#SocialHRMcr – The Weapon of Mass Inclusion

Perry Timms speaking about the Weapon of Mass Inclusion

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

On Thursday 16th March, Manchester’s CIPD Branch held a fantastic event #SocialHRMcr at Lancashire County Cricket Club. Many HR professionals and other interested folk gathered together to discuss the use of social media in the workplace.

An innovative combination of conference and unconference, it was great to not only listen to some of the leaders in the exciting world of social HR, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to share my love of social whilst participating in the lively discussions that followed.

Weapon of Mass Inclusion

One of the key moments in the conference for me was @PerryTimms declaring Social Media as the “weapon of mass inclusion”.

I completely agree. The accessibility and inclusiveness of social media and social technology is one of the reasons I believe it has so much power to bring about change and why I believe we should adopt a social mindset in the workplace. Continue Reading…

10 Reasons to Learn through Improv

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

Recently I blogged over on my personal blog about my journey into the world of improvised comedy.

Since writing that post, I’ve been thinking about all the reasons why I think learning through improv is great. Here are ten of those reasons.

1. “Yes, and…” is a great mantra

Anyone that knows anything about improv, will know that the fundamental principle is “Yes, and”. In practice, this means you have to listen and observe what has happened, accept it and build upon it.

Although simple in theory, this can be a challenge for some people. You have to resist the urge to forge ahead with your own idea or to shout down your partner. Instead you must think about how you can take their idea and improve upon it. Accepting other’s ideas and building upon them is an important lesson in business. No one wants to work with the negative person that ignores or criticises every idea someone else puts forward. They want to work with people they can collaborate with to build something great. Continue Reading…

Top 10 Tools for Learning

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

So Jane Hart is currently compiling her annual Top 100 tools for Learning list, as voted for by learning professionals worldwide. It includes tools used for both personal or professional learning, as well as tools used to create or develop learning in all forms, so it is often an eclectic mixture of online, productivity and creativity tools.

Below you can see my vote – it has a social feel to it, with a touch of academia. For me, the best learning is social, preferably online and on demand. These tools are just a few of the many tools that help facilitate that. Continue Reading…

Further Focus on Future Talent (Part 2)

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

My last post Focussing on Future Talent gave an overview of my morning at the Future Talent Now conference on 9th July. Here is the follow up to that post giving a recap of the afternoon’s sessions.

After lunch, Rushanara Ali MP, the Shadow Minister for Education stepped up to the stage to deliver a speech on ‘Developing an inclusive approach to future talent’. Considering my interest in inclusion and the skills agenda, I had high hopes for this session but was left disappointed and turned off by the party political rhetoric and pre-scripted nature of her speech. Rushanara spoke about some important issues including the lack of social mobility within our society and the need for meaningful vocational pathways into the world of work (ironic considering her degree in PPE from Oxford), but her politics and delivery overshadowed the key messages. Unfortunately I don’t think she was helped by the post-lunch slump in energy and it did feel like some of the buzz had escaped through the glass ceiling at the Opera House.

Alex Lowe from Google was next. I would confess to being a Google fan girl, so perhaps I’m biased, but I enjoyed the session even if it did seem like a sales pitch to some. Alex talked about some of the key trends in workplace technology and how employers need to keep up with changes such as the rising number of people searching for jobs on mobiles or the arrival of digital natives in the workplace. Alex Lowe also showed a fantastic video from Heineken really illustrating the power of social media to tell stories to engage with your employees and potential hires. A useful introduction to the world of collaborative technology, I think this was an important session.

Before the afternoon break, Marc de Leyritz gave some of his insights into good leadership. I sadly can’t remember the exact thread of Marc’s speech and it seems people were too busy listening to actually tweet, so I can’t rely on the twitter feed to fill me in, but I know he spoke about authenticity and humility, both qualities I expect in the best leaders. I think he also spoke about how the outside image, may not always be the same as the inside one. This is another session I would like to watch again, so I could reflect upon it some more.

