Conferences and Social Presentations

While at the annual conference of the CIPD, I look quite closely at the presenters themselves while on stage. They put themselves into a position of authority because they’re asked to and because they have some level of credibility in being there. It is of particular interest to me because I want to ensure that when I am delivering a presentation, I’m learning the right things, practicing them, and showing how to do it. In addition, I’m also looking for how to make presentations better.

So let’s assume some things are in the bag. You’ve prepped in advance. You like the shape of your story and you’ve practiced. Your slide deck is there to aid and build on your content. You’ve practices some more in front of others and gained feedback. You’ve chosen your clothes and you’re feeling good about it all. Things are in good shape, and you’ll deliver well.

Yesterday, Mike Collins taught me something I’ve completely dismissed – the social element. People will be tweeting about your talk, and those not there will be following the backchannel to follow the conversation. Before the talk, he was letting people know when he was talking, and he shared his deck through social channels. Here’s what Mike did which was just brilliant. He scheduled tweets to be posted that were in time with and in line with the content of his presentation. He didn’t just deliver his presentation, he was involving himself in the backchannel while delivering a live talk.


Too strong a description? No, it really isn’t. Think about what he’s done there. He’s giving his own context to any tweets about his talk. You know how a lot of people reading from afar get annoyed that soundbites are out of context and the hashtag doesn’t always help? Mike has shown us, quite simply too, how we get around that issue. If people want context, I’ll give it to them.

It takes concerted effort, and it takes careful planning. It also takes practice and a clear idea of where you’re going with the presentation. It doesn’t allow for going off piste, and it doesn’t allow for questions mid presentation. What it does do is allow the backchannel to have a full picture of what’s being presented.

There are some thoughts to consider when doing this:
– It can really only work if you’re prepping the audience to be involved in the backchannel before the talk. They need priming, and you need to be the one doing that.
– There has to be a hashtag which is in use, promoted well and a clear link to the event you’re talking at.
– It could work for keynote style talks, as long as the presenter is willing to invest the time in social tools. If not, they may need to partner with someone who can help them with it and get it right.
– You have to be sure you know where your presentation is going. A clear structure and flow will allow for the tweets to make sense, otherwise it will look very out of sync.

I thought at #ppia I was being clever by making it a social workshop, and trying to make the content interactive before the event. Mike has helped me to see that formal presentations can be made interactive in a different way.

Building the Workforces of Tomorrow

In the second keynote of the CIPD annual conference, the panel discussion was made up of Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, Michael Davis, UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Ann Pickering of O2, Toby Peyton-Jones, Siemens Plc, and Jo Swinson MP, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The discussion was focused on how the UK is taking steps to shape the workforce of tomorrow. It was a good panel, and all offered various insights into what different quarters are providing in terms of solutions. Micheal Davis went first to highlight some of the trends being observed by the commission. They found a range of results like:
– Young people are more sober, better behaved and more austere according to recent research.
– Small businesses tend to use informal recruitment practices.
– It’s hard to get into work if you haven’t got the right social connections, network or community.
– Only 1 in 4 employers offers an education leaver a job opportunity.

The last point was the one that stood out the most to me. Only 1 in 4 employers is willing to give an education leaver a job opportunity. You can see why there is such risk aversion in this economy, yet if we’re giving the workforce of tomorrow opportunities to enter work, then we’re only going to cripple the future of business.

Apprenticeships are not clear job/career choices for many young people and although has improved in UK, is comparatively poor against European counterparts. This was also a concern. There has been a rise in the number of apprenticeships on offer, and the number of young people entering work through those schemes, but we’re just not doing enough. Le Sigh.

Most important I think for business practices is about the recruitment process. The biggest challenge to young people in applying for jobs is getting feedback on why they haven’t been successful to help them improve. I experienced this as a ‘skilled porfessional’ and I’m quite wisened to the world (hush), and to hear that young people aren’t offered such valuable information is just baffling.

The piece from Ann was intersting about what’s happening at Telefonica. There are technical skills they know they will need. For those, they can plan effectively. However, emerging technology means can’t predict skills for the future. Some years back you would never have considered that you need a full time social media manager or communities manager to manage online conversations. I’ve heard the term digital natives before, and this is about the mindset people need to have. It’s a transformation of hiring for attitude in this respect.

They’ve got some interesting initiatives such as “Think Big Learning”, bringing in young people to play with technology and build their confidence. A key insight they found was that young people have skills in abundance in technology which is hidden and they don’t recognise it. This presents them with the opprtunity to get involved, discover those abilities and unleash them.

Toby from Siemens gave some great insights into cross-culturual perspectives. Apprenticeships in the UK are not as pervasive as they are in Germany. he expalined how the apprentice schemes are both very well delivered and produce great talent, but the problem is the numbers of people entering the schemes. This seems such a shame.

Probably the most interesting thing that Siemens have done is to do a mega trends study. This showed the big things to be concerned about in the future will be the energy crisis, mega cities, and changing demographics. Based on this they have decided to change what markets they continue to operate in. For example, they now have stopped being in the mobile phone market. Another thing this helped them to realise was where they were going to focus their recruitment, and thereby what their future requirements will be.

Further to the mega trends study, Siemens are taking skills shortage seriously by introducing own vocational schools tied to production plants. Through this the workforce gain access to experience work, and study the skills they need. To my mind, many of the big companies in London Town should be doing the same. By creating partnerships with local colleges and the likes, there is no reason they can’t get over the skills shortage if they’re a core part of the solution.

