CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition: HR leaders need chemistry (plus two other Cs) to build trust

Rick Lee shares with delegates the key elements every people professional requires to earn the backing of employees

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HR professionals need chemistry to build trust, delegates attending the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition have been told. 

When asked a question during day one’s closing keynote panel discussion, ‘Making ‘work’ work’, Rick Lee, chief people officer at Willmott Dixon, said there were three crucial factors: competency, credibility and chemistry. “It really helps if you like the people you work with and I think that’s really important for us HR people, to build trust,” Lee said. 

In another part of the discussion, Sarah Blake, HR director at TalkTalk, spoke about creating a positive work environment. "I think trust is the building block," she said, adding: "In Covid times, the majority of people worked from home,” and were trusted to do so to “keep our businesses operating”. 

However, she said many businesses were now flipping that and saying we need to be back in the office – a strategy she does not back as “we cannot go back from where we are".

She added: “I think hybrid flexible working is the way forward. I don’t 100 per cent believe that [solely] working from home is the right way forward: I think people need to collaborate, come into the office and interact together.”

CIPD CEO Peter Cheese said the pandemic taught us that less than half of the population can work from home, so we must regard hybrid as one type of flexible working and think imaginatively about how to deliver flexibility to frontline workers.

Cheese also talked about the CIPD’s objective to make work work, saying: "When we talk about having a high-wage, high-skills economy, we're neither. We're a long way from it.” 

Katie Jacobs, senior stakeholder lead at the CIPD, asked the panellists at the end of the conference for one thing they would like to see delegates do. 

Blake said: "HR professionals should create a culture of trust, purpose and belonging and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money.” 

Lee emphasised the significance of working in firms with "decent leaders" and "decent structures”. He said that if you do not have one or more of these, you should consider "working somewhere else" or becoming a "catalyst for change that your organisation requires".

Cheese said that “if work isn’t working” you need to bring the evidence, recalling a Latin American expression he heard: “In God we trust, everyone else brings the data.”

He added: “You’ve got to bring the evidence to show it’s not working.”