Tag Archives: CIPD

Cutting The Fringe

For the last four years, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with excellent people, developing and delivering a range of creative fringe events at the annual CIPD conference. Up until a few weeks ago – we were getting ready to make it five years in a row.

Sadly, that’s no longer the case. The dates were booked, discussions were ongoing about the specifics of what we might deliver this year. A query then arrived asking if we would further discount our already heavily reduced fees. That was followed by a brief silence, then this:

We had extensive internal conversations over the past couple of weeks and I am sorry to let you know that, because of all the changes that we are going th[r]ough, we are unable to secure the investment needed to organise and run the fringe events, ignite labs, or the reflect and connect sessions at this year’s ACE.

It’s no secret that fringe events don’t always attract huge numbers, and it’s also no secret that the people who turn up and participate, often really appreciate and enjoy the opportunities they cocreate together. Decisions have to be made, and this one appears to be based on cost as opposed to value.

Subsequently it transpires fringe events will continue at the conference this year, and my understanding is people won’t be paid to run them. That’s their choice. Lots of us choose to do voluntary and pro-bono work, me included. It’s good to give something back, particularly to organisations which do great work and are short of cash. I’m not sure that working for free at a commercial event which charges exhibitors thousands of pounds for floor space, and conference goers hundreds of pounds to attend, is in quite the same category.

I’m citing a specific event here, however more broadly, I engage in lots of discussion about why commercial events expect people to work for free, or (shudder) for the ‘exposure’. I’m aware of someone who was recently asked to judge some awards, and was expected to pay for the ‘privilege’ of doing so.

And don’t get me started on everyone who is expected to give up their time to speak at events for free. People want to give back, want to share knowledge, want to help those coming though or starting in their careers, but isn’t this knowledge and expertise worth something?

It’s tricky, but when the idea that freelancers will work for free is set as the default, and we agree to play by those rules, ultimately we support the practice, and become part of it.

All good things come to an end. I can’t deny I find the change in how the fringe at this event will now operate, disappointing, both in itself and in the manner in which it has arisen. However it has been excellent fun and great learning helping to shape and facilitate so many engaging and interesting gatherings over the years. HR Unscrambled, Reflect and Connect, The Art of Conversation, and Performance Related Play have been some of the best things I’ve been fortunate to take part in.

Thank you to everyone who has conversed, drawn, painted, played, shared experiences, reflected, taken action, and got to know each other a little better.

Making 2017 Better Than 2016. Part 1 : Coming Back From Nowhere.

In very brief summary, 2016 was a poor year.

A look back shows me I didn’t plan sufficiently and didn’t take enough action. I also took my eye off some important things, and spent too much time worrying about things which had passed and/or I had very little/no control over. The lack of control thing will always exist so I need to be and will be more comfortable with that. The rest, I can and will do better at.

I am making changes to my approach, starting with working through ‘How to Have Your Best Year, Every Year’ a workbook by Ann Hawkins. This workbook asks ten questions, the first of which is this:

‘What was your biggest accomplishment last year?’

My work comes from several sources. I’m going to start by acknowledging those sources and grouping accomplishments accordingly. I will then choose what I consider to be the biggest accomplishment of the year from each source.

Direct Sourced Work. Work which I source/attract through my network, and which I am primarily responsible for designing and facilitating, sometimes as part of a bigger event/program.

  • Art for Work’s Sake making it to the finals in the 2016 Learning Awards.
  • Leap Day 2016.
  • My improvised ‘Art of Better Learning’ ignite talk at the CIPD L&D show.
  • Opening the All About People conference in Bournemouth with The Art and Soul of Better Work.
  • Curating the graffiti wall at the Social Age Safari in Bristol.
  • Presenting and facilitating a master’s session at Ohio SHRM.
  • Opening Elmbridge Borough Council Manager’s conference with an art based learning workshop.
  • Facilitating a Leap Day for NHS North West.

Biggest accomplishment : Opening the All About People conference in Bournemouth with The Art and Soul of Better Work.

Why? Having resharpened and adapted my ‘live’ skills earlier on the year at the CIPD L&D show (recovering from misadventure) and at the Social Age Safari (my first time in an artist/curator role), I was given complete creative freedom for this session by Andy Swann, the event organiser. I’ve known Andy for a while, we had the privilege of doing a short European speaking tour together in 2015. There is a high level of trust in our relationship. Andy gave me the space, and the confidence to go all in on this session. This may sound cheesy, but I was at my best, most honest, wholehearted, imperfect self for this adventurous presentation, which combined a 20 minute talk at the start of the event, with a huge piece of cocreated art, made by our guests during the day.

It was an amazing event to be a part of, and led directly to me being invited to do something similar with Elmbridge Borough Council later in the year. This connection shows me that people see something in what I do that resonates with them. I believe I give generously of myself, and that what goes around, comes around. This event and the present and subsequent joy it brought to others and to me, matters. I need to make more people aware of this, and build on it.

Partnering Work. Work which we source/attract through our network, and which I have a role in designing and facilitating, sometimes as part of a bigger event/program.

  • Fringe events at PPMA annual conference with Meg Peppin.
  • Fringe events at CIPD annual conference with Meg, fourth year running.
  • Preliminary design of the Confer product.

Biggest accomplishment : Our fourth year of fringe events at the CIPD annual conference.