Matthew Hancock MP, then minister for Skills and Enterprise, now Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, was the second politican of the day to stand up behind the lectern and deliver a pre-prepared speech. Less party-political than Rushanara Ali, but delivered with all the passion of a potato, his speech on ‘Fostering inspiration in young people about their future employment’ was less than inspiring. Largely a collection of sound bites, he did talk about the importance of employers engaging with young people and some great work in this space by organisations such as Movement to Work and Plotr. He spoke about positive changes within education, which include the inclusion of post-school outcomes in league tables. He also talked about the return of the apprenticeship and how they will be a route to success for young people. It was good to get a sense that progress is being made, but it would be nice to hear someone speak about these issues with passion and deep knowledge and understanding, rather than another politican parroting a dull speech with little substance.

The panel discussion with CEO of Changeboard and Plotr, Jim Carrick-Birtwell, the CIPD’s Katerina Rudiger, who leads the Learning to Work Campaign and Kirstie Mackey, who is head of Barclays’ LifeSkills programme, seemed to end up being less a panel discussion and more a basic introduction into the three different programmes, with each speaker talking in turn. However it was interesting to hear about some of the great work being done to tackle issues related to employability and careers advice for young people and although I was already aware of all three programmes, I am glad more is being done to raise awareness of these resources.

Finally the day was brought to a close with a round of “thank yous” to those involved and most people headed upstairs and onto the balcony for an opportunity to network and discuss the highlights of the day. I left a while later and headed towards my train, weary but excited about the opportunities to make an impact upon these issues.

Overall, I found the day really engaging and inspiring. These are often words which get over-used when talking about events like these, but it really was one of the best events I’ve been to.

I do think the afternoon was let down a little by the two politicians. The room lost its buzz after Rushanara Ali and struggled to get it back during the rest of the afternoon. I really think both MPs could learn a lot from the other speakers about how to deliver an engaging keynote without having to resort to a script. Someone on the LinkedIn group suggested that I shouldn’t bash the politicians because they need to be engaged in the debate and at least they came. My response to that was I agree they need to be at these events – they are elected and paid to do just this, but I didn’t see them engaging in the debate. They both turned up to deliver a pre-prepared speech full of sound-bites and party political campaigning and then left. When they were asked questions at the end of their session, finally having a chance to show they are listening and engaged, one was visibly shaken by it and the other just dodged around the subject. I suggested it might be nice to organise a panel discussion at future events in the format of Question Time, with politicians banned from using pre-prepared notes, taking challenging questions from the floor. Then they would have no choice but to truly listen and engage with the topic. I expect this actually could scare them off though!

That aside, the day really got me thinking about the big challenges around youth unemployment and the mis-match between employer expectations and young people’s skills. I realised how interesting I find working in this area. Prior to leaving Accenture earlier this year, I worked on the Skills to Succeed team and was involved with the Movement to Work campaign and also conducted research alongside e-skills UK, thinking about how the IT industry could encourage young people (digital natives) into careers in technology. Some of this work is now being brought to life with the foundation of The Tech Partnership by a number of leading technology employers. I find this hugely exciting and hope this is another sign that employers will be playing a greater role in helping young people into the world of work in future.

Focussing on Future Talent (Part 1)

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

Much of my focus over the past few weeks has been upon future talent. Not only am I researching what makes a great campus engagement programme for a large graduate employer, I was also lucky enough to attend Changeboard’s Future Talent Now conference last week at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. Many of the UK’s HR leaders turned up for what was an engaging day of thought-provoking and inspiring sessions and it was a really fantastic event. One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.

Here’s my round up of the morning sessions or you can take a look at my twitter feed for my live tweets from the day.

The first session started with the CIPD’s Peter Cheese giving an overview of the changing world of work, focussing on what it means to operate in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) environment. He spoke about the need to engage with education and to develop managers. The session set the tone for the day, reminding everyone in the room of the big challenges facing us all when it comes to future talent.

Next up was Ashok Vaswani from Barclays. I have to confess I struggled to hear most of his session from the balcony, so had to rely on the twitter feed to keep up, but the messages which got through rang true with me. He talked about the influence that having three generations in the workplace will have upon talent and the impact of the ‘digital revolution’. He talked about the need for employers to invest in future talent and about what Barclays hope to achieve with their LifeSkills programme. I am looking forward to watching this one back so I can hear the whole speech, as from what I heard it was an interesting and engaging story and I’d like to learn more.

