Finding a Focus

Ever since I started my master’s back in November, I’ve been thinking about the impending dissertation and the topics I might like to research. Whereas I dreaded my undergrad dissertation, this time around I have been looking forward to the research element most of all. There is so much about the world of work and talent that I want to understand better and the opportunity to spend three months looking at some of these issues in depth is exciting. I have worked on research projects over the past few years, but rarely have I had time to really dive deep into an issue and try to truly understand it. The ‘real world’ moves quicker than academia and often demands answers and insight in a few days, rather than a few months.

Now the taught part of my course is behind me, it is time to make a decision on my research focus. The only problem is I can’t decide. Continue Reading…

Introducing Content

So my site is up and running again and I’ve finally written something on the ‘About Me’ page. You can also learn about my name and why I became known as ‘Lellie’.

I haven’t quite worked out what I am going to ramble about on here, as opposed to over on my business blog, but I am sure I will find something soon enough. Expect future posts to cover anything from the perils of writing a master’s dissertation through to the joy of improvised comedy, perhaps via a detour into the frustrations of knitting mistakes and the adventures of my dog, Nikki. You can spot her in my gravatar.

For now, please excuse the bare walls and do come back for more of my rambles soon.

Finally re-installed WordPress…

My WordPress install got corrupted months ago, so I let my personal site die as I didn’t have the time to fix it. Wanting somewhere I can ramble, that is less formal than my Pro Collaborate site, I’ve finally brought it back. A clean start. A new blog.

I shall try and get some content up here soon. For now it is an empty shell.

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.