Along with my colleagues, Colman Collins and Michelle Murphy, I attended the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development conference yesterday in Dublin. This years’ event was themed “Leading HR into the Future”. Overall the conference was excellent, with over 300 HR professionals attending. The day was most enjoyable with a great mix of presenters and topics. Here are some of the messages I took away from the conference.

First up was Martin Murphy, Managing Director of HP in Ireland. Martin spoke about the need for Ireland to remain competitive as this is going to be critical in our efforts to attract Foreign Direct investment. He listed Singapore, Costa Rica and Poland as serious competitors for multinational investment.  Martin spoke in some detail about the need for HR to take a leadership role in developing HR strategy.

The second speaker was David Fairhurst (Senior VP – Chief People Officer with McDonalds). David presented some fascinating research on how young people are viewing their future careers and what they want from their work life. Some of the more interesting insights were:

  1. Young people increasingly have a global outlook on the world – this applies to their careers also.
  2. They have grown up in an era of great change and constant disruptive technologies and are therefore much better equipped to deal with change. They will be a more flexible and adaptable workforce.
  3. The death of the summer job – increasingly students, both 2nd and 3rd level are finding it very difficult to get any work experience or even summer jobs. This means there is a cohort of graduates coming onto the job market without any meaningful work experience.
  4. Young people respond better to problem-based solving – learning with visual aids rather than the traditional manual and presentation training style. David gave a great example of how they have taken an innovative approach to training young staff in McDonalds. In order to train staff on a new till system they developed an online game and made the learning experience “fun” this has worked really well and shows how McDonalds have adapted their training to appeal to their younger workforce.

The next speaker was Peter Cheese, the recently appointed CEO of the CIPD in the UK and author of “The Talent Powered Organisation”. Peter gave an excellent presentation focussing on the new challenges for HR with the new paradigm of high unemployment and yet skills shortages in key technology sectors.  Very interestingly, he also spoke about the need for organisations to build assessments to gauge emotional intelligence into their recruitment process as he feels this is a more likely predictor of future success than IQ.

After lunch, Matthew Elderfield, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and Liz Joyce, HR Director in the Central Bank shared their experiences of how they led the Central Bank through a dramatic transformation using best practice HR. The overarching message from both Matthew and Liz was about the need to constantly and consistently communicate with staff during the change initiatives.

Next up was Meagan O’ Hanlon, Clinical Manager with PPC Worldwide who presented on “Managing Resilience in Difficult Times”. This, in my opinion, was of the most interesting of the presentations. Resilience is defined as the “ability to bounce back and adjust to the challenges life throws our way”; anyone who has worked in the recruitment industry through 2008-2010 will know a little about resilience! Meagan’s presentation detailed the main drivers in causing workplace stress for individuals:

  1. Redundancy
  2. Reduction – in resources, pay support, etc.
  3. Responsibility – extra responsibility being foisted upon staff
  4. Restructuring – change and uncertainly that comes with it
  5. Resistance – can come in two forms passive and direct challenges to change.

All the above are drivers in causing workplace stress. Meagan then focussed on the factors that cause stress in organisations:

  1. Inconsistency – selective communication. Some people being kept in the dark.
  2. Lack of clarity – no long term strategy. Poor or no performance reviews.
  3. Negative reinforcement – responding and highlighting negatives.

How an Organisation can foster a less stressful environment:

  1. Promote and facilitate discussion
  2. Communications – promote positive and regular communications
  3. Praise Staff – Performance reviews should be given the importance they deserve
  4. Acknowledge positive behaviours and reward however small.

The next presentation came from Social Media guru Krishna De. Krishna spoke about how HR needs to engage with social media and its importance for employer branding. She really emphasised the need to ensure your content engages with your target audience. She also spoke of the importance of having a mobile strategy and encouraged organisations to use more images and visuals as part of their social media strategy.

Finally a special mention and a big “Well Done” to Mike McDonnell and Wendy Sullivan and all others who worked so hard to ensure the conference was a great success. Looking forward to 2014 already!

Niall Murray

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services