November 6, 2013 in Events (live blogging), CIPD Annual Conference 2013

#CIPD13 – Creating the best workplace on earth

Opening Keynote at #CIPD13 – Peter Cheese (CIPD), Rob Goffee (London Business School), Gareth Jones (IE Business School)


One sentence summary: HR, you need to get over yourselves and help organisations create an authentic workplace which allows people to be the best them, their authentic self because anything less won’t do.


Peter Cheese opened the conference with a clear message that now is the time for HR to step up and increase the impact and voice of HR as well as broadening the reach of CIPD (in L&D, SME, and for consultants). Personally, I’m delighted to hear these messages and they are entirely congruent with the positive changes I’ve been noticing in CIPD. Part of the call was to have a clear focus on the ‘Science of HR’ as we know what it takes to create an engaged workforce and we need to get on with doing it as well as learning from emerging theories from Neuroscience.


Gareth Jones opened with a call that we don’t need to focus on what is new, just what is true. He revisited the theme of some of their books, including the theme that ‘Effective leadership excites people to exceptional performance’ before setting this is context and saying that exceptional performance is no longer the icing on the cake, it is essential to survival.


Jones summarised their Harvard Business Review article as ‘Be yourself more with skill’, before identifying authenticity (and an environment in which we can be our authentic selves) as a necessary but insufficient condition for the best workplace.


Rob Goffee suggested that we need to ask ‘Why should anyone work here?’, with these elements:



Employer brand/reputation

Engagement (connected with motivation, trust, and commitment)


Goffee talked about ‘The authentic organisation’ as the best workplace on earth and how the new role of leadership is to help provide an authentic environment where people can be their best/authentic selves. They shared their findings about building the organisation of your DREAMS:


Difference – a place where you can be yourself (as you’ll lose yourself and be stressed if you spend a huge chunk of your life trying to be something you’re not). These are organisations that have less rules and don’t tie people down with processes (and he challenged HR as the worst offenders!). Waitrose was cited as an example of an organisation that is prepared for each supermarket to be slightly different, arguing that it is the quirky differences that can create the best customer experience. There was a call to build cohesion without homogenisation, to encourage conflict, to nurture ‘characters’, and to make sure HR doesn’t dominate the people processes. The call to recruit characters reminded me a bit of Apple’s Think Different campaign, with a focus on the people who will change things.


Radical Honesty – To tell people what is really going on and stop sanitising bad news, telling the truth before someone else does.


Extra value – create an organisation that magnifies the strengths of the people, including your employees (at every level), your engaged customers, and even other organisations. There was a clear call to ‘Be the best where the best want to strut their stuff’ and find ways to let people grow through what they do.


Authenticity – be a person and an organisation where ‘you know where we’re coming from and what we stand for’. The Enron mission statement was cited as an example of inauthenticity and there was a clear call for organisation to (1) have a rooted send of identity (2) the brand/culture is lived obsessively (3) Leaders model the values. Ryan Air was cited as an example of, love or hate them, they are authentic and have authentic leadership.


Meaning – help the work make sense to people. There was a statement that we need to find meaning in what we do and that has become increasingly difficult for people to see the outcome of their work. Personally, I’ve seen this happen in a lot of organisations and I believe that a key leadership role is to connect the dots and help people find meaning in what they do. Meaning can come from connections (not silos), community, and cause. There was a view that cause is becoming one of the most important elements as we look beyond financial growth to social impact. We need to organise around enthusiasms and help people to connect.


Simple Rules – The dream organisation has the minimum number of rules and they are simple and agreed, are systematised rather than bureaucratic, and they are not mock rules (i.e. rules that are written down but we all collude in ignoring them).


The session finished with a reminder that people want to do good work, a suggestion that work is the defining human characteristic, that HR can have moral authority in helping to drive this future, and that good work will give us good societies.


“If HR is about anything, it is about doing the right thing”.


HR is in the business of building the organisation of your dreams.



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