Ferns, Freedom and Fiduciary

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

So firstly let’s explain the title.


The Silver Fern is the plant emblem of New Zealand and of course the All Blacks Rugby Union Team.

Freedom is, well, you know that one surely? In this context we’re talking the freedom to be; to do and to learn.

Fiduciary – is a legal or ethical trust between 2 (or more) parties.

So fiduciary first then.

Angela Atkins of Elephant HR in New Zealand hit on an idea. It was the HR needs to change its game. For reasons we probably all don’t need to go too deeply into but because, well, it’s a bit shit in a number of areas. It’s the business whipping boy. The failing function. The challenged corporate entity.

Her idea was to put on a 2 day conference which would have HR and Work/Business impacts to, well literally, give people some insight, energy and actionables to change the game (of HR).

When I heard about this, I loved the thought of it and had a thought that it’s the sort of thing I’d be into if it were held here. And I had a flash of an idea.

We (the UK) run a complementary version of it and segue / link into the event happening on the other side of the world. Time differences dictated that this would be tough to do simultaneously and then the thought of a 2 / 2 days worth of events seemed to be an idea and then to hook up and hangout and share and create connecting thoughts and ideas; actions and realisations etc.

Angela was mighty generous in agreeing and we hatched a plan.

I then met Charlotte Hallaways and Tom Veran from an outfit called Veran Performance who run a super cool HR network for (largely) new to HR careerists called MyHRCareers.

When I shared my idea with them they could see the possibility of this and offered to share the load to make it happen. We talked speakers and concepts and logistics and we set about putting efforts into it.

Great things happened with others lending brilliant support and on 4 September at 10pm UK time, HR Game Changer New Zealand kicked off.

I was up until 1.30am UK time to watch the twitter stream and a load of great stories, debates, case studies, research, challenging hypotheses and presentations set the tone for people in HR to think, feel and do something different to change their game.

Then is was the Poms turn.

With the effort put into the day, generous hosting by Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co solicitors, a cameraman, a graphic recorder (the outstanding Simon Heath) and a group of speakers assembled 60 odd HR, Learning, People, and all sorts of professionals gave their time to come and listen and share, challenge and discuss and ponder and plan what changing the game of HR would actually be like.

So let’s get something right – this was NOT a whinge fest. No navels were gazed at and it was largely a rhetoric free zone.

No woe is us, we’re not understood or people just don’t get HR kind of claptrap.

I had the honour of kicking it off. I talked up the quite perplexing state of work in 2014 that really should have matured, adapted and morphed a lot more than it has to reflect our new state of heightened awareness of what’s needed from a career, a job or some work to do. I didn’t dwell on things for too long, I wanted to illustrate some areas to focus on. I told some stories of games that had changed, organisations that had folded, screw ups in corporate life and I got in a Style Council song “Walls Come Tumblng Down”. And I didn’t mention VUCA or a veruca once.

I handed over to some informed and passionate folks looking at the game of recruitment / and or hiring. What is the best way to find the right people and get in the door those who will give their all in a brilliant way and we make them feel valued, developed and able. What were the answers? Well there’s a wrong being done about the current hiring routines and hit and miss recruitment policies and processes. We talked a lot about alternative ways to check cultural fit and how to spot brilliant people through conversations, referrals, social feeds and to generate enthusiasts who wanted to come and work with our companies for all the right reasons.

Overall, we wanted a genuine people-centred approach that worked for all concerned and agreed that game needs changing. More to think about, experiments to contine and more to be done in this space. It was never going to be conclusive but it was going to be something to provoke thoughts.

I use the phrase “tickle the trout” – i.e. Actually tickle the underbelly of a fish to induce a lucid state meaning you could catch it. We need to tickle more trouts in hiring. Not cast wide nets and kill off stock and land any old ugly inedible fish.

We then moved on to one of the most game changing philosophies here – that of changing the game of the constructs of work. Freedom in the work place, self organised teams, leaders that actually lead and inspire and NOT drain and cause mayhem and of alternative approaches to community existence and collaboration that also happens to be work and / or education.

So before anyone jumps on the “Oh that Zappos thing again” or the “it won’t work because” brigade, it fucking does work. I’m not even going to justify why here but we heard 3 passionate displays of belief in a better way to be at work that will equal commitment, results and sustainable life at work. If you don’t think it works, then carry on with your tired old traditional hierarchical stuff and let everyone else democratise work around you before you fall off the cliff into non-existence.