The last session before the morning break was from Lucy Adams, former HR Director at the BBC. Lucy talked about the importance of trust in leadership and how trust in the workplace has been eroded in recent years. I loved her point that much of what we do in HR comes from a sense of distrust. She urged HR to work on the principle that employees are usually trustworthy decent people, rather than designing policy around the exceptions to that rule. She encouraged the audience to bring back “niceness” in leadership and to get to know their employees. Lucy also talked about the role of technology and how glassdoor gives back power to employees. I think employers can use social media as a platform to rebuild trust through authenticity and honest communication with their employees. Leaders need to engage directly with staff through this medium. Lucy seemed to agree with me on this. Overall, it was a really engaging session, full of wise advice for leadership and probably my highlight of the morning. I hope Lucy is also right about the return of “niceness”.

After a quick break, we returned for a session from Sir Anthony Seldon about values. We were encouraged to think about the values we live by and the values we need to instill in our young people. The greatest predictors of success in young people are self-restraint and control. He also talked about the importance of courage and kindness and the need for schools and workplaces to teach young people the importance of these qualities. The session was followed by a question about the importance of grit and resilience and from his answer, it was clear he felt these were important too. I found this a really interesting and thought-provoking session, which got me thinking about the qualities I look for in people and the values I hold most dear. I could have happily listened to Sir Anthony speak all day.

Alan Watkins followed with a session on neuroscience and the relationship between behaviour, thoughts, feelings, emotion and physiology. He explained how physiology has a big influence upon how we feel and how stress can have a different effect on people depending on their heart rate variability. He gave a clear demonstration of what happens when you are stressed, connecting an audience volunteer up to a heart rate monitor and challenging them with simple mathematical questions. Finally he said the clue to controlling that physiology lies within breathing – a tip that any singer or actor will already be very familiar with. Very little of what he spoke about was new to me, as I was familiar with this relationship between physiology, thoughts and behaviour through past learning from cognitive behaviour therapy, singing lessons and anxiety/stress management courses. However, the session was expertly delivered and a great introduction to these ideas for those with less prior experience.

The last session before lunch was from Alain de Botton. He reminded us “a happy worker is a more productive worker” and talked about how we shouldn’t use our gut instinct to find a job or a lover, as so often the gut is wrong, demonstrated by just how many relationships end in divorce. He spoke of a broken education system, which doesn’t prepare young people to find jobs and the need to improve careers advice – a message which was a recurrent theme throughout the day. He talked about the need to help workers find meaning in their jobs by telling stories which ensure employees understand their purpose at work. He spoke about the waste of human talent when a business card says one thing and the heart another. Yet another speaker I could happily listen to all day, the session was funny, poignant and relevant to the topic in hand. A really great way to end the morning.

By now I was hungry and we all headed upstairs in search of lunch. Delegates enjoying the fresh air on the balcony overlooking a sunny Covent Garden bonded over their hunt for one of the small bowls of food circulating through the crowd. After a delicious bowl of cheese soufflé served with a pretty salad of flowers, I headed inside to look around the exhibition. Having been to Yorkshire the weekend before for the Grand Depart I was persuaded to take on the Oracle HCM smoothie bike challenge in an attempt to win a Tour de France yellow jersey. Sadly I failed to maintain the required speed and my score wasn’t going to win any prizes, but I enjoyed the fruit smoothie I’d blended up in the meantime. Soon it was time to head back down for the afternoon session and I was really looking forward to listening to more engaging speakers.

For an overview of the afternoon and further reflections on the day, look out for another post coming soon.

Introducing Social to #CIPDMCRPP

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

Last night I attended CIPD Manchester’s Public Policy Panel’s discussion on social media and whether it could be a useful tool for the group to encourage further discussion or raise awareness.

The Public Policy Panel was set up by the Manchester Branch aiming to influence CIPD policy on local, national and international policy issues. The group meet around three times a year to discuss public policy issues and consultations such as the introduction of settlement agreements. As is often the nature of policy-driven debate, the topics discussed can be quite sensitive or controversial and as such, the group operates Chatham House Rule to encourage open discussion and allow people to feel able to put their own views forward, without it reflecting upon their organisation or employer. The group’s desire to preserve this freedom for open discussion raises questions about how social media could support the aims of the group.

