HR Summit and Expo 2015 : a recap

Explore some of the best C&B and HR sessions from the HR Summit and Expo 2015

Explore some of the best C&B and HR sessions from HRSE15

Beware : long read !

The HR Summit and Expo 2015 organised by informa took place last week in Dubai from November 16 to 18.

I was honoured to be invited again to present a session in the free learning track, and delivered some tips on how to use numbers and words to get better buy-in from the CFO for HR and compensation projects.

I also led two HR Chitchat sessions, where anyone could come and ask me questions on Flexible Benefits and Total Rewards. If you didn’t have a chance to visit the stand at the InformaHub while I was there, don’t hesitate to send me your questions here 🙂

As usual, this massive event, the largest HR conference in the Middle East, was a very fruitful event : great speakers and gurus in the paid section of the conference, relevant booths and stands in the exhibition hall, and some interesting presentations in the free learning track.

I recommend you book the dates for next year’s HRSE, and make sure you benefit from all aspects of this event from November 14 to November 16, 2016.

There were quite a few highlights for me at the event :

Meeting with Trish McFarlane of HR Ringleader (her blog) and HR Happy Hour (the podcast she hosts together with Steve Boese) fame. Trish is one of the people I admire most on the HR blogging scene. She was really lovely and spent a good deal of time sharing her experience and advice with me – I look forward to seeing her again and inviting her to dinner in one of Dubai’s many great restaurants !

Who knew that I’d ever have a chat about potentially writing a C&B book ? I don’t know if this opportunity will ever materialize, but I find the idea terribly exciting.

What do you say ? Would you be interested to read my book ? Are there any Performance and Reward topics you’d absolutely want me to cover in it ? Please hit the reply or comment button and let me know !

The Summit was also the opportunity for me to discuss on how to deepen my collaboration with Bridge the Data, which was known until recently as Cost of Living Reports Middle East. First ways this will materialise ? You’ll soon be reading one of their guest posts here, and there may soon be an invitation to attend a webinar hosted by them and delivered by yours truly (hint, hint). Stay tuned for up-to-date news !

I also established some other contacts for more guest posts, and more ideas. It seems 2016 will be a great year for you if you enjoy my content !

Now, on to the presentations I attended.

The transparency dilemma : managing emotions and engagement in the transparent organisation.

Sebastien Brion, assistant professor at IESE business School presented some interesting views on how the ubiquity of surveillance, the commoditization of data, and shifting attitudes about privacy will affect HR in the near future.

He contends that transparency, disclosure and quantified work are all feasible, but he advises that companies reciprocate by not only taking info and using transparency from employees, but also being more transparent themselves, and making sure that they avoid creating a sense of being manipulated for the employees. A vast topic !

The future of HR in a fast changing world

Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD, recommended that in our quest to be a credible business partner, we should start from the purpose and desired outcome of our strategy, based on the needs of the business.

An example ? Virgin and Netflix don’t have a vacation policy. They say their employees can take as many vacations days as they like. They treat their employees as adults who can be trusted to make the right decisions. This whole approach shifts the conversation away from entitlement on days off, o one on well-being. And HR is not focused on the process and policing it any more.

Finally, topics that are influencing HR nowadays are neuroscience, positive psychology behavioural economics, systems thinking, and values and ethics. Time to ramp up on the reading on those topics ! Let me know if you’d like me to share the blogs and publications that I follow on these topics.

Rocking the boat : how HR helped Penguin transform its business model

Neil Morrison, Group HR Director of Penguin Random House, covered how the impact of digital transformed the publishing world. Penguin did not want to go down like the music industry did when digital disrupted its business model.

So they adapted the way they work to face the introduction of ebooks, Amazon and the like. They are faster to react (moving from being an oil tanker to a surfer) and learned to focus less on the individual and more on the team.

Social media was becoming more and more important for the success of the published books. So was the role of online content, for example, “the blurb” which is the text at the back of the book. It used to be given to the most junior person on the team, as clients would skim it and focus on searching through the book in the bookstore before deciding whether to buy or not. Now, readers need to find the blurb super attractive as it’s the focus of the book presentation online – and, it needs to be found by Google so technical skills such as Search Engine Optimization are also required.

So Penguin brought these new skills in, but found ways to keep the “old elephants” involved at the same time, for instance by giving them a formal coaching/mentoring role to the new hires coming from different industries, and through establishing them as role models with recognized publishing industry expertise.

This was a short but super valuable presentation on a real-life case of how to turn disruption into opportunity. And Penguin is now a profitable organisation again – so it worked 🙂

An evolution of HR analytics : a Middle East perspective

Matthew Mee, Managing Director of CIPD Middle East introduced some great concepts on analytics. He highlighted one of the main challenges that HR faces with regards to analytics : that data is stored across multiple sources. This makes it more challenging, as HR, to analyse that data and take remedial action.

However, analytics help to make business sense of your workforce, and drive competitive advantage. Good data is characterized by its volume, variety, velocity and variability. Yet, even if your data is not perfect,

Collect it > merge it > run it > analyse it.

Don’t monitor trends for the sake of it. Instead, understand causation vs correlation and try to close the gaps and improve your workforce effectiveness.

