Conferences and exhibitions - Institute of Personnel and Development


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




(2000), "Conferences and exhibitions - Institute of Personnel and Development", Kybernetes, Vol. 29 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Conferences and exhibitions - Institute of Personnel and Development

Conferences and exhibitionsManagement cybernetics: Institute of Personnel and Development, National ConferenceHarrogate International Centre, 27-29 October 1999, UK

Keywords Cybernetics, Management, Systems

Anyone involved with management and in particular researchers in management cybernetics and systems science will accept that there is a slow uptake of progressive people management practices among UK firms. New research now confirms it.

This was but one of a number of important findings presented at the UK's Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) National Conference. IPD speaks with authority since it has some 100,000 members and is regarded as the leading professional institute for those involved in the management and the development of people. The following are but some of the presentations made at the conference. Further information about the event and the Institute's work may be obtained from IPD.

Slow uptake of management practicesPeople strategies for competitive success - David Guest

Despite the large body of evidence showing a clear link between progressive people management strategies and productivity, new research, revealed at the IPD National Conference at Harrogate, showed that not enough UK organisations are adopting sophisticated people management practices. Leading the IPD sponsored research is academic David Guest, who said to delegates that the people management profession now has all the ammunition it needs to show organisations that good people management does make a difference.

Initial analysis of the recent Government sponsored Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS) and research from the ESRC Future of Work programme has generated 17 key people management practices. However, the analysis also reveals that none of the 1,278 private sector organisations with 25 or more employees surveyed by WERS has more than 15 of these practices in place, and only 21 per cent have more than half. None of the 546 public sector workplaces surveyed had more than 15 in place, although 35 per cent had more than half in place. Guest said that the practices most likely to have a positive effect on employee attitudes and performance are employee share ownership schemes, selection and training to enhance competence, internal communication and job design to provide workers with autonomy.

According to Guest:

The same surveys that reveal the low uptake of people management practices among UK firms also provide a compelling justification for urgent action. Organisations that adopt good people practices have more satisfied and committed employees. This, in turn, has a positive link to productivity and quality and through these to financial performance.Despite the powerful evidence of an association between the adoption of more HR practices and both employee satisfaction and commitment and various measures of performance, the message about people management and business performance is still not hitting home. And the private sector, where one might expect to see a more advanced form of human resource management seems to be lagging behind.

Guest suggests several reasons for employer reluctance to introduce progressive people management practices, including a culture of cost-control, and organisational change and uncertainty.

At the conference Geoff Armstrong, director-general of the IPD, said:

We must use this evidence to engage the understanding and confidence of our line manager colleagues in the use of people strategies to improve performance. It is a rallying cry for the people management profession and we must take action.

High performance organisations are stakeholder organisations

Speaking on "Creating a high-performance organisation" at National Conference, Linda Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park Management Institute, argued that firms committed to high performance should embrace stakeholder values. She revealed a checklist of factors that all organisations intent on turning themselves into high performance workplaces need to observe.

Holbeche argued that the perspective of shareholders is often very different from that of employees and other stakeholders. The need to increase shareholder dividends can result in financial or cost cutting strait-jackets which can lead to poor motivation, retention and commitment among staff.

She said:

What is needed among business leaders is a realisation that there is a very strong link between employee strategies and business results. Take the example of Sears - a major US retailer. The firm's fortunes were declining until the company began to do something about employee motivation and customer care. They implemented a host of integrated employee friendly policies which increased levels of motivation, which in turn improved customer satisfaction and increased bottom line performance - dramatically.

She continued:

It is vital for employers to realise that in order to become a high performance organisation they need to get the employee deal right. Only by doing that will they achieve a high performance outcome. This means that managers must ensure that they create development opportunities and help with career mobility for their staff. Conversely, individuals need to take responsibility for their own performance and derive satisfaction from their performance ability. Finally, senior managers must ensure that they "walk the talk" when it comes to employee development.

Holbeche's new book Aligning HR and Business Strategies is published by Butterworth-Heinemann.

However, employability now means much more than skills. In a more robust economic climate employers' concerns have shifted towards retaining and motivating employees who can maintain competitiveness in a rapidly changing world. This means the concept of employability has become more internal and focused towards building a committed, responsive workforce.

