Leadership Development Insights from HR Vision, Amsterdam

Leadership Development Insights

Another week.  Another Conference.  Last week I was at HR Vision 2015 in Amsterdam and there I found a number of key leadership development insights

What is HR Vision?

HR Vision is a series of conferences for senior level HR executives.  It’s held twice a year – In Amsterdam and London.  And it’s designed to deliver outstanding strategic insights into the critical challenges facing HR and business today.

Why was I there?

Clearly this is a conference I would always have interest in attending since I specialise in providing strategic support to help senior HR leaders address their talent and leadership development challenges.  But I wasn’t just there as a participant.  The event organisers, Osney, invited me for the second time to chair the Leadership Development track (I chaired the same track at HR Vision London 2014).

As it turned out I also became one of the speakers.  Due to the calamity of a lost passport, one of the speakers in my track didn’t turn up.  So, with 20 minutes to go, we hastily changed the agenda and I presented a session on “Talent Development: How to Align Employee Ambitions with Business Objectives”. It went down extremely well.  Phew!

Van Gogh MuseumMy Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my two days in Amsterdam.  I met interesting people from all over the world, listened to inspiring presentations and shared experiences and ideas about talent development.  And I had the bonus of a canal cruise in Amsterdam and an exclusive visit to the Van Gogh museum.


Leadership Development Insights – Key Themes

“That’s all very well Antoinette” I hear you say “But we’re not interested in your social life and your tourist activities.  What did you learn that you can pass on to those of us who weren’t there?”.

Here goes. For me the overriding theme was summed up by a key question posed in the first keynote by Janet Wood, EVP Talent and Leadership for SAP.  She asked “What does it mean to be a leader TODAY where change is constant?”

Over the next 2 days, 5 factors emerged:

1.  Agility and simplification

Janet from SAP talked about the need for leaders who were agile as well as comfortable with volatility and change.  That needs a simplification of organisation structure, processes and offerings as highlighted by Jorge Uribe in his session about increasing productivity at P&G.  Ruth Gertier, Regional Learning Leader for GE Europe, explained how these ideas are embraced in the “GE Beliefs” and have been built into the way they design and carry out talent development.

2.  ResilienceJacqui Grey

Dr. Jaqui Grey from the Neuroleadership Institute highlighted the challenge of cognitive overload for today’s leaders.  What is important is how they react to stress not how much stress there is.  Leaders need to develop strategies that will allow them to stay resilient and open to learning.

3.  Conversations and language

Speakers from SAP, GE and Philips talked about the increasing importance of development conversations and career conversations.  Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025.  Compared with previous generations, they want more regular feedback and dialogue, not just an annual review.  Neuroscience tells us performance ratings don’t work because they cause threat in the brain.  It’s much more effective to have frequent quality conversations rather than an annual rating.

4.  Diversity and inclusion

Our final speaker on Day 1 was a wonderful young man called Kai Kight.  A fabulous violinist, Kai used music as a metaphor.  He made the point that many people and organisations have a limiting belief that we can’t change how we do things.  He challenged us to consider “Are you writing new music or just playing notes that have already been written?”  See him in action here. Tinna Nielsen, Founder of the Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness reinforced this message at the beginning of Day 2 when she showed our natural tendencies to judge people based on social norms.  Who might we missing out by doing so?

5.  Trust and shared leadership

One of the key qualities for leaders to be successful is being trustworthy.  Clodagh O’Reilly, Workforce Science and Analytics Practice Leader from IBM explained “Rules are fundamentally flawed because they don’t work when the context changes.” Organisations need to develop open organisations with strong values and leadership principles that allow employees to decide what to do even when circumstances have changed.  Peter Hope from Philips agreed.  He pointed out that organisations need leadership happening everywhere through a culture of performance, personal responsibility and individual recognition.  SAP have even gone so far as to define Trust as a KPI and measure it within their engagement survey with the question “Is your direct manager someone you would trust and recommend to others?

In Summary

A great two days that I would recommend to any senior HR professional.  The next conference in the series will be in London on 18 & 19 November 2015.  Find out more at www.hrvisionevent.com


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