There’s enough ways to adapt a freedom-centred work approach and enough people willing and urging us to do it that I just don’t buy into the deny argument and won’t even enter into arguments about its merits and viability. I’m going that way, others will and others won’t. Leave it at that.

We then had some popup mentoring and chances for people who wanted to change their game and people who had already changed some of theirs to share learning and become potential mentors and mentees for each other. We made so much noise it became a distraction to the normally hush world of a corporate law firm. Sorry about that. It was fun at work at play.

Jo Dodds and I rocked on about the Socialisation of Work and Jo did a grand job setting a really nice scene about social media is about attitudes, behaviours and culture and not just technology and use of digital tools. Jo rightly called out matrix working and project networks as failing in the past as the digital tools weren’t right to support it but they now are. And yet we are stuck in our ways.

I talked about Fons Trompenaars 2×2 around innovation and the chain of growth followed by many start ups. I mapped out use of social and digital into this and tried to make sense of why the socialisation of work is something that once you get going, you need to constantly reincubate and reinvent to keep it fresh and adapted to needs. I also called out the work – not jobs I blogged about in my time to decouple post some weeks back.

We broke for lunch and I was late but we asked random folks what more they needed from their work/jobs It was little things like a radio for construction workers, a little less freneticism for someone in a sushi bar and just recognition, praise a chance to converse about making things better. ALL simple, human-centred things that can change peoples games.

We were then in awe of Siobhan Sheridan’s tale of the failings of people-based systems and processes that led to corporate failures and why we didn’t speak up and call out things that were just plain wrong. Andy Meikle balanced that with insight into the great way Just Giving allows people to input and inverts their pyramid so it’s about front line being served by managers.

We deduced that there is so much “don’t talk about that” “do not raise that or suffer consequences” and generally, whistle blowing and anonymity is tough to believe in when you need to have that “Spartacus” moment and stand by something. We KNOW this game needs changing and sits firmly in HRs court. Again, answers of a definitive nature were hard to come by but something needs doing to really put people in a safe position to stop us “sleep walking into a disaster”.

We had a little more on the moves in learning at work – and Michelle Parry-Slater led us through a history lesson and of how a socialised and very individualised learning agenda is a way of moving from “injection education” to more self-derived, corporately beneficial and outcome oriented learning that helps people be better, feel better, know more and do more of the good stuff. I confessed to being a continuing student of the University of Chaos and long may my social and digital feeds be my preferred learning vehicle. Sharing is the new hoarding. Giving away is the new acquisition and generosity is the new greed.

We heard about the still misrepresented “engagement” piece and how we are seeing (rightly) raised expectations all the time about the employment proposition. We need to change that game.

We heard about managers being SO pivotal in how people feel about their work and how overly mechanised approaches to this just misfire and how the emotionally intelligent and rational approach to being an inspiring manager was so needed in all areas.

We heard about lawyers changing the game literally by gamifying manager skills through an online experience to support managers in times of tricky people matters that prevent costly and lengthy mediations, arbitrations or tribunals.

We had a deeper dive into disruptive technology, data analytics and use, and into performance management. Some great insight and clear opportunities shared but also and more so the continued ridicule of the performance review process that quite frankly the laughing stock in the people management repertoire. All of these games need changing big time.

So in summarising,

The world is a more complex and ever changing place with rapid shifts and unforeseen moves that means we need to be a constantly reinventing function to not only thrive but just survive.

We should “grab the arc of change and move it towards us” by being more inventive, bold, compassionate, considered and well, human in the way we do people stuff.

We need to make the digital and social technology tools work for us, with us and be on that game like never before.

We need to make case for more HR acumen in data, in crafting a performance culture which is measured and techncally supported yet human and organic and personalised.

We finished with Simon Heath’s utterly amazing artwork.


We tried to hangout online with New Zealand and we had some audio issues but we waved and exchanged knowing glances.

We went away full of gusto, imagination and belief.

We need the change the game of HR.

  1. […] Similarly inspired by the HR game changing concept, a Game Changer event was set up and staged in London to coincide with the New Zealand event. So while we were sleeping between days 1 and 2, they were debating the same issues. A wonderful pictorial version of the UK conference can be found here drawn by Simon Heath. And an excellent summary by Perry Timms is here. […]

  2. […] Ferns, Freedom and Fiduciary, by Perry Timms : Perry, co-host of HRGCUK and our fabulous key note speaker has written a brilliant blog reviewing the day – have a read! […]

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