Archive for May, 2013

So why on earth would a huge global hotel chain have relevance with SME conference?

Well loads when they are franchising small to medium enterprises running their own hotels using the branding and buying power of a franchiser.

So Interchange and Consort Hotels know a lot about SMEs and the way they approached their own organisation was in keeping with the agility, simplicity and action-oriented approaches Peter Cheese and Clive Hutchinson of Cougar Automation mentioned as being so key.

Asking the simple question “What is it about working here that means so much to you?” is just a great question to ask. From it came some lovely values like making people smile everyday, and thinking big but acting small to get going.

Relevant. Human. Worthy.

There is a still a lot to do admits the CEO and head of Learning, but this has re-centred people on what it means to people to be part of I&C Group/ Best Western.

Video vignettes were used here but they were so natural and not staged, you could smell the authenticity of them. Real people talking about what really matters.

An organisation that has a big reach with rooms in hotels across 108 countries adopting a small business mentality to everything they do. Keeping it simple by inviting the board/exec to share a slice of pizza with people as a way of grounding board meetings and bringing excitement and opportunistic engagement to something normally stuffy and corporate grey.

A name check to our HR colleague on a walk around @FloraMarriott was another human touch – Flora was key in the values work and took so much heart from the boundary pushing elements of them, she left Best Western to walk the length of the UK. Bless her.

I was pleased that this example encouraged us that simple things can make a huge difference and small actions with big thinking is something all SMEs can do.

After a quick break we reconvened to hear from Jane Middlemiss. Not of the TV presenter variety but of the logistics and warehousing types from ILG.

An organisation founded by streetwise (not bookwise) entrepreneurs. Doing really well and having an ambitious growth strategy inherited by Jane as the incoming HR Director. Well, incoming HR division/function.

What was heartening here was that Jane had been in HR roles before and whilst there were hallmarks of the archetypes we know are traditional HR practice, Jane took a totally relevant, people-centred approach which was in keeping with that which would help ILG be the place it aspired to be.

With a limited budget, ie no budget, Jane took over and instead of cautious, perfected processes, Jane took a fleet of foot, iterative approach to the HR agenda BUT there was a plan, it all lined up to the strategic direction of ILG, to the key deliverables the Exec Team were setting and to drive up peoples’ connection to the overall agenda and future direction.
All the components were there but behind a brand that meant something to warehousing, forklift drivers and clerical staff alike and a regular bulletin

And proving size isn’t important (!) the graduate scheme of 1 still proved valuable even for the 1 graduate given an MBA-busting tour of duty across the business. And that worked as did Jane’ s other talent initiatives around on boarding and career paths.

I felt a sense of comfort and inspiration from Jane’s work. I recognised the hallmarks and I applauded the bespoking to make it


We then moved onto Hillary Graves and Little Dish – more on that in blog 3; along with our own hackathon in the room plus thoughts over lunch.

A great day so far..!

Relevant, human and real


So here I am at CIPD’s HR in SMEs Conference on 13 May 2013 in London.

Dr Jill Miller, who lead on this “first in research” with SMEs around HR/people management practices and the link to performance and growth got us started.p A beautiful sunny day and a packed room.

Peter Cheese as CEO of the CIPD, gave an opening keynote which really rammed home why this research was so necessary and so overdue. 99.9% of businesses are small to medium enterprises. WHAT? that is staggering. Only .1% are those behemoth organisations we hear so much about.

So there is clearly a huge market of people (14.1 million) who work in the SME environment yet, as Peter Cheese says, the HR models and practice seems geared to larger organisations and so why on earth would SMEs grapple with this and make good on their employment law and so on?

So the relevance of the CIPD to SMEs is something he believes in fiercely. Those SMEs that are helping take up the slack from the larger organisations for employment of skilled people across the UK.

Peter highlighted a continuing of the research and a chance to pick up and drive HR and learning practice in SMEs to fuel this drive in employment and performance growth.

