Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Surviving and thriving through turbulence

After showing two high energy videos (one showing HR hero's which has started every session of the conference) the keynote for day two was introduced by Linda Holbeche, Director of Research and policy at the CIPD.

The theme of surviving and thriving through turbulence was 'split' into people and change focus and leadership focus.

Carolyn McCall, CEO from the Guardian media group started the session looking at people and change. After outlining the changes that her company had faced through the emergence of the digital age he positioned here experience of leading an organisation through significant and unpredictable turbulence.

McCall said that in challenging time like we are experience requires challenging people. McCall highlighted the challenges that the print media had faced, in that for the past 200 years the business model has hardly changed, however the past 10 years has changed everything. In the past you knew where your competitors were coming from... but who would have predicted that a technology (software) company would be the greatest competitor... Google.

To survive we need to keep our 'experts', however they need to be able to be adaptable and work collaboratively.

In times of change and turmoil McCall says that we need training, coaching and mentoring more than ever, and this is the time to increase this activity - not cut it back.

McCall has a clear view on HR, and that is that HR must not work in a silo or be purely functional. HR needs to be a true business partner. As strategic partners they need to be strong enough, work transparently and be honest to the CEO. It is the responsibility of HR to tell the CEO the truth, not to hide the facts. This can prove to be the key information source to the CEO providing information that cannot be obtained other ways.

We were then show a video showing the views of HR people from the GMG company. This clearly showed the commitment the HR people get and give.

The key seven factors for success.

  • Make people strategy an integral part of business strategy
  • Make change early to set the tone
  • Never compromise on getting the best
  • Foster networks, coaching and mentoring
  • Plan for succession (needs to be live not just a document kept in a draw)
  • Keeping investing for the upturn (training, development marketing etc)
  • You can never communicate enough

David Robinson - CEO of richersounds.

Robinson started with the statement that when under stress it is easy for leaders to revert to command and control , but that it is important to keep an eye on the people involvement.

The key five leadership qualities that make the difference Robinson's believes are:

  1. Communicate - richersounds do weekly and detailed updates to all staff
  2. Integrity - better to tell the truth early and if belts need tightening - tighten at the top first (and not just bonuses)
  3. Accessibility - not just platitudes during induction but to really be accessible
  4. Bravery under pressure
  5. Single mindednesses

Robinson said that it is important to admit to mistakes and show that you learn from the mistakes. Honesty and integrity.

Motivating staff is vital in times of challenge Robinson's 'magic' includes:

  1. Fun
  2. Recognition (just in time)
  3. Flexibility
  4. Rewards (reward the behaviours that you want)
  5. Loyalty (inc long service)

Finally Robinson outlined that to have a winning team we need to look at the successes of the Olympic team GB. To create a team he believes the following is required:

  1. Clear objectives
  2. Manage failure
  3. Have the best ingredients (people and resources, products etc)
  4. Work harder (and smarter) than your competition
  5. User trigger words or phrases to engage with your people
  6. Lead by example
  7. Value rest - pausing can make a big difference - take a break.
  8. Celebrate success.


All of the three speakers were coherent and very listenable. Messages were blindingly simple, it was down to the belief, trust and integrity of the people at the very top of the organisation - total commitment to a leadership approach. It was about CEO's starting to spend as much or more time with the HR professionals than they do with the Finance Officer.

A wonderful and engaging close to the second day of the 2008 CIPD annual conference.

No comments: