Plenty of food for thought

Next week if you’re lucky – or have drawn the short straw, depending on how you look at it – you might find yourself wandering round the delightful Yorkshire town of Harrogate. Yes, it’s time again for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) annual get together.

So you find yourself on the impossibly ill-equipped two-carriage train ferrying the great and good of HR northwards. One can only assume this is all part of a subliminal attempt to push the diversity agenda, as being packed to the luggage racks is an experience more akin to the Indian railroads than a jaunt to Harrogate.

Set menu

Having settled in at your over-priced hotel room, you can really get your teeth into some trail-blazing HR thought at Europe’s largest people management conference, where you’ll be regaled with tales of ‘blue-ocean thinking’, ‘surfing not sinking in change’ and why climbing Everest is relevant to HR.

If you’re really brave, you might attend the seminar on ‘what is keeping your CEO awake at night’, although you might not like the answer. But there’s a good chance that your company has paid in excess of £1,000 for this privilege, so make sure you are paying attention to whoever you listen to.

However, there’s no shortage of things to keep you busy, with more than 50 conference sessions to “suit all learning needs and styles”, according to the organisers.

The entrée on the menu is the keynote speech of spellchecker’s nightmare, Renée Mauborgne. She will explain the benefits of creating ‘blue oceans of uncontested market space’. You can wash this all down with further probing keynote questions such as ‘why should anyone be led by you?’ and ‘what do great managers do?’

Feeding frenzy

Should these topics not be to your taste, then perhaps you would prefer something meatier, such as ‘how to conduct a discipline and grievance interview’, courtesy of conciliation service Acas.

If that proves a little too heavy on the palette, perhaps the rather lighter, but no less filling ‘creating a spirited business’, by a Microsoft HR business partner, would fill a hole.

When all else fails, abandon the tenuous food metaphors and go and enjoy a cake at Betty’s world-famous tea shop, which offers a ‘tempting array of delicious Yorkshire and Continental confections’. But be warned: putting your rather hefty bill through on expenses might be a challenge.

Time to digest

Questions about some HR directors and business experts listed to talk – but who are now ‘pursuing other opportunities’ – remain tantalisingly unanswered. But if you are looking for solutions to your HR problems, then autumn in Harrogate is a good bet.

However, the perennial question remains whether delegates have either the time or inclination to use the nuggets of wisdom they have garnered.

The acid test will be if everyone crammed back into the Yorkshire-to-Calcutta Express is talking about RBS group HR director Neil Roden’s ‘bringing HR to the strategy table’ seminar, or how terribly exciting Cathy O’Dowd’s tale of climbing Everest (from both sides) was.

CIPD in numbers

Attendees in 2005

  • 61% were at manager level or above

  • 26% were at director level and above

This year’s speakers are made up of…

  • 48 directors

  • 8 chief executives (including one permanent secretary)

  • 9 heads of HR

The cost is…

  • £1,227.88 for three days as a member

  • £1,351.25 for non-members

Source: CIPD

Don’t miss Personnel Today’s exclusive 360-degree research on the HR profession in next week’s special Harrogate issue.

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