Thursday, 18 September 2008

Talking talent (in turbulent times)

Closing Keynote

The Panel

Vicky Wright - President CIPD

Liane Hornsey - Google

Satish Pradhan - Tata Sons

David Smith - ASDA

Alex Wilson - BT

This panel session was introduced by Vicky Wright , President of the CIPD. Wright in her introduction directed us to the fact that all four of these organisations had one thing in common - they have all experienced and are experiencing transition currently.

Jon Snow facilitated the session featuring;

  • David Smith - ASDA
  • Liane Hornsey - Google
  • Alex Wilson - BT
  • Satish Pradhan - Tata Sons

Snow's opening words were "in the 20 years of Channel 4 news I can only think of two major events that have impacted all of us. One was 9/11 the other is our current economic challenge "

Snow posed a number of question to the panel and this was followed by the opportunity to ask questions. Below is a summary of key messages from each of the panel:

David Smith -

"you have to have an employer brand.. and mean it"

"it (business) is not just about making money, we must make money ethically and stability"

"one of the roles of HR is to say the unpopular messages/ news to the CEO"

"HR & Business strategy are the same thing"

"we recruit to the culture more than skills - all staff including hourly paid staff have to complete a 1/2 day assessment centre as part of the recruitment process. If they are gregarious, we will hire them, if they are shy or difficult we don't want them."

"we set out to befriend our people, managers are expected to know their people at an individual level"

Alex Wilson

"The further staff are away from the front line the more we (and other organisations) need to remember that customers are important."

"This is our (HR) time, now we need to shine in the tough times"

"our first choice in tough times is always redeployment rather than redundancy" - The alumni of people that have left the organisation is bigger than that employed - we do what we can for the majority to remain advocates"

Liane Hornsey

"HR is about picking the right people for the job. Google will not compromise - we only hire people that will add value to Google". Hornsey mentioned one example of this where she has a vacant head of HR post for over 18 months as she has yest to find a suitable candidate.

In answer to a question about retention strategy for Google...

"We make the environment a place people want to be

We develop people relentlessly

We give then the work (and challenge) they enjoy"

Google also recruit to the culture not the job - often recruiting people without offering a particular role and then work with the individuals to find the right role for them.

At Google they use people and their hobbies and encourage people to run workshops and short training sessions on their hobby - this helps to create a culture of learning and people are free to attend anytime - they do not need to ask permission to attend - the business trusts that this action will encourage loyalty and a drive to work harder.

Satish Pradhan

"always use the best people to solve the biggest challenges"

"communicate what you are doing.. why you are doing it and most importantly in an authentic way. You must do what is right for that business, not just for the stakeholders."

Diversity is not a universal formula, and what is relevant for one organisation and context. Successfully businesses cannot work to a mathematical formula to diversity. What is right for one is not necessarily right for another.

Tata is an organisation that is run more like a federation rather than a traditional hierarchy, so they enable and empower people. Tata believe governance and culture is critical. Often staff that were employed under previous owners can do and deliver given the right context.

You cannot and must not see unions as adversaries... you must see them as advocates, if you don't take this approach you lose before you start.

The Close

Wright summarised the week and reminded us that this week is the changing face of business. Wright reminded us that Orme had earlier said in the week that the CIPD is changing to provide "relevant help to you".. just in time.

Wright had the belief that the conference had provided delegates with "relevant things you can take away... something new that you can do... HR and the role of HR is changing"

  • Wright reminded us that Harrogate had been the home of the annual conference for 60 years (IPM, IPD etc..) and that they needs to change. The move to Manchester in 2009 would provide:
  • Better exhibition space on one level
  • The conference would be different - more relevant and provide more opportunities
  • Smaller groups
  • Select master classes
  • More events within the exhibition space (this has worked well for the last two years)
  • A more intimate environment

Wright also reminded us that the CIPD annual conference and exhibition 2009 would take place in NOVEMBER 2009... see you there...


This was an engaging and fitting end to the conference, we have had the Academics, the CEO's and finished with the HR directors. It was a shame that the audience by this session was somewhat depleted, many traveling back home and not fully engaged with the whole event. There were so many messages that would benefit many HR team members.

Now to travel home, to reflect on the weeks events and the overall impact of the exhibition and conference.. but that I will leave for another day.

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