Boldly going where no HR has gone…

"Oh God, only about 10 stops to nirvana," sighs one already jaded
HR director crammed into the two-carriage train that putters from York to

Personnel Today editor, Jane King, wedged into the toilet along with her
luggage, murmurs: "I wonder if our US visitors think this is quaint?"

Cue the start of HR’s biggest, boldest event of the year: the infamous CIPD
conference and exhibition.

For the uninitiated, this is the drinking junket, feared by finance
directors countrywide, as each year they sweat over resulting expenses and
query increasingly creative tales. As one marketing man puts it: "You have
to embellish the story, otherwise your expense claims just won’t hold

Too right. Let’s face it. It costs a bundle to get to must-have fringe events
like ’57 Varieties of Vegetable Soup’, and ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’.

Day One, and Personnel Today’s news team is confused: has it found the right
conference? Better take time out to have another pint down The Old Swan and
think about it amid the heaving mass of HR’s great and good, ‘networking’ with
unprecedented vigour.

"Come to me if you ever want a proper job done," slurs a once
dapper recruitment bloke, waving a card at the recruitment manager from a salad
company. Lettuce man has been coerced into a blonde wig and fetching specs at
the late-night Sunday Times’ Austin Powers knees-up. "Save me," he
grunts. "Anyone seen Guru? Is he real?" (see back page for more).

Day Two, and our intrepid news hounds are dispatched to trudge the
exhibition, mostly in search of stands sporting handfuls of paracetamol.

Sadly, few have caught on to this gimmick, offering instead mountains of
autumnal leaves loosely connected to messages of change management, or lightly
sweating staff trussed up in space outfits. "What’s the message
here?" asks a hungover Personnel Today journo of a spacewoman. "The
company name is Jupiter," she replies in disbelief. Doh!

Time to retreat to the hotel boasting a sandwich board outside, reading:
"Take your personnel to bed without a harassment charge."

Day Three, and Harrogate is still heaving, albeit with increasingly creased,
pale HR people, networked-out at last night’s Grease night, flanked by the
‘Funk night’.

They are looking to make an exhausted exit from a tired town, on the York
express (!) bound for sense and sensibility. So, was the whole event
educational? Probably. Useful? Mostly. Death defying? Definitely. A networking
triumph? Undoubtedly. Farewell to another year!

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