Officially excited – CIPD NAP

Here is one of our event bloggers Emma Browes talking about what she is looking forward to this week at CIPD NAP. You can follow Em on Twitter as @EmmaBrowes for live tweeting and blogging from the event.

Emma Browes HR

Why am I looking forward to CIPD Northern Area Partnership (NAP) Conference? Frankly it’s right up my street. Literally, it’s the nearest conference to where I live in years.  Travel plans aside there’s more reasons to be at CIPD NAP than it’s proximity to my house.

The theme is ‘Creating an Amazing Workplace… through well-being and engagement; improving peformance and the bottom line’.  The conference takes place on Friday 19th June and Saturday 20th June at York Racecourse.  More details here!

I’m mainly hoping that the speakers and through conversations I might answer some questions that I keep returning to…

1)What is ‘The Workplace’ these days?  For a particular type of worker and even a part of some customer facing roles – does it still exist, do we still have a ‘Place of Work’? with the rise of mobile (it’s not going away, people!) will everyone be working in starbucks? Except the Starbuck’s employees  –…

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3 Winning Ways To Develop Resilient Teams


water glass

“The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing.”

– Rosabeth Moss Kanter

With resilience high on many agendas right now, including at #CIPDNAP15, it is proving to be a positive, hopeful concept, to explore how individuals, teams and organisations can adapt when things don’t go as planned. Studies have emerged in recent years to indicate that resilience can be measured, predicted and crucially- developed. At last month’s CIPD L&D Show, Tesco group training manager Jeremy Howell described how resilience training has helped employees cope with uncertainty and market fluctuations.

And yet there is a danger that resilience (within the context of learning and development) is defined too narrowly. It’s not just about mental toughness, or bouncing-back from adversity, or optimism – although some may argue that each of these have a part to play. I’m a fan of Cooper, Flint-Taylor & Pearn’s (2013) working definition:

“Resilience is being able to bounce-back from setbacks, and to keep going in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances, including the enduring strength that builds from coping well with challenging or stressful events.”

We all know a team who could use a boost of resilience. The modern team has a lot to cope with – disruptions, interruptions, setbacks – and whilst these issues can be ascribed to circumstances outside of most people’s control, teams can work hard to control (and develop) their reactions to them. Do they give up, or find a new path?

In our work at TMS Development International, we have consistently found that teams with high levels of resilience are able to quickly deploy various strategies to reinforce their work when things go awry. Here are three of them:

1) Build strategies to find pathways around obstacles

A defining feature of resilient teams is that they can quickly build pathways around obstacles when when they appear. What happens when the clear, obvious path disappears after an unexpected setback occurs? Resilient teams know that it’s not always possible to anticipate these obstacles, and use creative problem solving techniques to build multiple pathways around, over, or straight through them.

2) Recognise that resilience is not (just) about enduring optimism

Optimism (a psychological resource that gives us the expectancy that our endeavours will succeed) can be a simultaneously powerful and dangerous trait. Teams with high levels of optimism will demonstrate a number of qualities that will help enthuse others into believing that the future is an attractive place, and that no matter how badly things have gone – things will turn out for the better.

Consider the following two teams:

Team A Team B
Demonstrate unwavering self-belief Never taken on opportunities that haven’t been fully scenario planned
Exude high levels of confidence Carefully review and reflect on the significance of events
Choose to always focus on the best case scenario Work hard to always be mindful of the realities of the situation

Which team is the most resilient? Is it Team A, complete with bags of confidence and optimism, or is it careful, considered Team B? What about if both teams were senior government officials?

As accessible a term as optimism is, it is still something that may need to be defined within the context of your particular organisation (perhaps even the context of each specific team).

3) Initiate opportunities for collaboration

I’m a recent convert to the ‘Getting Things Done’ method advocated by David Allen, who proclaims that:

“You can do anything. But not everything.”

It’s a great motto in general, but a reminder that every problem collaborated-on is an opportunity to build team resilience. Supporting others in reaching a long-term goal is a key strategy to help underpin the resilience of people, teams and organisations. To help them when they occassionally stumble- to keep calm, rebuild, and carry on.

