November 5, 2015 in Events (live blogging), #cipd15

#cipd15 – Flexible people development to meet your future talent needs

Perry Timms, Mariana Popovic (Head of Talent & OD, eBay), David Pamplin (BT)


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Mariana Popovic (Head of Talent & OD, eBay):

Every 2 seconds a pair of shoes is sold on eBay, every 2 minutes a car is sold. Mariana’s contrasted this with her background in Pharmaceuticals (same as mine) where drug development lead times are very, very long. Despite being hugely successful, eBay is facing new competition from lots of different directions but also faces common challenges in the global drivers that are changing the nature of work.


Some key drivers:

  • A dislike of traditional performance management approaches
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent is positively correlated with real credible employee development
  • The whole nature of work is changing

eBay believe that everybody has talent, and that we need to find ways to help everybody realise that potential.

In 2014, they stopped thinking of talent as a HR process and did some work to connect the threads between different talent management processes, setting up a clear process that was leader-led. In 2015, they are accelerating the development of future leaders and moving beyond 9-box approaches into impactful conversations own contribution/impact and readiness.

Mariana talked about the importance of helping people have a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset). eBay’s Leadership Incubator (ELI) is a programme they are using to accelerate the readiness of future leaders.  The purpose is to asses potential (learning agility & expandability) along with a conversation about future potential (including answering the question ‘potential for what?’). The participant journey starts with a robust 360 process & YSC assessment, before then moving into a 2-day incubator with senior leaders. 1:1 coaching support continues throughout the programme. The incubator has a bit of an assessment centre feel (with group work and presentations) but with a real emphasis on developing a growth mindset and facilitating learning (with loads of feedback, reflection time, and coaching).

Next steps for eBay are based on an understanding that everybody has talent, and needs tailored approaches to help to make the most of it and they’re now working on a holistic view of talent (supported by coaching conversations). This leads to a good idea of an individual’s readiness, and that can then be used to drive differentiated development investment.


David Pamplin (Director, BT Academy):

BT’s have a key aim of being a learning organisation, and David was brought in to help make that happen.

BT’s purpose: ‘We use the power of communications to make a better world’ – and David described BT as a very purpose-driven organisation, where the core purpose is a real guiding star. Their business has expanded significantly in new areas (such as TV).

David has worked to make sure that learning is supported from the top (and now the exec team talk about it loads), to make sure that learning is absolutely embedded into all HR processes, to make sure that they truly listen to their learners (through focus groups and co-creation), to make sure that learning interventions aren’t divorced/separate from the day job, and to make sure that things are sustainable. The 70:20:10 model is fairly new to BT but now heavily influences their approach to learning.

I was pleased to hear David say that they really believe that everybody has talent and that this has driven them to be:

  • engaging (not exclusive to the chosen few)
  • enabling (including use of coaching)
  • effective
  • efficient


They have a clear focus on ‘what is in it for me?’ for their learners, so that everybody knowns what skills they need to do their job, knows what their career path might be, what their learning pathway is to get there, and participates in communities of practice to share ideas and learning, and to have consistent (and portable) professional standards.


In the first year since launching the academy, it has quickly helped talented people to really understand their direction of travel for their career. They’re also illustrating the career paths by telling the stories of the senior leaders, and sharing their leadership narrative.


(This was live-blogged during a session at the CIPD Annual Conference & Exhibition – #cipd15 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in.)

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