Jo Swinson helped raise some perspectives frm government such as:
– status of apprenticeships needs to be given more importance. University route isn’t for everyone, must consider vocational qualifications.
– new forms of communication present challenges to old ways of working. The digital evolution creates challenges for those not adapting to new technologies.
– talking about presenteeism, and need to develop thinking on flexible working and the technologies available to enable this.
– results showing engaged workforces take less sick days and are better advocates of their employers.

All in, this was a useful session offering some useful insights into what’s happening now, and where we need to be looking next.

Making the Case for Learning and Development Investment

This first session is being presented by Kadisha Lewis-Roberts from Mitchells and Butlers (restaurants and food pub owners) and Ann Rivera of Trident Housing Association.

Kadisha helps to provide a way of starting to understand ghe business by doing a ‘scan the internal environment’. This means:
– keep your finger on the organisational pulse
– meet up with newbies
– develop a sixth sense
– be a data gatherer

Following from this she says we should also scan the external environment by:
– know what’s going on
– find out what your competitors are doing
– build your social capital
– develop yourself

She goes on to describe how to be the missing link between the organisation’s goals and what L&D/OD can deliver. This is done by connecting the two priorities together. I like the next piece about getting the biggest bang, where Kadisha talks about understanding which programmes are the ones bringing actual business value, and which need to be dropped.

Interestingly, this presentation has been more about how to be a good L&Der and very little on how to make the case for investment. In my mind, these activities create the foundation on which you build the data needed to form a business case. What hasn’t been clear is how to make that business case in order to influence the board to provide investment.

Ann talks about how when measuring ROI they measure social impact not financial impact. As a social housing group, I can see how this makes sense. She talks about how they make it clear in their organisation that they are learning everyday due to the regular changes and challenges they face. That’s the key to being a learning organisation, and I agree with that.

Probably the best piece from Ann is where she revealed that they don’t limit training to their staff. It is open to all people living in their houses. They get training on:
– skills based workshops
– increasing employability
– digital inclusion
– confidence and assertiveness
– strategy and scrutiny panel

This is excellent. The customers fund the housing and therefore are given a full range of support, not just housing and support in the traditional sense.

From the session in all, I’ve been impressed by the L&D approaches and solutions both organisations have taken. What’s been sorely lacking is how to take this great information and transform it into business speak so that you can create a business case for more investment.

Incorporating Flexible Working into your Business Strategy

Presenting this session are Samantha Clark of Accenture and Janet Davies of Women’s Pioneer Housing. Interesting to hear abo it why both introduced flexible working. For Women’s Pioneer Housing it was to represent the demography they represent. They have less than 50 employees. For Accenture it was to adapt to the changing circumstances in being a large employer (tens of thousands) and the women in the workforce needing to have flexible approaches to returning to the work from maternity leave.

The business case for having a flexible working approach is dependent on the request made and how it fits with the business. For some roles it is appropriate to offer such things as job sharing or compressed hours, for others it’s appropriate to work adjusted hours to meet the needs of the customers. Across both organisations, they have both formal and informal processes, it’s about trust and control with your staff, it has to be inclusive for both men and women, the outcomes need to be consistent, technology is a big enabler and can work well for both small and large organisations.

Interesting to hear how changing life circumstances mean a change in thinking about flexible working. For some people, once they pass the age where their children need to be cared for and commitments need to be met, a difference in family situations can create other demands. Elderly parents, or those in need of care, are probably a less popular reason for needing to have flexible working, and it is encouraging to think that organisations are broadening their definition of what could come under a flexible working request.

Important to be responsive to flexible working demands. This can mean sometimes saying no, coming to a compromise, accepting the proposal, or finding other solutions. In an age when employee engagement is highly sought for, this has to be a core piece of that ambition otherwise you risk losing the discretionary effort of staff, or just lose them altogether. Importantly, the decision must be made according to good business reasons. This helps to keep things objective and removes a perception that a decision may be unpopular.

OD in Practice

It’s interesting to hear how OD is becoming a part of organisational life. Shaunagh Harvey-Kelly worked with Nationwide to help introduce OD. Although the people were reporting hihg levels of engagement and enablement, there were problems around delayed decision making, lack of autonomy, lack of clarity on organisational objectives, unclear roles and responsibilities in teams.

They took the approach to pilot an introduction to OD through some teams in order to build buy in across other business functions. This helped to give the other business areas confidence that introducing OD was not only beneficial but helped redefine purpose of teams, business units and achieve better levels of productivity.

In setting out the strategy, they took a three staged approach:
1) Diagnose and define – what are the barriers to effectiveness and how could we address them?
2) Implement – what do we need to do to fix some of the issues we are seeing?
3) Embed – how do we make sure the changes we implement stick?

They followed a set of design principles:
1) spans of control and organisation layers
2) management roles vs professional and technical roles
3) decision making at the lowest level
4) hands-off and interfaces clearly articulated
5) customers in all account abilities
6) business risk, value and cost management included in all roles
7) duplication and crossover removed
8) processes clear and mapped

Crucially they included analytics in introducing OD. Personally I think this is a vital piece as the use of analytics helps to give a true sense of what impact to business is when investing in various initiatives.

They define OE as a combination of a real understanding of business context and team, experience, expertise and strong facilitation and meaningful analytics and MI (Management Infomration?).

Workshops were carried out where they focused on 4 areas:
1) Established vision, prioritised critical issues, established tracking
2) Shared current activity and possible duplication
3) Mapped activity and built ‘to be’
4) Developed scorecard, structures and implementation plan

A good session sharing good level of content and insights into how OD methodology was used and what was needed to make it happen.