Keynote speakers Karen Moran and David D’Souza challenge and inspire delegates at the exclusive one-day event

Delivering an exceptional experience for employees was the dominant theme at last week’s CIPHR customer conference.

Keynote speaker Karen Moran, director of Disruptive HR, urged HR professionals to get to know their workforces on a deeper level: “[become] like consumer-led organisations who know their customers… It’s about asking yourself: ‘how do I want my workforce to feel?’” she said.

Technology as an enabler of a great employee experience – not as a hindrance to it – also emerged as a theme. “I’m not a great believer in [having] one system [that] does everything badly. I believe you should pick and choose the best business tools. Listen to your workforce; don’t give them rubbish technology.”

Showcasing her company’s ‘EACH’ model – Employees as Adults, Consumers and Humans – Moran urged delegates to stop framing the relationship between workers and organisations as one of “parental responsibility”. She said the dual approaches of ‘mum HR’ – softly caring for staff, such as providing free fruit – and ‘dad HR’ – of strict performance management ratings and reviews – were failing. Workers are fundamentally adults who want to do a good job and are capable of looking after themselves, she said. “Let your employees use [their] good judgement – otherwise you risk having a workforce that lacks initiative, that is stifled into compliance.”

Moran added: “We forgot about being ‘human’ in HR. We’ve been too busy thinking about being strategic business partners… We lost our way in HR when we tried to be a ‘business partner’. We need to deliver the employee experience. Be the human experts on how people think, behave, feel and are motivated. Use data insights from pulse surveys or other analytic measures, and bring it to the boardroom to ‘shock and awe’.”

She also urged delegates to reconsider the complex terminology and jargon that often dominates HR conversations and ditching some policies – such as probation periods – altogether. Why not rename ‘performance appraisals’ as career conversations, she asked? “If your children wouldn’t understand the terminology you’re using, don’t use it,” Moran said. “Have the courage to think differently, speak differently and act differently.”

Delegates were inspired by this rousing opening keynote, with Twitter user Morna Rose saying: “I feel the need to rush back to the office and share with colleagues.”

Putting employees at the heart of every experience

The event’s afternoon sessions also reflected Moran’s emphasis on overhauling the employee experience, throughout their lifecycle at an organisation – from hiring to management, development and engagement.

Gianluca Bonacchi from Indeed shared research about how workers are hunting and applying for jobs. The vast majority – 94% – of the UK’s workforce are looking for a new job on their mobile phones more than once a week, he said, causing a major problem for employers who don’t have a mobile-friendly recruitment website. Three-quarters (72%) of searches on Indeed in the UK come from mobile devices, Bonacchi added, making it essential for recruiters to consider the users’ mobile experience when crafting job adverts. He urged the audience to optimise their job adverts by writing job descriptions that not only attract applicants but attract the right kind of applicants.

Other speakers reflected on the experience of existing employees. David Godden, VP of sales and marketing at Thymometrics, highlighted research by Gallup which found that 87% of the global workforce is actively disengaged at work. Half of the millennials are planning to leave their company in the next two years, he added, citing a study by Lightspeed Research.

A panel focused on data analytics demonstrated just how far the HR profession has to come in its understanding and application of data: a show of hands evidenced that none of the people in the room had come from a statistics background. Experts including professor Andy Charlwood of Leeds University emphasised that the usefulness of people analytics depends on the context in which it is used: it’s vital to fully understand the problem and situation you are trying to analyse before digging into the data.

The unique value of human HR

David D’Souza, membership director at the CIPD, closed the conference with a rallying call for HR to strengthen and prove its importance in the increasingly technology-focused future of work.

“There are things that humans do well that technology can’t,” he said. “There are things that humans do uniquely well – to motivate, to inspire, to empathise. It’s hard to motivate and inspire people purely through an app.”

He added: “HR needs to stand back and see the real opportunity and utilise technology more effectively to increase productivity and support people to be their best in the workplace. We have agency over the future of work: we can shape how technology supports people at work. HR professionals need to keep watching and thinking, ‘how will this new thing change what we do?’”

Alongside the packed programme of speakers and presentations, there was plenty of opportunity for networking among CIPHR users and staff. CIPHR’s new CEO, Andrew Carwardine, was formally introduced to users for the first time and was on hand throughout the day to find out how CIPHR can better support clients’ people strategies and ambitions.

Delegates also had the opportunity to meet with select CIPHR Connect partners – including PES, hfx, Shopworks and SHE Software – as well as CIPHR account managers and consultants. With customers’ sharing lots of positive feedback after the event, we’re already looking forward to the 2020 CIPHR customer conference.

Watch highlights from CIPHR customer conference 2019 below.