One of the pioneering organisations that were involved in the research Jill Miller led on was Cougar Automation. Clive Hutchinson the MD came to talk to his fellow SME leaders.

Firstly Clive started well with a slide that had some people in unconventional dress and poses. As you watching corporate video users? This said more to me about his company than a 3 minute slick film. Bring yourself to work Clive said.

Great way to start. Clive then gave a humble account of how he changed the way Cougar Automation works and feels.

For a start, he was influenced by Derek Williams of the WOW awards. Derek’s simple but effective take on how to deliver exceptional customer experience hit Clive and he brought Derek in along with his principles to shape the Cougar plan/strategy.

This simplicity was coupled with Clive’s discovery of the Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton book, “Now Discover Your Strengths”. Reading this book not only changed his view on himself, but also he thought that others would benefit from a “review of themselves”.

So he bought books, and put out a call that a free book was in reception, all he wanted was a download of what they found out about themselves. And the something marvellous happened.

People discovered they were under using strengths. They were doing things they struggled with and needed some help to get some traction on. People even volunteered themselves up as being in the wrong role.

Very quickly, they saw an increase in satisfaction from customers and clients. They saw their profits and successes multiply. And they saw people being more bothered about want they did.
It is literally that simple. Self discovery; action based on that and then continued focus on their strengths was a recipe for successful people management practices and not, as Clive admitted, following the traditional routine of appraisals and reviews. Clive has asked his people not to recruit to vacancies but to recruit stars. And this way they would grow through the acquisition of stars.

Clive then talked about how they recruit those stars…

Aptitude; or strengths
Attitude; and
Skills (optional and depends on circumstances)

Recognising the latter can be taught and has already paid dividends in Cougar Automation. How Clive recruits for attitude based on people aligning to what Cougar stands for not because they have a technical skill.

What I was left with in reviewing Clive’s session was that the simple matter of people discovering where they are at their best is lost in most places, but is the key element to Cougar Automation driving their business, making their customers happy and building a great place to work.


Clive also gave us a top tip. Do enter service awards. Not only for benchmarking and feeling of pride but for a stack of “free learning”

Next up…Interchange and Consort Hotels and International Logistics Group

So this is the quickest I think I’ve ever blogged.  And it’s a bit of a tribute blog.  A tribute to the marvellous work that Amanda Sterling and Tash Pieterse do on the #nzlead hashtag on Twitter and accompanying WordPress blog site.

Keeping it punk this is a quick  4 x 3 minute jam session of top of the head lyrics mixed with the usual 3 chords…

Jam 1) What do you find most valuable for the development of the HR profession (in NZ or the UK)?

For me, the most valuable aspects for the development of the HR profession is an attitude to development which is built around a “holy trinity” develop for ME; US & THEM.  A balance across the 3 is the most valuable answering these questions:

  • What will the development do for me?
  • How would my development drive/support my professional field?
  • What will be the impact of my development on the place/people I work with/for?

Jam 2) What do you find most valuable for your HR professional development?

Easy one:

  • peer learning (in person and online);
  • regular and insightful flow of research form professional bodies and business journals;
  • experience; and
  • all mixed with formal conferences; events and seminars.

Jam 3) What does NZ’s professional body do really well?

I’ll answer this one with what I feel the CIPD has done for me.

  • Belonging and Credibility;
  • Insight and Professional Standards;
  • Ambition and Courage
  • Safety and Humility;
  • Dialogue and Support

Most of all it’s the progress CIPD has made to open up; listen; change; challenge; be challenged; drive; empathise; lobby and provoke.

Jam4 ) What would you like to see more of from NZ’s professional body?

Your professional body has to be obvious (highly communicative and everywhere), credible (strong, robust and recognised) and dynamic (responsive, adaptive and future-proofed).

Like Punk bands, professional bodies have to be ahead of their crowd and push boundaries else they become easy listening pop muzak which will help people move up. And down whilst they’re in the elevators…

Don’t let your professional body become lift music…keep it gigging..!