ACE 2018 - Back to Human

Tue 20 Nov 2018

Blog Author
Emily Allen
Product Manager - HR & L&D

My whole career I have worked in HR, and have been a member of CIPD from the start, therefore the CIPD conferences are the only ones I have ever been to. I don’t know what a CIMA, a CIFA or a RCN conference looks like (if they even have one!) But I doubt they are as good as CIPD’s ACE.

Last week ACE was held in Manchester and as usual had loads of great speakers. A lot of the topics which were covered exposed me to ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across, and since it finished I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve taken away from them.

There was a huge focus on the importance of being human in the digital world. Dan Schawbel in particular highlighted the double-edged sword of technology. For all the convenience and speed it brings, it often hinders us developing and maintaining strong, real relationships which make our entire lives better (personal and professional).

We are often physically near to people, but not emotionally. Loneliness is now an epidemic, with the same health risks associated with 15 cigarettes a day. People often feel alone in an open plan office, and the virtual world is partly responsible for this as we are busy on our phones rather than making meaningful social connections.

The importance of people and relationships was echoed in Rachel Botsman’s key note speech on trust, which gave me an entirely new perspective on the topic. Trust is a word used so often but rarely understood, it has become background noise.

All organisations claim to want trust, it is often cited as a “value”. But organisations are made up of hundreds, or thousands of complicated humans. Trust is not just a catchphrase and cannot easily be created.

We cannot shortcut trust, although we often try. We often confuse convenience and speed for trust. For example, we trust new tech companies (think Uber, Amazon) because they are convenient and quick, but we don’t trust them to pay their taxes or do right by their workers. And when the chips are down, we don’t believe they are looking out for us consumers either.

Rachel said that competency questions are often asked at interviews – but this is perhaps not the most important thing to ask, after all, interviews have a notoriously poor success rate of finding the right candidate. Instead of finding out what their best achievement was, what we really want to know is what their consistency of behaviours are over time. We should want to understand more about their integrity, benevolence, and intentions.

Andy Burnham’s speech was unexpectedly one of my favourite parts of the conference. It was refreshing to see a passionate politician talking about issues he appeared to genuinely believe in. Unlike a lot of political speeches I have seen in recent years, he actually had SMART objectives (to end homelessness in Greater Manchester by 2020) and had a plan (to give every homeless person in GM a bed for the night this winter).

Andy Burnham’s very presence at ACE represented to me the importance of HR in understanding the external influences that affect our industries. We are not in a bubble, and we need to keep an eye on the world in this ever-changing external landscape, which supports what Professor Arturo Bris said in his talk - 70% of leadership risks are external to the business, not based on the personality of the CEO. This means a leader’s main role is to look externally to our ever-changing world.

These issues are also very human and focused on treating people with respect, which threaded through well with the “human” theme of the conference.

My final take-away worth noting is the CIPD’s new Profession map which was released at the conference. This is principles-led, evidence-based and outcomes-driven. In short, HR needs to use more common sense and less rule-books, and aim to make a real difference. We should be treating people as humans. Speaking to various HR professionals around the conference, it appears to have been well-received and I think it is a positive step forward. I look forward to seeing how it can embed itself into the HR profession.

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