I feel it is important to note that Chatham House Rules are not necessarily incompatible with social media. The rules allow anyone at the meeting to use the information discussed, but not to reveal who made any comment. So in theory, as long as a members anonymity is preserved other members at the group could share information about what was raised on social media. The issue comes when the content of that information may automatically reveal who shared it and it would be down to attendees to think carefully about what could or should not be posted.

To start the debate, the group was given a quick tour of the world of social by Ian Pettigrew (@kingfishercoach) and his views on some of the benefits. Ian highlighted that there were two main ways he used social media: 1. Marketing – to market himself and his business and 2. Learning – to share and learn from other HR and L&D professionals. I think for the Public Policy panel, these are the two main opportunities as well. 1. To advertise the work of the group, increase their influence and to encourage new members to join and 2. to continue policy discussion outside of face-to-face meetings and to learn and share with other members of the group, building the strength of the community.

By the end of Ian’s session, many were convinced of the power of social media and felt that they would like to see how it could be applied to the group. Each member was asked whether they would like to see social media used and their thoughts on how it might work. Most wanted to give it a go, but were unsure how to proceed. Other members still had reservations, particularly around confidentiality or anonymity. Only one person expressed opposition to the idea of using social media at all in the group.

Ideas for practical applications were suggested including having a nominated blogger to share what happened at meetings, twitter accounts with pseudonyms so people could put forward their views anonymously or a closed group, where policy discussions could continue outside of the regular face-to-face meetings but privacy could be maintained. No clear route to proceed was agreed, but it was suggested that perhaps the group need to experiment with a few approaches to decide the way forward and a sub-group will be tasked with creating a plan. Any of these approaches could work, but there may need to be a combination of tools to get the best mix for the organisation. A key takeaway of the session was to only do what social media works for you – don’t feel you need to do everything.

So this blog post is part of the experiment – will the group feel comfortable with the proceedings of the meeting being shared in a public forum? Could the group start a Policy Panel blog, posting a summary of events at the end of each face-to-face meeting? Can members be encouraged to blog their own views? On the night, a number of attendees shared comments on the session on twitter and a hashtag was agreed (#CIPDMCRPP), another experiment for the group. Could they continue to do this if the topic was something more controversial? Would people be more comfortable if they were not posting from their own personal accounts? Are some people happy to ‘work out loud’ and are not concerned with anonymity anyway? These are just some of the questions the panel will need to consider when deciding how best to proceed.

My main takeaway from the session was a sense that everyone is at a different place on the social media adoption journey. Some people are keen to get involved, but unsure of where to start. Some have dipped their feet in, but are still getting to grips with it and are keen to learn more. Some are scared by the technology. Some are not at all phased by the tech, but are skeptical about the benefits of social media. Some are already deeply engaged in social media and use it every day. Some like me are so passionate about the benefits, they are keen to get others on board. Everyone really is at a different point in the journey and it’s important not to focus just on one particular group.

The session gave me plenty of food for thought on how best to help organisations adopt social media and social learning practices. Different people will need different support if they are to embrace these new ways of working. Working with each of these different view points and giving people the information they need to move forward in their own journey is key to fostering a social learning culture.

Diversity at Google

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

Last week Google published their diversity figures, sparking a lot of debate about diversity (or rather lack of) in technology companies, particularly those in Silicon Valley.

The company posted a message from Laszlo Block (Senior VP in People Operations) on the Google blog reflecting upon the current situation, alongside the figures and a new microsite focused on their diversity initiatives.

We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts – Laszlo Block

This step puts Google ahead of their Silicon Valley peers in the debate about diversity and I do feel they should be admired for this honesty when they were aware the figures would not reflect well on the company. However, there are issues with the figures and the discussions they have sparked.

Google have successfully opened up the discussion. They have got people talking about the gender gap, STEM education and ethnicity. However, I have been disappointed by the narrow focus of debate. The figures do not paint the whole picture. People are not defined simply by their gender or ethnicity. Inclusion and diversity is not just about individual characteristics or basic demographics. It’s about culture in the company, the industry and society as a whole. Workplace inclusion should focus on whether staff feel able to be themselves at work. It is about fostering collaboration and innovation through difference of experience and thought. It is about people as individuals with a diverse range of experiences, personalities and characteristics. We need to shift the debate from individual demographics to encouraging a wider view on inclusion and diversity, which considers all aspects of a person’s identity and the company’s culture.