Mark Gilroy, Director, TMS Development International Ltd.


TMS Development International Ltd are distributors for a unique set of profiling tools known as Margerison-McCann Team Management Systems (TMS). Used by over 2 million people worldwide, the TMS suite of psychometric development tools offer an integrated perspective on personal, team and organisational performance. The Opportunity Orientation Profile is just one of a number of tools that can be used to assist with building resilience – visit to learn more – or better still come and see them at CIPD NAP!!

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Social media – the next dimension #cipdnap15

At this year’s NAP conference we are delighted to welcome Perry Timms, who, among his many other roles, is Adviser to the CIPD on social media and engagement.   He will be leading our final keynote speech on Saturday; ‘Social Media – the next dimension’.

Here is a taster from Perry about his view on all things social.

Facebook and YouTube; we’ve seen the gradual embracing by the conventional media of what was once called new media.  We’ve seen the dark and light, the power and perversion of social networks.

We are though seeing the rise of social in almost all aspects of our life, and that technology appears to be driving it is neither wholly the case or wildly inaccurate.  It’s a combination of the working technologies of the 20th century – not just electronic, computerised or digital but management, processes like lean – being eschewed in favour of more agile, collaborative technologies including digital platforms that puts the me back into teamwork and takes the lo out of solo, email pursuits where the only team dynamics were the annual plank-walking away day and the drain of life that has become team meetings.

I don’t need to tell you why the way we’re working isn’t totally working.  

But how do we let the social still equal productive and effective whilst being more human and wholesome?

Just a quick one thought: you may have even tried social in your place of work or for yourself and quickly defaulted back to email and the likes.   This happened with phoning people over surfing the web for answers; and a manual diary over an online calendar.  With exceptions, norms like search engines and online diaries make it almost incomprehensible we resisted this shift.  Sometimes things embed quicker than others and because the brain is essentially finding the easiest option, sometimes that will be lazy and stick to your current defaults.  Rewiring takes time, but can be, and in my experience is, so worth it.

So, if you’ve tried before, you might want to try again and keep trying.  Social technologies only reveal their FULL impact when you’re in with them for a longer haul than a couple of experiments.

I’ve got 4 areas that will be recognisable to all of you:

Social for Recruiting.  And not just sourcing, but your “brand proposition”, grad schemes whatever.  If you’re not talking about yourself on social or your people are not allowed to talk about you, it is going on anyway.  No need to move all your hiring into this area but have a plan; experiment with more than LinkedIn and see what you get; norm and sustain things like your Twitter presence and YouTube utilisation and it will pay off.  One leaflet did not a market produce.  As is with social media and recruiting.

Social Media for Engagement.  A logical next step but communication and dialogue with your people is ever more important alongside your customer and supplier relationships.  Why know more about what your customers think than your own people?  Ridiculous scenario.  Once a year, or even pulse engagement surveys just aren’t good enough anymore.  People will deliver amazing things when they feel they belong, understand and are listened to.  Engagement isn’t enough.  Involvement.  How do you create employee involvement?  In some extreme cases organisations move to self-organised teams in making more of less radical concepts – it’s EI that counts.  Employee Involvement.

Social Media for Learning.  THE bounty of insight is something you’ll hear about from Dave Coplin – the deluge.  Yet within the social world for learning, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  It’s the musical equivalent of digital downloads.  Every song ever, available to play when you went at the click of a search function or the creation of a playlist.  Overwhelming choice?  Sure but if you’ve created a network of discerning DJs from different genres, you have those enthusiasts and experts doing some of your filtering legwork.  Clay Shirky – famous thought leader in information and technology says “we don’t have an information overload problem.  It’s a problem in filtering.  SO much insight you can do your MBA through Twitter, pick up MOOCs and blogs to the envy of previous generations inability to unlock the insight from academia, and find a video clip on YouTube for every conceivable scenario manager face in the world of work.