"Employees are looking for more than rhetoric about employability and some skills training from employers - they want them to really deliver on their promises. For example, one in two employees believes that their employers should help them to enhance their future career prospects outside the organisation.

However, our research shows that fewer than one in three organisations believe they have achieved their main targets of a high performance culture with a more career-resilient workforce. There is still a long way to go before both employers and employees understand what each other wants from the concept of employability and how to use it for mutual benefit in the workplace", explains Rajan.

Employability: Bridging the Gap between Rhetoric and Reality - The Employer's Perspective, by Amin Rajan, Penny van Eupen, Kirsty Chappie and David Lane, is available from CREATE on 01732 369191.

Employability: Bridging the Gap between Rhetoric and Reality - The Employee's Perspective, by David Lane, Angela Puri, Patricia Cleverly, Robert Wylie and Amin Rajan, is available from the Professional Development Foundation on 0207 987 2805.

Research finds 100 different ways of defining employability

New research reports confusion about how to define employability - a concept that is underpinning both employment practices and government policy and currently accepted as one of four goals for achieving "high and stable levels of growth and employment".

Speaking on "Employability" (see also the published texts) at the conference, Amin Rajan, chief executive, CREATE, outlined the results of the first nationwide research by the IPD and other members of the Employability Research Forum into employers' notions of employability.

The conference session was chaired by David Lane, director of the Professional Development Foundation with Chris Bottomley, director of Human Resources, Retail and Commercial, Nat West Group discussing employee perceptions of employability.

Rajan said:

Over 100 definitions of employability were given by the 900 employers we surveyed. That's a lot of room for misunderstanding a concept which is influencing government initiatives such as the New Deal and the University for Industry.

Rajan argued that part of the confusion may be due to the concept of employability shifting over the last ten years. During the early 1990s it was widely defined as the forsaking of job security by employees in return for opportunities to learn portable skills and values to make them attractive to future employers.

Emotional intelligence is a "must have" for today's workforce

Speaking on "Emotional intelligence" at IPD's Conference the leading writer and thinker, Dr Daniel Goleman, spoke of the need for organisations and individuals to prioritise emotional intelligence. The changes we see in today's workplaces will accelerate as we enter the next millennium. Increasingly, it is not how technically adept we are but how we handle ourselves and others that matters. As Goleman argued, it is our emotional intelligence quotient rather than our IQ that predicts our likely future personal achievements.

He said:

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an inoculation that preserves health and encourages growth. Organizations are like organisms - they begin, flourish and die. Forty years from now two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist. Those that do will contain people with large doses of emotional intelligence or EQ.

Old ways of doing business no longer work as the intensity of the competitive challenges emanating from the global economy grow. Old hierarchies based on command and control mentalities are being replaced by networks with workers and management combining into flexible task oriented teams. Goleman's definition of EQ includes five basic emotional and social competencies:

  1. 1.

    Self-awareness - holding a realistic assessment of our abilities and a good sense of self-confidence.

  2. 2.

    Self-regulation - controlling our emotions so that they help rather than hinder what we are doing. This includes being able to delay gratification to pursue goals.

  3. 3.

    Motivation - using our deepest preferences to take the initiative, improve and persevere.

  4. 4.

    Empathy - sensing what others are feeling and being able to develop rapport with a wide variety of people.

  5. 5.

    Social skills - handling emotions in social situations well and accurately reading social situations. Using such skills to persuade, negotiate and lead.

Goleman continued:

The good news in such a world of change is that emotional intelligence can be learned. Businesses can measure emotional competences in their workforces and tune them accordingly. Success cannot be guaranteed on EQ alone but ignoring the human dimension would be commercial suicide. In the future companies in which people collaborate, that use their EQ best, will succeed ahead of the rest. For individuals, having and developing their emotional intelligence will offer a pathway to security and success.

Many other presentations were made at the IPD National Conference, and some of these contributions will be published in the next issues of this journal. Information about the conference can be obtained from IPD, IPD House, Camp Road, London SW19 4UX. Tel: 020 8263 3251/3365; Fax: 020 8263 3244; IPD Web site: (IPD Books. Tel: 01752 202301).

Related articles