This year's conference - my view

Just back from this year's Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. What a great event and experience! I enjoyed every moment and met so many people from so many places. Lots of great content and thanks to the many speakers who gave up their time. Numbers were up on last year and it felt like there was a real energy and buzz around the whole event.

>This is the time for HR. It's never been more important or had a greater opportunity to make a difference

It started with a hugely well received keynote by Gary Hamel - voted worlds best business thinker by the Wall Street Journal - challenging all our conceptions about management and organization. Quotable quotes such as 'management is a busted flush', bureaucracy must die', and 'innovation is the only way to stop becoming irrelevant'. His view, which of course I share, is that this is the time for HR - it's never been more important or had a greater opportunity to make a difference.

A real highlight was chairing the final panel on 'Learning from the Olympics' with David 'the Weirwolf' Weir who had with him his 4 gold medals - such a legend but such a nice modest guy, Jean Tomlin the Head of HR at LOCOG who pulled off the extraordinary feat of assembling almost 200,000 people to deliver the Games, and Andy Hunt the head of Team GB and CEO of the British Olympic Association who oversaw such an incredible performance from our Olympic team.

They all talked of the critical importance of common purpose and values as a uniting force across all of the GB teams and the thousands of volunteer Games Makers, employees and contractors. This was the starting point and guiding light, and something we can all learn from at a time when so often we see organisations that seem to have lost sight of their purpose and values entirely.

Indeed our newly released Employee Outlook survey highlighted this with fully 40% of respondents indicating they didn't believe their espoused corporate values were worth the paper they were written on.

What a sad indictment at a time when trust in leaders of all kinds is so low following relentless scandals in banking, media, politics, and sport as well.  If we as a profession want to stand up and make a difference, as we should, then now is the time. Are your corporate values clear and understood by all? Are they embedded in how people behave and think and the language they use, and reinforced by your performance and reward systems? Does your enterprise have a clear and inspiring purpose, or is it mundane and unknown?

With all this talk of failures of corporate culture, we must have the courage to challenge where we see behaviours that aren't aligned to values, and to properly understand and assess our corporate cultures. It doesn't have to be that complex - start by just asking your employees what they see going on.

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