Why? Over the past three years, Meg and I have developed an excellent working relationship with Stephen Pobjoy and his team at the CIPD. This coalesced into a highly confident series of fringe events in 2016, which still retained their slightly edgy, experimental feel of previous years. Meg and I worked really well together, and we made great use of the trust the CIPD place in us. This enabled the delivery of some enjoyable, useful work with a creative and gently challenging edge. It’s well worth noting and acknowledging that the work we did at the PPMA conference arose from a positive experience at the 2015 CIPD fringe – so once again, good things are connected. I need to make more people aware of this, and build on it.

Associate work. Work which I do for and on behalf of other legal entities.

  • Becoming a partner at EthosVO and finding a useful and enjoyable role as a member of the People Group, a bit like an HR department, but so much better!
  • Signing an associate agreement with Smith+Co, and supporting a customer experience project with and for a key client.

Biggest accomplishment : Being a part of the EthosVO People Group.

Why? EthosVO is unlike anywhere else I work. It’s a partnership which has “The ability to build multi-stakeholder ecosystems that deliver trust and engagement at the individual level” Whether for customer, citizen, employee. Whether for their work, living or well-being. Building engagement and trustworthiness is the crisis of our current times that needs more attention, leadership and enabling technologies. The People Group, of which I am a member, is a loose approximation of an HR department, though unlike any other I’ve seen. This is partly due to the operating nature of the business and partly due to our desire to experiment with different ways of working.

It’s hard work – we face thorny challenges around recruitment, retention, performance and more. It’s real work too. Sometimes as a freelance consultant it can be hard to stay grounded. Lofty ideas and aspirations are useful and have a place – and they need to knit with the client reality, the day to day grind. Doing this work as part of EthosVO is an enjoyable challenge and gives me something which few freelancers have. I need to make more people aware of this, and build on it.

Artist (Yes. I am an artist)

  • Starting and establishing the We Are All Artists free art project, resulting in over 60 pieces of original art given away at random.
  • Selling over 20 original artworks.
  • Seeing the total donation from my art related work to Arts Emergency, rise over £300.

Biggest accomplishment : The We Are All Artists free art project.

Why? Imagine you could develop a hobby into one of the greatest learning opportunities of your life. An opportunity which would connect you to your community in ways you couldn’t begin to imagine, an opportunity which would see you featured in the local newspaper, see you and your project covered by ITV London Evening News, an opportunity to make new friends, develop your practice, and win a community award. Need I say more?

To conclude part one.

I mistakenly subtitled this section of my plan ‘Coming Back From Nowhere’, that was too harsh. I’m definitely coming back from somewhere. Somewhere interesting, useful, curious, challenging and enjoyable. I’m going to leave the subtitle in to remind me not to be so hasty next time, not to be so down on myself, and to acknowledge and focus more on the good things. Recording this feedback has been enjoyable and useful, it has reminded me that even in a poor year, many excellent things happened. It has also shown me how connected many things are. I need to raise my awareness of this less in review, more in the moment.

More please!

Nail Bar : Responding to Differences

I was at the CIPD conference in Manchester recently, and decided as the continuation of experimenting with difference, to have my nails done for the second year running. Why? Two main reasons. First, I was curious to see how people reacted, and second, overall I enjoyed the experience the first time and simply wanted to repeat it.

In 2015 I chose a dark purple as my colour, this year I went with green. Both times I enjoyed the experience of the manicure itself – thanks to the good people at Peter Marcus. and the subsequent reactions from people fascinated me.

While reflecting on this recently, a friend asked me how I reacted to myself. Here’s what I recalled:

Part One.

In 2015 I had my nails done for the first time. Keira and I have played around with nail varnish at home loads of times, this was the first time in public. The person in the nail bar commented I was the first man customer who had asked for a manicure and polish. I chose a deep purple varnish. I left the nail bar and immediately scuffed a nail – went back and was fixed up again. Left for a second time feeling very self conscious. That feeling stayed with me and I attracted a range of feedback. Surprise, delight, confusion, acknowledgement of bravery, curiosity (why would I do such a thing?), and disapproval. The uncertainty stayed with me. I remember hiding my nails from view on the tube on the way home.

Part Two.

In 2016 I went back for another go. The person in the nail bar remembered me, we had a few laughs, made sure my nails were properly dry this time! I felt much less self conscious this year, and I think as a result of this, I attracted far fewer comments. I occasionally found myself hiding my nails but for the most part, I think they looked good and I liked what I’d had done and enjoyed the experience.

Part Three.

Based on this experiment, it seems that I invite reactions from other people more than I previously thought I did. There is no good reason why I felt awkward, beyond my own hangups and my perception of the prejudices of others. This is a small experiment in how people, me included, respond to difference. As an older white man, I have all/most of the privilege in many situations. The nails is a way of me disarming and enjoying myself, and I still get nervous/uncertain etc. I’m keeping going.

Part Four.

Best £25 I’ve spent in ages!

nail-bar

In addition to the nails experiment, which I will be repeating soon, I sometimes choose to wear shorts to work in the summer months. This is another one of those small differences which in some cases, attracts interesting responses. Internally I wrestle with ‘is it acceptable to wear shirts to work?’ even in very high temperatures. I frequently talk myself out of shorts and into trousers, then regret this when I’m overheating on a crowded tube in London. Additionally – I note that people (it is nearly always men) who react in any way to the shorts situation, do so by mocking me for my choice. To what extent I invite this reaction, I am unsure.

I find this kind of experiment fascinating – in terms of what I learn about others and myself, and as a reminder of my own prejudices, and as a reminder to be kind. If you’ve tried anything similar – I’d love to hear from you.