Framework for success : Helping organisations navigate the HR Analytics journey

Dion Groeneweg and Saqr Mohamed from Mercer showed some of the metrics they recommend to track, and how it translates into graphic visualisations of how the organisation evolves.

They covered the 3 conditions showing that one factor impacts the other. For example, when linking tenure and promotions at a specific company :

  1. Correlation : is there a link between tenure and promotion ?
  2. Time (in terms of direction) : tenure takes place before promotion
  3. Isolation ie control factors. A multiple regression analysis looks into multiple factors affecting promotions then isolates those that directly impact the outcome. Therefore we can establish that tenure is one of the main causation factors of promotions, along with span of control age, or other factors for example.

Their advice on getting started on the journey to HR Analytics ? . Business life is not like the movies Field of Dreams (“Build it and they will come”) : remember that dashboards are not going to be the saviour. Instead, find a business problem, and analyse it. Your data will never be clean, so just get started.

If you build it they will come

Workplace savings – the missing link in your benefits strategy

Peter Cox, Head of International Pension Plans Sales for APAC & ME at Zurich International Life, expanded on the mismatch between retirement aspirations and employee preparedness :

  • 60% of UAE employees feel they are behind on their savings objectives
  • 25% of people would use their end of Service to pay off debt – which means they’ve already spent it
  • A study found that the average length of service with one company is now 6 years and 10 months (up from 4 years and 7 months 6years ago)
  • It takes 26 years of tenure to get to the maximum EOS payment, meaning that for the majority of employees, EOS will never be even close to covering the needs for their retirement, not even at the maximum payment
  • 86% of employees think their employer should be doing more to help them prepare for retirement.

Yet, EOS payments are typically unfunded as 85% of companies don’t set assets aside – which is getting more dangerous if employees stay longer with the company.

Why is that ? Some of the current thinking :

  • “They’re expats so they won’t stay for long”… Well, they’re staying longer and longer
  • We provide a gratuity, isn’t that enough ? … Clearly not, neither by the numbers nor by employee’s expectations
  • Savings are not tax incentivized… True… because in the first place, there’s no or very little tax in the UAE
  • No other employer provides a savings plan (or retirement / provident scheme) : In fact, some companies do. Emirates and Jumeirah Group are famous for their provident funds. Peter went on to describe some plans designed by some of their clients, with some features that encourage employee contributions while limiting the risk to only the EOS amount for the employer for any departure within the first 5 years of tenure. I hope more of these plans will be implemented soon in the region !

When to customise or standardise your health benefits

Mohit Saini, Director of Product & Business Development at Daman explained how his company started designing customized plans based on clients requests.

There’s been a move from predefined service packages in an integrated product to a modular offering. The Dubai Health Authority authorized voluntary coverage last week, and the market is moving towards a traditional “flexible benefits” approach like in the UK for example.

Here’s an example of what it may look like.

  1. For instance, Daman may offer 4 base plans (eg platinum, gold, silver bronze).
  2. The employer may the upgrade the plan with added benefits (for example dental, optical, alternative medicine, home nursing, health check ups…)
  3. And the employer then needs to implement const-control measures, for example through co-insurance on pharmaceuticals, deductibles on consultations, a fixed reimbursement rate for out of network services…

All this can be confusing to employers and employees.

There’s a lot of complexity for managing these schemes for the providers as well : for instance Abu Dhabi requires different coverage levels than Dubai and the Northern Emirates, and international cover also needs to vary. Also consider the variations between UAE Nationals coverage vs expat coverage, or the various levels of international cover that may be provided.

Employers will have to increase their education in that area and learn that they need to run some analysis on their policy to understand what’s happening – for example, if all your dental credits are used by all your employees, is it because of fraud or because your credit level is too low ?

At the same time, providers will have to find the right balance between flexibility and too much choice for the employers, or risk analysis paralysis, as in the famous jam experiment.

This was an interesting presentation, which used the history of the evolution of offerings at Daman to raise awareness of what can be done by employers to customize health benefits and spend their premium Dirhams as good as possible.

The 3 brains of leadership

Veronica Munro, an international Executive coach and business performance facilitator, spoke about science and decision-making – and yes, I don’t only go for C&B-related stuff though it’s my passion  😉

Science supports the fact that we have 3 decision-making “brains” :

  1. The cephalic brain (our brain) with 50 to 100 billion neurons, supports our cognitive perception, making meaning, and our “thinking me”.
  2. The enteric brain (our gut) with 200 to 500 million neurons, is the one of identity, self-preservation, and mobilization (courage)
  3. The cardiac brain (our heart) with 30 to 120,000 neurons is the one supporting our emotions and feelings, and our relational affect.

Through multiple exercises, Veronica guided us understanding which brain we each use the most, and in which order we use them to make our important decisions, including when we make the wrong ones. We learned to identify to which brain we need to pay more attention in the future.

This was a really cool session, interactive, and an easy-to-understand introduction to concepts of neuro-science and other scientific aspects of decision-making. A nice way to close the loop and get started on the knowledge that Peter Cheese recommended all HR to acquire in order to remain a strategic partner to the business.

So on to you, dear readers : Did you attend HRSE15 ? Which session did you enjoy the most ? And if I ever write a C&B book, which topics do you suggest I should cover or avoid ? I look forward to reading your comments or receiving your messages !

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