Social Media for Work.  Probably the most controversial frontier.  How can you use this “like” and share mentality for work?  It’s all play, entertainment and trivia surely?  Well now.  Software as a Service – SaaS is all about work tools built from the bottom up around social media constructs.  Asana, Google Docs, 4th Office, Podio, Trello, Sharepoint, Evernote, Dropbox, Slack, Quip, even What’s App is redefining HOW we do our work.  It’s driving some CIOs mad and exciting others.  No doubts, and I am living proof of this as a freelancer, the range of helpful digital tools makes for more productivity, more collaborative ways of working and much more energy in things that (like say project management) weren’t very exciting but necessary.  Digital apps make them more dynamic, less laborious like the musical analogy playlist and less concept album.

BE SOCIAL to GET SOCIAL and MAKE SOCIAL work for you, your team and your organisation.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the very venerable Don Tapscott author and digital pioneer – this is not an information age, it’s an age of collective intelligence.

There is still time to book to hear Perry at CIPD NAP 15 – more detail here!

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More great stuff about the brain………..

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Well the plot thickens…….. this gaming lark I mentioned in my last blog….. why it works…….it is all about synaptic plasticity … the researchers think!

The brain can keep growing… I knew that snippet from some research done on London cabbies (1) and linguistic experts. The research shows that for London cabbies the posterior hippocampus grows as the cabbies learn more routes. This is a part of the brain associated with visual-spatial memory apparently. As new neural connections are made, the brain grows and changes, hence the term “neuroplasticity”. Previously it was not thought possible that the brain could develop in later life.

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.

Researchers have particularly been looking at the use of video gaming and the effects on the brain. They seem to think that it could be “a promising method to ‘take the brakes off adult plasticity’ (Bavelier et al 2010)” (2) They are not sure how it works but it has something to do with the uptake of dopamine to the midbrain.

For those of you who do not know, dopamine is the happy hormone that is released when we think we are going to get a reward (or when we are eating chocolate!!!) (3) With the right amount of dopamine, learners are engaged and wanting to participate. Too much dopamine and the learners get a bit giddy and do not really remember much about what they have learned, but love the experience.

So back to what we were talking about …synaptic plasticity….this is the process of changing connection strengths between neutrons, which is also considered the basis of learning (Shohamy and Adcock 2010) (2). Video games are thought to be such an immersive activity and hence they heighten learning by stimulating the reward centres of the brain.

So my question, as always is “So what?”. Let me put into a nutshell, what I think we need to do, to incorporate some of this brain stuff into the learning experiences we design and deliver:

Find out what the learners want to get out of it – their reward for attending!

  • Make the experience immersive and involve the learners, but make sure they are not over stimulated!
  • Add a competitive element to the learning, with the rewards being uncertain
  • Add some games – be child-like but not childish
  • Make your learners aware that learning does not need to diminish with age


  1. From steady state to ready state CIPD Sept 2012
  2. Fresh thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and learning
  3. “Your Brain at Work” David Rock
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The happiness advantage

Hear from Stephanie Davies, who will be joining us at CIPD NAP!


Businesses are taking happiness seriously, according to academics. The latest modules on several management school curricula cover areas described as  ‘meaning’, ‘human flourishing’ and ‘subjective wellbeing’, or as we in the real world like to call it ‘happiness’.  How you feel about your workplace is important and the interest in it is universal. Experts in the subject agree that businesses need to factor happiness into the workplace to maximise employee potential.

As Andrew Oswald, an economist at Warwick University recently explained in an article in the Financial Times: “When people become happier they somehow find more energy. We don’t know how they do it.”

He believes that happiness and the commercial advantage it brings is now a mainstream management trend that it is here to stay.  Let’s face it, if we’re going to spend an average of 99,117 hours at work in a lifetime isn’t it best to enjoy it?  For many, of course, happiness is about not being at work, especially when there’s plenty of other things to get excited about outside your office or workplace. However, most of us accept we need to work to live, in which case what do you need in a job to make you happy? Here are our five steps to find workplace happiness:

Take charge of your destiny

It is incredibly satisfying to develop in a job and to have control over that development.  I come across many people who wait for development to come to them and feel disheartened when it doesn’t.  Take charge of your own growth; ask for specific and meaningful help from your manager or boss.  You are the best person to develop yourself and have the most to gain from it.  The feeling of being in control also has an impact on our happiness, so it’s a win/win situation.

