The annual Harrogate conference and exhibition is, as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) never tires of telling folk, the biggest HR event in Europe.
Attendance numbers for last week’s show (real delegates, not just exhibitors, speakers and press) have yet to be released, and it will certainly be interesting to see how they compare with those of last year or, say, five years’ ago. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the halls were a lot quieter this year, with plenty of spare seats to be had in the seminars.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that visitor numbers for events are down, and not a problem unique to the HR sector. People are a lot busier at work nowadays and, crucially, want to be seen to be busy by their employers. A recent survey found that nine in 10 HR professionals were experiencing rising workloads, with the majority putting in extra hours to keep on top of things. Two or three days out the office is a luxury few can afford during the present economic climate.
But if the conference really is ‘the biggest and best’ HR event, then the CIPD should do it justice in its coverage. If you weren’t at Harrogate last week, then basically you were nowhere. Trying to find out what was actually going on, who was saying what, and how it was received by delegates was tough. If it wasn’t for Personnel Today’s online coverage of the event, including our live blogging of the keynote speeches, then you would have barely known that the event was actually happening.
All eyes turn to Manchester next year, with institute top brass insisting that the move to the North West will be beneficial because of the improved transport links, facilities and accommodation. If the CIPD wants to broaden its appeal and “to be more relevant”, as Orme put it, then it needs to reach out the vast majority of the HR community who don’t attend its events.