From HRD to Head of Integrity at #HRVision14

One feature I’ve enjoyed at HRVision has been the spicing up of keynote sessions with challenging talks of a more TEDx nature, questioning some of the ethics and priorities of business. On the first morning we had Tim Macartney challenging legacy and on the second morning it was the turn of Unilever’s Geoff Macdonald to throw down the gauntlet on purpose and integrity.

It was a powerful, passionately delivered session in which he set out some thoughts for a kind of Capitalism 2.0. Some of the things he said:

  • Let profit follow purpose
  • There are too many strategies and not enough culture
  • Don’t talk about consumers, talk about human beings
  • Stop marketing to consumers and start mattering to people
  • Put purpose at the heart of everything you do

There were two specific things he said that seemed to have a big impact on delegates. The first was about the Unilever Corporate Social Responsibility team, and how they had effectively closed it as a separate function to enable them to live CSR through their people and their brand, and everything they do – ‘It can’t be a department but must live through our products

The second was a call to HR professionals to stop obsessing on being business focused and to assume the role of Chief Integrity Officer for the business – ensuring they pursue purpose ahead of profit and don’t carry on doing business in the same way. “Create the culture that shifts behaviours” he said and channelled Drucker with “in a battle between culture and strategy there’s only one winner every time“.

Before Geoff we had the energetic and engaging Hollie Delaney from Zappos introducing the conference to their core values and culture. The three most popular takeaways were:

  • Culture is everyone’s job
  • If you trust your people to do the right thing then they will
  • Organise the work not the people

Having culture as the cornerstone to recruitment, performance and hence hiring and firing may seem harsh, and might also raise questions over diversity, but it seemed to resonate well around the room.

The morning had opened with Gary Kildare, Global VP/CHRO from IBM. He told us that

  • Engagement isn’t just about people inside your organisation but everyone you do business with
  • There’s no ‘war’ between generations
  • Hierarchy is dead

…and that senior leaders need to be open to change, good listeners, accept that there are other ways of doing things and to create opportunities for everyone in the organisation to achieve and develop their potential.

To some following from afar his observations may not come as news, but at events such as this it is usually the delivery, the energy and chemistry amongst attendees in the room, and the conversations and interactions that follow, that strengthens the message. To have the global CEO of a major business open the first day and a global VP the second, also strengthened the impact.

Overall the talk of integrity, purpose and belief in a better way of doing business, the strength of culture over strategy, and of building trust was an intoxicating brew for many. Taken together with yesterday’s session on legacy and sustainability, and linking it all with the power of social networks, we’ve been offered an interesting challenge and vision to take back to our businesses.


2 thoughts on “From HRD to Head of Integrity at #HRVision14

  1. Hi Merv, thanks for the update, I’m disappointed to be missing out on some great content. I’ve seen Geoff speak about this recently and his point seems to fall down when he is challenged as to whether it isn’t the role of the broader senior team – or certainly the CEO – to own the integrity mantle for the organisation. The changes he describes at Unilever were primarily due to momentum created by the change in CEO. Do HR have a role in keeping things honest? Of course they do – but in the same way he suggests that they decentralised CSR to make it everybody’s job I’d suggest that they should do the same with integrity. It seems like a desperate play for relevance and importance rather than an ambition for HR as a function. Help create companies with a widely accepted moral compass, don’t try and centralise that compass…

  2. Agree with David on this one – seems like a total cop out to say CSR should be decentralised and then say HR should be the integrity flag bearer! And creating yet another wanky job title to be the fall guy for this stuff is just lame. Truth is HR cant be the integrity bearer, its not something that they have the power or authority to do, and they should not either. The whole org should have a culture of integrity, led by the actions of the c-suite. And anyone in the org should be able to call them out, but thats another story. Also, to be radicle, perhaps HR should be disbanded and handed out to the organisation – managers and leaders. Ok, maybe not the operational stuff, but the consultative stuff. People is everyones business, just like CSR and Integrity.

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