix of enthusiasm, challenge and open minded exploration.

The day was capped off with a dim sum dinner in Chinatown with two lovely friends.

CIPD Conference – Day One

It felt like the whole of Manchester had turned up to hear the opening address to conference. Peter Cheese took a few minutes to update everyone on current and emerging thinking on how the CIPD is and will deliver on its purpose of Championing better work and working lives, and then introduced Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones who talked about Creating the best workplace on earth. I found the talk light on insight and heavy on cliche and rhetoric. It was also riddled with plugs for their various books. Guys – we know you’re authors, you don’t need to ram it down our throats. The talk was reviewed by a few bloggers here, and I encourage you to take a look.

This year the CIPD asked me to curate conference content on their tumblr site. In previous years I’ve focussed on covering conference sessions on my blog, which I find enjoyable and hard work. I thought the curation gig might be a bit easier, and I was wrong. I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep on top of everything and I was keen to photograph elements of the conference to add a visual twist in among the many blog posts.

Talking of visual twists…

Doug People Management

The folks at People Management came up with an excellent idea for this year’s conference – offering to put anyone, even me, on the front cover of their magazine. Inspired.

The evening of Day One included a Hacker’s Hangout which Perry Timms hosted. Peter Cheese and a number of hackers gathered for conversation and a couple of drinks. After that it was off to the Personnel Today party hosted by the genuinely charming Rob Moss, and then dinner with a few friends. Unusually for me I checked my emails when I got back to the hotel just after midnight and in my inbox I found this question. ‘Why do so many workers feel they have no power to think differently about their workplace? How can this be addressed?’ I responded, then I went to bed. More on this another day.

CIPD Conference – Day Two

I slept poorly on Wednesday night, and awoke around 4.15 am, thanks to a combination of things that go bump in the night, and nerves. The CIPD conference team had earlier agreed that Meg Peppin and I could facilitate a short unconference session this morning, called HR Unscrambled, and I was my usual mix of excitement and nerves.

We had an enthusiastic turnout for HR Unscrambled, which was a chance to meet new people, and discuss the future for HR. A few of the people who came along we knew, and many we didn’t. Peter Cheese was there too – this guy gets everywhere! I think it’s commendable how available Peter makes himself, and in this case, people who registered and turned up for a chance to talk about the future for HR, got to do so with their professional body’s CEO. I think that’s cool. Meg and I will be sharing some reflection from HR Unscrambled in a few days, for now though, I thought you might be interested to see a word cloud built from the notes that people made at their tables as they talked.

HR Unscrambled Word Cloud

I had to head off after our HR Unscrambled session, so I missed Dan Pink and plenty more besides. I tried to keep on top of things over at the CIPD tumblr where I hope I’ve managed to feature most, if not all, of the conference session blogs and reviews. Please let me know about any glaring omissions so I can include any good stuff I’ve missed. Just a brief mention for Ian Pettigrew who must have aching fingers today after somehow managing to write up over ten posts on various aspects of the conference.

In Summary

This year’s conference was a great mix of useful fun, connections and learning. Maybe it was the centenary year celebrations that helped add to the excitement, but more importantly, more sustainably, I feel like the CIPD is making real efforts and steps to deliver on that purpose I mentioned earlier. Championing better work and working lives. I’m sure there’ll be mistakes along the way, and disappointment too, such is the nature of exploring, experimenting and changing. It should be fun.

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