CIPD HR in SMEs Conference 13 May 2013

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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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


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