Valuable insights on leadership, culture, innovation, engagement and the future of HR during the last HR Summit in Dubai

Highlights from the HR Summit at the Dubai World Trade Centre: November 2015

Part 2

By Liezel Pheiffer Blignaut 

Part 2 features more summary highlights from the HR Summit, including well-known authors Deiric McCann and Fons Tompenaars and the CEO of the CIPD (UK), Peter Cheese.

Deiric McCann: Becoming an engaging leader 

Deiric McCann is the Executive Vice President of Profiles International, and co-author of the book Leadership Charisma.

McCann pointed out there are two factors that drive engagement: job fit and leadership.

They discovered in their research that a leader’s ability to engage is all about their behaviour, and that anyone can learn to be an engaging and charismatic leader. Great leaders care about what is in it for themselves, and attract people who share the same vision. The charismatic leader makes people either feel better or do better after each interaction with them.

Christian Ørsted: Lethal leadership 

Christian Ørsted is the author of the book Lethal Leadership and is based in Denmark.

Ørsted shared Karasek’s insight that the key challenge for managers is to make people feel they:

  • are responsible (that their work is important, that they want to do it, and that it requires their best effort); and
  • have influence (that they know what a job well done looks like, they have the right capabilities, and they have access to sufficient resources when they are needed).

Fons Tompenaars: A new wave of culture, engagement and innovation 

Fons Tompenaars is known all over the world for his work as a consultant and author of many books (Riding the Waves of Culture and Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business). He has spent over 25 years helping Fortune 500 leaders and professionals to manage and solve their business and cultural dilemmas.

Sharing his insight as someone who has been in the profession for many years, Tompenaars mentioned that although he has seen one leadership competency change from risk taking to caution, there is one thing that hasn’t changed: the pace of change, something he first heard more than 40 years ago.

Some of Tompenaars’s insights:

  • Culture should be seen as an onion. Underneath the onion are values. The dilemma is that stereotyping and generalisations happen when values become the norm;
  • We can combine different values of different people through innovation; and
  • His solution to reconcile the dilemma whether to recognise individuals or teams is to reward teams for individual creativity, and reward individuals for teamwork.

Stevan Bevan: Flexible working and workforce productivity 

Stevan Bevan is the Director: Centre for Workforce Effectiveness, The Work Foundation (UK)

In response to the question he is often asked by businesses “should we adopt a flexible work approach?”, his valuable advice was to ask the key question “What operational problem would flexible work be the solution?”.

Peter Cheese: The future of HR in a fast changing world 

Peter Cheese is the CEO of the CIPD (UK).

Cheese shared the following thoughts:

  • Research has shown that, in 1995, intangible assets (people) had overtaken tangible assets as the most significant source of value and risk. Since then, it has continued to increase and, in 2010, tangible assets only represented 10% of a businesses’ value and risk components of their market value;
  • Because the future jobs do not exist yet, HR will have to invest in developing the skills that will be required in future;
  • The real drivers of business performance are culture, risk, sustainability, agility and innovation;
  • HR is a key enabler, but developing managers is critical;
  • HR and business leaders are faced with too much data but not enough information; and HR is not providing insightful analytics; and
  • Whilst it is important that HR understands business, HR has to get back to its roots and understand and apply human and organisational behaviour.

Trish McFarlane: How HR technology impacts your talent management 

Trish McFarlane is the CEO: H3 HR Advisors, host of HR Happy Hour Show, author of and co-founder of the HRevolution.

McFarlane’s key message was that technology will continue to have a significant impact on business value in a complex environment.

HR technology is key in talent management, and to deal with an ever increasing complex environment, and to achieve continuous increase in business value, technology has and is continuing to move from:

  • reporting (what has happened?); to
  • statistical analysis (why did it happen?); to
  • monitoring (what is happening now?); to
  • predictive modeling (what might happen?); to
  • Monte Carlo simulations (what will likely happen?).

Predictive modeling could be used in hiring (what criteria are important?), retention (what drives regrettable turnover?) and performance (who will emerge as a top performer?).

Shirley Davis: How global disruptors redefine work, the worker and the workplace 

Dr Shirley Davis is the President and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises (USA).

Dr Davis shared the following interesting research and trends that will impact the future of work and the workplace:

  • 63% of workers who participated in a poll believed their jobs will never be replaced by automation. Despite this belief, an Oxford study argued that 47% of today’s jobs could be automated in the next two decades;
  • Knowledge workers (whose purpose it is to create, distribute, and apply knowledge) are growing 2,5 times faster than transactional jobs;
  • Today, more than 99% of things in the physical world are still not connected to the Internet. But a phenomenon called “The Internet of Everything” will wake up everything we can imagine; and
  • The top 10 jobs employers will find difficult to fill on a global basis: Technicians, Engineers, IT staff, Sales, Management, Production, Skilled Trades, Accounting, Labourers, and Office Support.

She also highlighted the five top drivers of engagement:

  • Leadership;
  • Stress, balance and workload;
  • Goals and objectives;
  • Supervisors; and
  • Organisations image.

Dr Davis suggested the following organisational solutions:

  • Seek better alignment between strategy, objectives, culture and organisational objectives;
  • Develop strategic workforce planning models and use predictive analytics;
  • Invest in knowledge management, preservation and systems;
  • Focus on increasing engagement, satisfaction, and retention among key talent;
  • Build flexible workplaces and policies;
  • Develop a workplace culture of inclusion and culturally competent leaders;
  • Minimise unconscious bias in talent management decisions; and
  • Constantly reinvent yourself.


In summary, there was one sentence that was repeated by more than one keynote speaker:

“We cannot solve new problems, with old thinking”


Liezel Pheiffer Blignaut
Founding Director: Human Capital Business Solutions

Copyright of the content belongs to the speakers and not the writer. The summary are from notes taken during the keynote presentations.

The article appeared in the April 2016 issue of the HR Future magazine “Words from the Wise” Page 14-17.

Download the pdf: Highlights from the HR Summit in Dubai (November 2015) – Part 2

Part 1 (published in the March 2016 issue of HR Future magazine) features a summary of the keynote presentations on leadership and HR delivered by Ram Charan and James Kouzes. Highlights from the HR Summit in Dubai (November 2015) – Part 1


The HR Summit and Expo hosted in Dubai is the largest HR event in the Middle East, with an attendance of over 3,500 HR professionals from the Middle East and beyond. For over a decade, the event has been bringing together the world’s leading thinkers and influencers in HR and business management, international vendors and HR professionals, providing a great opportunity to learn about and discuss the latest trends in people management and best business practices. 

The next HR Summit and Expo in Dubai will take place 14 – 16 November 2016.



Quiet Quitting

Liezel Pheiffer Blignaut was interviewed by Kwena Moabela on life radio Power 98.7 on the trending topic of ‘Quiet Quitting’.

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