Get in the loop

A common gripe from people is that they don’t receive enough communication and information about events in their workplace. I am a huge believer in communication and transparency in organisations and I do feel messages from the top are best communicated directly. However sometimes they simply don’t come for various reasons.   So seek out the information you need to work effectively yourself and don’t be afraid to ask. Develop positive networks and use them to help you do your job. Politely request weekly meetings if you don’t already have them and ask questions to learn.

Seek out feedback

Having and getting feedback is how we know how we are doing and where we need to improve.  But feedback is sometimes infrequent and this can be frustrating. If this is the case, simply ask for it.  It doesn’t have to be in a formal setting and regular informal  feedback sessions are great guides.

Manage your load

One of the most serious causes of workplace stress is feeling overloaded. It’s important to understand that if you feel overwhelmed, its ok to say no to extra work.  We can often be asked to do things and feel under pressure to say yes.  If you really can’t take on extra work then explain why.  A simple way to do this is to ask the person when their deadline is then explain the other work you are committed to and be honest about the time frame you have to complete it.  If your workload exceeds your available time and energy ask your manager for help and resources.  If you are a manager and your team is struggling,  look at your systems and process. Are they working well for you?  Create your own systems that enable you to do your job in the most efficient way.  There are lots of great tips for time management and efficient working on the internet using diary systems and other computer structures

Spread positivity, avoid negativity

Offices can be hotbeds of gossip. Avoiding it can be a challenge. But it’s your choice whether you want to get involved in the negative stuff. If you do, you play a role in sustaining it and one day it could be you on the receiving end.  Flip it on its head and actively engage in the dissemination of positive news instead. Go out of your way to thank people and be nice to people and you’ll find this positivity reflects back on you.

Make Friends

In happiness studies, having and knowing how to maintain positive relationships repeatedly comes out as one of the key contributors to feeling happy.  Enjoying the company of your co-workers is the hallmark of a positive, happy work experience. Take time to get to know your colleagues and befriend them. Friendships take time and effort and you may not bond with people immediately.  You may just have one or two friends at work, but they’re your network, they’ll provide support, friendly banter and conversation.

Have a laugh

Laughter releases endorphins which make us feel happy, relaxed and comfortable. A positive mind-set is the key to success. Having a positive outlook on life is not just advantageous to mental health, it is good fun too. Learn to laugh at yourself. Develop your own sense of humour by watching comedians and how they explain situations in a comical way. Revisit past events and see if you can think about them differently – through the eyes of a comedian. Using tricks like exaggeration and wordplay can alter the context of a situation and help you feel more positive. Make time to have a laugh with your colleagues in a positive way.

Forbes recently highlighted happiness at work as a key driver for success,  stating that if you had to describe workplace happiness in a few words they would be results, recognition and relationships. Whatever you call happiness, one thing is certain; having a happy, positive working environment is undoubtedly better than having a negative, dull one, not just because it feels good; neuroscience and research tells us people perform better when they’re happy.  So what are you going to do to take responsibility for happiness at your work?

Find out more about Laughology here.  Or better still – book for CIPD NAP and hear Stephanie in person!

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Everybody is talking about it… neuroscience that is…

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Everyone is talking about it…. neuroscience….and if you are not why not? Does it seem like the latest in a long line of fads? Or just a bit too geeky? I am never afraid of being labelled an “anorak”and so will admit that I have been reading the CIPD’s papers on Neuroscience (references at the end) to see what useful stuff I can use …. and share….

One comment that stood out for me and this may seem like I am about to contradict myself here… is from Stella Collins (my colleague in all things brain friendly):

“If you’ve done something and it really works, you’ve implemented some kind of piece of learning, piece of training, you’ve helped people in some way and it works and you can’t find the piece of neuroscience that backs it up, that might not matter. I don’t think everything has to be backed up by neuroscience because they just may not have discovered it yet.”(1)

As a pragmatist, I love stuff that works and science that backs up stuff that works for me, so I can tell others why they should do it!