The irony is, I think if Google looked at diversity from an inclusion perspective, they may actually be doing better than they think. Their culture encourages collaboration and innovation and employees are able to express their own interests through their 20% projects. Their employer brand is enviable, well respected for their benefits, training and other workplace policies. I imagine the figures for some other protected characteristics may be more representative of the general population than perhaps the gender or ethnicity measures are. I also expect there is a relatively, liberal, open and accepting culture, bearing in mind the social and educational background of a lot of their staff and the fact that open discussion and debate is encouraged. Google have employee resource groups for a huge range of characteristics – not just a women’s network, but groups for older googlers (greyglers), LGBT (gayglers), people with disabilities, veterans and more. People can express their identities through these communities. Google may well be more diverse than it realises. Of course without working there I cannot vouch for any of this – it is speculation, but I think comments in a blog post by “a lady googler”, Angela Watson Strong suggest this may indeed be the case.

I think Google handles diversity better than any other company or organization in which I’ve ever worked— including “progressive” organizations. – Angela Watson Strong

So my takeaway from the Google Diversity debate? Don’t just focus on how many women or people from ethnic minorities you recruit. Focus on creating a culture which embraces the individual, allows people to thrive and encourages collaboration and you will make a much bigger impact upon maximising the power that diverse teams can have upon innovation and performance in your organisation.

CIPD L&D Show 2014 Thoughts

This post was originally found on my business blog and has been reposted here in May 2015.

I had a fantastic time this week at the CIPD L&D Show and have enjoyed tweeting my reaction over the last couple of days. You can read my live tweets from the show over on twitter – @lellielesley. I hope to gather the key highlights together on storify soon.

Sadly the first day felt a little disappointing. Some of the workshop sessions did not live up to high expectations and I was a little disappointed by the lack of innovation on show. There was a lot of good practice, but nothing which really struck me as truly innovative or impressive. It was all a bit predictable.

Thankfully I was revitalised by the CIPD and #LDConnect tweetup on Wednesday evening. Meeting fellow learning and development professionals who share my passion for innovation, social learning and collaboration was energising and I had some really interesting conversations. I was not the only person there who had recently left the corporate world to embark upon self-employment and it was also good to share experiences and learn from others who had gone it alone a long time ago. Overall, it was clear there was a supportive community and I hope to develop stronger links within this community in future.

I went into Day 2 feeling re-energised and hoping it would deliver beyond my expectations. Thankfully it did.

The day got off to a great start with an inspiring session from Google. Their culture embodies everything which I am passionate about at work – innovation, collaboration and authenticity. People are encouraged to be themselves and to follow their passions. They are a social organisation, learning from each other. The session was really interesting and it was great to hear about the scientific approaches Google apply to encouraging collaboration – the idea that the dinner queue needs to be an exact length to encourage employees to talk to each other was fascinating.

After this, I enjoyed a session from Visa and Telefonica on their early talent programmes. It was great to hear practical examples of how Visa have made their apprenticeship programmes work for them and it was nice to see two organisations presenting a coherent presentation together, rather than two separate case studies delivered without any thought to how the presentation should work as a whole.

The final session I attended was focussed on one of my favourite subjects – social learning and technology, looking at how two organisations (Bromford Group and SantaFe Group) had introduced enterprise social media for learning. I was particularly impressed by Michelle Parry-Slater’s presentation as it was clear from the energy and enthusiasm in her voice that she shared my passion for this way of learning. The platform she introduced, Fuse looks to have a lot of potential and I hope to learn more about it in future.

After this, I found myself stood in front of a camera crew talking about my career and thoughts upon my CIPD student membership as part of a series of members videos they were filming. I volunteered to take part on a whim after the CIPD put out a request for participants on twitter, but once I actually got in front of the camera I was starting to regret that decision. Hopefully the final video will be worth it.

The journey home was a long and tiring one, but my head was buzzing with ideas about the future of learning and development and all the exciting things I had learnt. I can’t wait to put some of these ideas into practice.