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The 2018 CIPD Ireland Student Conference

This year’s CIPD Ireland Student Conference was focused around Empowering the Next Generation of Hr Leaders. Chair, Dave Barry, Director Talent & Transformation at Fastnet-The Talent Group and Mary Connaughton, Director of CIPD Ireland introduced the topic and shared some valuable insights and trends in HR Practices in Ireland today.

The CIPD HR Practices in Ireland Survey 2018:

  • Top three external drivers for Change: 1. Labour Market and Skills *way ahead of the other two* 2. Brexit and 3. Change and 24/7 economy.
  • Mary discussed how we are getting there in terms of gaining a strategic seat at the table, 71% of organisations now see HR at a senior level, playing a strategic part in the Business.
  • The top HR priorities over the next two years are Employee engagement and talent management. A tighter labour market is leading to a push on recruitment and retention. Greater mobility is creating risk for organisations talent management. So, Mary asked, why are people leaving? Perhaps for greater rewards and better careers. Mary drew attention to the fact the we are not matching what we are actually doing to manger this retention problem to what’s really happening. Improving onboarding and induction programmes is not the solution to the problem, they should be good anyways, more tactical focus needs to be implemented in organisations to protect their talent. We are also not seeing good exit interview process in many organisations, with 25% of organisations doing none at all.
  • Top three actions to improve retention: Learning and Development, Induction, Work life balance.
  • Another very interesting result from the survey that Mary highlighted was that all three of the answers to ‘what is constraining HR?’ centred around line management. Mainly the lack of time available for people management, followed by lack of development and support and ineffective devolution of HR. This is an area that HR needs to focus on going forward.
  • Gender pay gap: Only 20% of Irish organisations currently calculate their gender pay gap.

David D’Souza, Head of Engagement at CIPD then addressed the room. David gave three great pieces of advice that I took away from his talk:

  • He used the example of superman in the phonebooth, he goes into the booth in a business suit and comes out the other side as superman. Employees are coming into work with a spark in their eye, ready to take on the day and this can very quickly disappear. The aim is for the organisation to keep the spark in every employee and not let that disappear.
  • Our focus should be on outcome and not watching people work. David put the following scenario to the room: you are locked out of your apartment and have to call a locksmith. One locksmith is new, comes to look at the problem, can’t fix it, goes away to get parts, comes back and finally finishes the job. The second locksmith is an expert and arrives and in seconds opens the door. The question David asked, which locksmith would you rather pay? Most of us would be disgruntled handing over a sum of money to the man that took only a few seconds to open the door even though he gave us the outcome we wanted fastest. Business needs to focus on smart solution making, shortcuts and getting better at focusing on the outcome not the work for the sake of work.
  • David told the room to be brave, not to always follow the steps of past HR. Think outside the box for new solutions.

Niamh McNamara, Head of Hr from Novartis Global Services

  • Soft skills are very important- With more and more technology coming into the workplace, to remember that a robot can’t give a hug, listen or deal with emotional issues.
  • The recent storm and snow- the recent snow storm caused havoc for a lot of Employers. What Niamh and her team found was that productivity in their Organisation actually increased over the period. Niamh said that they took on board the weather warnings very early, had policies and directions in place so all Employees knew exactly where they stood. Because of the psychological trust between Employer and Employee work activity actually increased as people worked at home. A good lesson learnt, that her Company are going to make sure is the way forward as these extreme weather events become more regular.

Barry Holmes, Director, Group Human Resources, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

  • Barry said one of the issues HR are encountering is the rising (changing) expectations on pay and promotion. That career development is just as important after hiring the talent. There needs to be clear paths of growth and development.
  • Barry showed us a short clip of an ongoing project that RCS and Accenture are working on this year called ‘Women on Walls’ https://youtu.be/O0WMyjxqZGc. To recognise the pioneering achievements of eight extraordinary women and enhance the visibility of historical female leaders in medicine.

In the afternoon we heard great insight from Oonagh Buckley, Director General of the WRC. Oonagh discussed the role of the WRC and how they are working hard to get adjudications from start to finish in 6 months, the process in the past could have taken 3 years! Oonagh said that there is an opportunity after all complaints for parties to opt in to mediation. Mediation is a very successful way of resolving a dispute and can be done over the phone.

Johanne Duignan A&L Goodbody then spoke about case law and a recent final decision by the Court of Appeals on the ongoing Nano Nagle School case that sheds a lot of light on the area of Reasonable Accommodation. The Court of Appeal recently delivered judgment in a long running disability discrimination case which is noteworthy from an employer’s perspective. The judgment brings clarity to the law on the extent of an employer’s statutory duty to reasonably accommodate disabled employees.

In overturning the High Court judgment in Daly v Nano Nagle School, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the statutory duty to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee is not as onerous as previously understood.

Significantly, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the obligation does not extend to requiring an employer to employ a person in a position if they are not able to perform the essential duties of that position. (A&L Goodbody)

The Court of Appeals Mr Justice Ryan said the “central reality” was Ms Daly was unable to perform the essential tasks of a SNA in this school “and no accommodations put in place by the employer can change that, unfortunately”. The Labour Court had not correctly applied the law to the undisputed facts.

To finish up the group was invited to attend breakout sessions with Ronan Dillon, CEO Healthy Workforce and Karl O’Connor, award winning coach. Health and wellbeing and Coaching are becoming two important topics for HR professionals. How to approach the Senior Management team to implement best practice on health promotion, to start small and have all the facts. Coaching is becoming an invaluable skill for practitioners to have. Many businesses are moving from the traditional performance review meeting to a coaching focussed meeting.

The final speaker of the day, Claire Walsh from Zendesk spoke on their recent achievement of winning the CIPD 2018 award for ‘use of technology in HR.’ Claire demonstrated how a great tool can ultimately increase the scope of the HR function in a Company, creating a greater flow of communication between Employees and their HR team.

It was a great day with some really fantastic speakers! Looking forward to next year!

Kate Siberry, HR Executive, Voltedge Management 

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