In recent years, the CIPD has put on a number of free mini seminars to attend, which is great for those who can’t afford to attend the ‘full’ conference. I consider this (along with the exhibition) the ‘fringe’ event, and my impressions from this were…

1.    Change in Emphasis

Last year, I felt like a bit of a round peg in a square hole. Lots of the free seminars were very introspective about the ‘role of HR’. The more I listened, the more I felt like an outsider: Too much contemplative navel-gazing, and not enough commercial reality. This year, there was a very different feel. It felt a lot more relevant to the real world and business-focussed. Emphasis was on engagement, embracing new technology, working together, and getting results through people. I got the feeling that ‘HR’ (in a very general sense) realises its purpose is, first and foremost, to support the business/organisation, rather than to justify its own existence.

2.    Fewer L&D Providers

The exhibition itself is tiny compared with 10 years ago. There were hardly any L&D companies represented, which leads me to suspect one (or all) of 3 things:

– It isn’t cost effective to advertise in this way any more. Social media is free, and more companies are embracing this.

– There are fewer L&D companies out there – afterall, in times of austerity Marketing and Training are traditionally the first things that get the chop.

– Learning is now being completed in-house and (I hope) more as an integral part of every-day operations rather than as something separate. Learning may have become more flexible using more informal methods such as coaching, secondments and action learning meaning there is less need for traditional methods.

3.    Social Media

SMART devices meant that whenever something useful, interesting or profound was said INSIDE the main conference, it was known OUTSIDE the conference. Quotes were being tweeted all over the place, and many people in the various seminars (including me) actively tweeted throughout. The CIPD even appointed official bloggers to get the key messages out there. This was great for those of us not hearing things first hand!

It also provided a clear indication of the shape of things to come. The whole ‘switch your phones off’ during the meeting now seems detrimental to learning. Many people use their SMART devices to record learning and access relevant, related media. Working WITH this trend rather than against it is something for HR (and L&D people in particular) to think about. . Social media needs to be embraced and used FOR the company, not against it.


Finally…. In the past I always felt that independents were sidelined and not considered relevant to the CIPD: Only Senior HR people in large organisations mattered. I didn’t feel that so much this year