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.


What We’ve Been Talking About at #HRVision14

During the afternoon sessions on Day 1 at HRVision I mainly went to presentations on talent management and engagement. There were some case studies and one or two supplier tracks. I don’t mind those as long as they share some insight rather than pitch – the ones I attended thankfully did the former.

Here are some of the things I heard:


‘If you think someone’s worth talking to then they must be worth listening to

This came from Emmajane Varley of HSBC during a presentation on their employee comms, the team that she runs.. It was an interesting session as she co-presented with her sister Jenny who runs the video channel HSBC Now TV (here’s a review from Rachel Miller a few months ago). She opened with “our leaders had done 148 years and we had had enough. There were too many people with their fingers on the talk button of the walkie talkie“. We had examples of employee involvement and talk of how leaders had embraced the shift from talking to openness and listening. Employee feedback showed an increase in being valued and many felt they had a say in management decisions – probably more the ear of leadership than a seat at the table.


‘Leaders need to be enablers’

During Ralf Larsson’s run through of the Electrolux employee engagement overhaul we heard of how managers had embraced blogging as a way of communication through the social intranet and also how having a mobile interface had driven more use. He talked of the positive impact of moving leadership away from being directive to being inclusive and from taking the role of enablers:

  • explains what employees need to do to support each other
  • encourage exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees
  • explain reasonoing behind decisions
  • trust employees to make decisions



‘You can also find out where to get a coffee’

One of the most impressive tech applications was from Accenture and their Candidate Interview Preparation App. There’s also one for the interviewer to help make sure that they are prepared too. Watch this video explaining more about the candidate app…they even let you know where the nearest coffee shops are…


‘Don’t just focus on your perm workers, understand your contingent workforce too, their passion and value for the organisation’

One of the supplier presentations was from Sally Hunter of Kelly OCG. She looked at various aspects of strategic workforce planning and also talked of the candidate experience, raising the difference between the way we treat consumers and job applicants even though the latter may also be the former. It’s a message we often discuss, but with different audiences at each event it’s one that needs to be repeated.

The main part for me though was about the expectations and needs of contingent workers. In my event preview I raised the point about engaging people who work for you, and represent you, but may not be employed by you. Many presentations around talent and recruitment feature examples from businesses that outsourcer some of their workforce – maybe we need to hear more about the worker/collaborator experience as well as the employee experience.


‘Diversity means nothing without inclusion’

The topic of diversity has been raised a few times. The point being strongly made is that without Inclusion it means nothing.

During the HSBC session we saw videos from employes talking about issues that they behave had with weight and mental health and support that they received. They also shared this video from Antonio Simoes, Head of HSBC UK, on diversity and inclusion…



Leadership and Legacy Under The Spotlight at #HRVision14

Three hours in to HRVison14 and we’ve been hearing a lot about leadership. In amongst the presentations on culture change and learning, and during the almost complete silence as people listened, spellbound to Tim Macartney, the underlying theme is leadership.

Tim said:

Leadership is a choice.
An invitation to become truly courageous.
Explore what would make a beautiful life.

He captivated the 200+ delegates with a passionate plea to create a greater purpose, to challenge the notions of wealth accumulation, competition and streamlining by having business purpose & values centred around being proud of what have achieved in this lifetime.

He channeled the native American Indians “no product or service, no manner in the way we do business, should be allowed to impact the children for seven generations to come“. In their eyes he believed that today’s core leadership focuses of competition, market share and being top in their field may ultimately seem like hollow victories.

Before Tim we had heard from Frans van Houten, Global CEO of Phillips, on their global culture transformation. Bringing about change within a traditional, established global business, with embedded organisational structures and inevitable silo mentalities, takes time and a fresh approach – “it’s easy for established businesses to work in silos that create a survivor mentality, inevitably leading to people ducking decision rather than taking risk

A few of his messages that I noted were:

  • Focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing value to customers that makes them smile and makes them happy
  • Always act with integrity
  • It’s not about working harder but about working differently
  • Equip people with new tools, it will help them solve different problems
  • You need to make sure that change doesn’t just happen on the surface
  • Courageous conversations break the cycle of victim mentality and complaining mindset
  • Make the purpose your ‘north star’, the guiding principle that everyone wants to follow

Clearly all this requires a huge shift of mindset from leadership, particularly those used to meeting challenges by shuffling the org structures. Frans was particularly scathing of those who change structures expecting an uplift in performance; his preference was for agile teams created around a problem or project operating across functions.

The session after Phillips was from GE who spoke of strong leaders having a confident humility and learning agility. Their philosophy – Together, we all rise.

Starwood Hotels later spoke of leaders needing to embrace individualism, identity and inclusion within their teams (diversity is nothing without inclusion) whilst at the same time supporting them in making emotional intelligence, continuous feedback and management by objectives core leadership skills to meet developing workforce expectations.

Leaders usually take the plaudits when business performance is strong, when share price and profits are unceasing, so it’s probably right that they are under the spotlight when things need to change.

The words vision, value and opportunity have been heard quite a lot this morning but it was the concepts of legacy and sustainability – most notably from Tim Macartney’s session – that have probably really got most of the HR professionals here talking and thinking.


Looking for Inspiration and Learning at #HRVision14

In my last post I looked at employee engagement and what the future may hold. This will be one of the core topics at HRVision14, a 2 day conference in Amsterdam next week involving European HRDs and global leads for talent, branding and and engagement.

Sessions and cases studies are being delivered by a combination of TED speakers and senior practitioners from companies as diverse as Starbucks, IBM, Microsoft, L’Oreal, Phillips, Unilever, Zappos, HSBC and Siemens. There will also be a mix of workshops and ‘doctors surgeries’ with specialists in a variety of fields offering their advice and insight on a range of issues that keep the HR population awake at night.

The core specialist themes are:

  • Talent Management
  • Employee Engagement
  • Leadership Development
  • Branding and Recruitment

And there are some bold event promises too. I’ll be looking to see how they deliver on:

  • Learning how to foster an environment which allows for innovation, collaboration and empowerment, where people can openly discuss central issues.
  • Closing the development gaps in leader capabilities.
  • Exploring how to integrate social technologies into recruitment and engagement practices with forward thinking HR professionals making the connection between having a solid social media strategy and finding top talent.
  • Assessing critical future workforce gaps ensure attraction, identification, assessment and development of talent in order to ensure these gaps are closed.

Keynotes include Phillips on their global, cultural transformation, also leadership ideas outside the box (delivered by Tim Macartney), brand ambassador networks from Zappos and performance excellence with Dr Melissa Luke.

Away from the keynotes there are several sessions that interest me including rethinking internal comms with eBay, 21st Century guerrilla recruitment by Accenture, interconnected leadership and the previously referenced schmooze or lose approach to engagement.

I will be there on blogging and tweeting duties and hope to bring you some of the big themes and conversations through this blog and my Twitter feed. Follow the event hashtag – #HRVision14 – and also the twitter feed from OsneyHR, the event organisers.

There’s a promise of some fun time too with the Big Fat HR Quiz!

If you fancy some spring sunshine and HR debating in Amsterdam then there’s still time to book – hope to see a few of you there…