My most recent venture has been the Learning Loop, a game for training trainers, whatever their experience. It has been going down a storm and participants have been really engaged with the whole format. It takes the focus away from me as a facilitator and focusses on what the learners already know, building upon it and sharing with others. So why does this work so well?

“Research at Bristol University confirmed children’s preference for uncertain reward in a learning task and, in a study with adults, demonstrated how it increased the emotional response to learning (Howard-Jones and Demetriou 2009).” (2)

During the game, the participants seem sooooo excited about winning up to 5 wooden beads for answering a question….. it is down to me how many beads they are awarded, depending on how full (in my opinion) an answer they give. Other teams are allowed to “steal” extra points and they do so with much enthusiasm. I thought it would work, but now there is research, that shows the use of uncertain rewards can increase the emotional response it helps me to understand why.

I have known (and observed) for a long time that competition in training works well and adds an element of fun as well as focus, but it is great to hear that there is research that backs up what for a long tine has been for me “just a feeling”. Which brings me back to Stella’s point …. if it works… keep using it……

If you want to know “How to create L&D programmes that drive employee engagement by applying 5 easy to use brain tips”, Krystyna will be running a workshop at NAP by the same name. Book sooner rather than later!


  1. Neuroscience in Action CIPD Nov 20142. Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 Neuroscience and Learning
  2. Fresh Thinking in L&D Part 1 of 3 Neuroscience and Learning Feb 2014
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Dialogue. It’s a beautiful thing.


Another chance to hear from one of the speakers at this year’s NAP conference.  This blog post is from Julie Drybrough, better known on Twitter as @Fuchsia_Blue  At NAP Julie will be running a workshop on the power of workplace conversation. Here is a little more from her on the subject.  Enjoy!

I find beauty in conversation. I can get lost in conversation – time slips by in a breath, if you let it. You get a bunch of folk talking together well – really pushing each other to think; laughing kindly together, disagreeing with each other, whilst still looking at each other with appreciation, not malevolence…when that happens? Woah. It’s kind of breathtaking…, purpose, stuff happening…. Wow.

Here, in these dialogues, there is Connection. Relationship. Kinship. Fluidity. Understanding. At their best, these conversations contain empathy, expansiveness, awareness of the bigger world, a will for a greater good. At their worst, these conversations contain collusion, power plays, small thinking, greediness and rigidity of thought…..

Ah. Hold up. Dialogue is meant to be a “good” thing……. Huh?

Well… what I said dialogue is a beautiful thing – and that’s kind of in the eye of the beholder.. Lao –tzu (he of Tao Te Ching fame, which no, I haven’t read in depth, sorry) sums up my point rather better than I can:

“All can see beauty only as beauty because there is also ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil”

Dialogue happens in the real world. It happens in relation between you, me, the people around us, the world we exist in. It can be fulfilling, luscious, rambling, colourful and gorgeous. It can be stark, quiet, contained and functional. It can be challenging, brusque and bruising. It can be supportive, soothing and calm. Any of these may be beautiful to you. Any may be ugly. Unless we are in good relationship to one another, unless I pay attention to you and you to me, unless I seek to understand where you’re coming from and you do me the same service, how will we know what each others’ beautiful or ugly or good or bad looks like? How can we understand the edges of our tolerance or where our prejudices lie?

My point? That dialogue isn’t just about talking. In fact, based on the blogs written lately, I can’t help noticing that the talking part is tiny.. It’s how your talking and others’ talking… and the environment you are talking together in…. and the mood you bring…. and the beliefs you hold…. and the culture you come from….. and the culture you work in….and the patterns you generate…. and a vast array of other factors all morph together until you offer a gesture or a response to someone else.

How you are in dialogue is an experience between you and the world you live in. It reflects your relationship to the world.

Tell me there isn’t something beautiful in that?


You can book to attend the conference here – it is gonna be awesome!  If you enjoyed the post, you can find more of Julie’s writing on her blog

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