Dear PPMA friends

In our Christmas Post, Karen reflects on another busy year in the life of PPMA. We hope you enjoy it and wish all of you and your families a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

“Yet again I find myself at the end of a year thinking about where on earth it’s gone. And even more so as we enter a new decade. Some years seem to take more time to review and process and this year is definitely one of those.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster year in terms of our national politics. We started the year not really confident that we would have a resolution to Brexit at the end of March. After a seismic year in UK politics – and whatever your individual view on the recent election result – there is now absolutely clarity that we will be leaving the EU sooner rather than later. And for many of is this will shape the year to come.

We will see progress in a range of policy areas – and we will need to play our part in contributing to that progress. An anticipated lessening in financial austerity will need to be translated into financial settlements and policy development that will help us make a sustained and positive difference to the lives of those we serve.

Of course, we don’t yet know what the financial settlement for Local Government will be; and whilst there is a promise on NHS funding, we also need to see what will be spent on prevention and what proposed cross party talks on the future of social care will generate.
Just as the last few weeks have seemed seismic politically, our PPMA year has also seen much progress. We started our year focusing on our new structure and of course our Annual Conference.

Don’t Worry: Be Happy

For a few magical days in May in Birmingham, we were exactly that – happy. And although we have had plenty of happy days since, our annual conference this year was memorable. We made magic happen. We had a fabulous learning experience with contributions from stellar speakers including John Higgins, Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalffe, Jamil Qureshi, Maria Paviour and Shonette Bason-Wood.

It was also a vibrant get together and celebration of our community and the first time we introduced our new Board members……

A passionate leadership team
And, they did a fabulous job at conference meeting, greeting and supporting our community. We’ve met twice this year now and I am so proud of the team we are building. We meet for 2 days twice a year now, and Day 1 is focused on our PPMA business. Day 2 is when we welcome key partners to our PPMA Challenge and Innovation Forum.

That regular opportunity for Board members to speak to partners and vice versa is profoundly important to us. It provides invaluable feedback on how partners see us, where they think we can improve and also give them an opportunity to contribute to our thinking on the workforce matters that affect us all. And of course, it gives us a key opportunity to provide our input to our partners in what we need from them.

Fired up and ready to go – our regions and themes

To pinch a slogan from the 44th President of the United States, our Regions and Themes have this year definitely been fired up. And they’ve gone too…..

We’ve held meetings in all of our Regions this year. And each of those networks, including our wonderful Shires colleagues have made great contributions to PPMA nationally. Our restructured Northern Region held its inaugural meeting at the end of November, and we were really thrilled to see over 75 people attend.

It is always heartening to see our community getting together and we’ve been supported fabulously by our sponsors this year who have delivered some thought provoking, highly relevant sessions.  I’m certainly looking forward to more of this in 2020 – and new members, who continue to grow in number.

Our theme leads have also been working hard. We’re finalising updated research topics and plans and we’ve radically updated our website content this year both on our main web page and our membership zone. We’ve got podcasts, TV programmes and all sorts of interesting things planned for 2020 here as well, so please continue to check on to see what’s going on.

Talent, talent, talent

Our refreshed Peer programme is underway and we have a fabulous cohort – the future is really bright. We also took Rising Star and One to Watch to Northern Ireland for the very first time in the years we have been running these programmes. That was a fantastic experience and we are already planning for a 2020 programme.

Applications for Apprentice of the Year 2020, One to Watch 2020 and Rising Star 2020 close early January – please don’t miss out.


Numbers matter to a degree because it helps me share with you the progress we are making in spreading the word about this fabulous organisation. But numbers are not everything – they don’t give you a qualitative sense of the impact our work is having.

Ironically, though we have made great progress in terms of the frequency of events and work we’re involved in, this year has been a time for me at least where deep and meaningful reflection has been the order of my days.

Sometimes it is events in our professional lives that cause us to really pause and think about our values, what matters to us, what contribution we want to make etc. And sometimes it is events in our personal lives that force a deep reflection.

I’ve had both of those this year. Ellie was very ill at the beginning of December and is lucky to be alive. A good friend of mine has made it to the end of two horrific years in his life. I spent much of that fearing a call that would tell me he had taken his life. Thanks be to God he didn’t. I’ve had people share very sad and traumatic experiences they have had at work; a new friend to PPMA sadly lost her life to a rare cancer that we thought she had cracked. We’ve seen valued colleagues step away from Board roles and so on.

These things happen – of course they do. But all these events – and maybe the fact that I seem to ageing quicker and more disgracefully than I would like, has found me reflecting on the need for more compassion, understanding, kindness and love in our working lives.

It is great to see that the profession talks much more about this than we did in the past. And what is also fabulous is that compassion, kindness etc are supported by scientific evidence. We’re going to look at a lot of this in our Annual Conference 2020, the theme of which is Tomorrow’s World: Purposeful Work and Lives.

Purpose I think is of huge resonance to us in the HR & OD community. Making a difference to our workforce colleagues is a big driver for us. But also ensuring we take care of ourselves is pretty fundamental too. We don’t work in an easy profession – I’ve said before that our work can be emotional and it can be draining. And sometimes in the rush to deliver this and that, we are in danger of forgetting about the precious human being that is each of us.

This wonderful poem has been an anchor for me this year.

Tough though 2019 has been in parts, this year has brought the blessing of new friends, colleagues and new people to follow. Helena Clayton has done amazing work on love in the workplace, Steve Marshall is a beautiful writer I now read voraciously thanks to the wonderful Siobhan Sheridan. And I’ve found the most wonderful inspiring blog by Quiet Disruptors.

Words written with feeling, experience, wisdom and love touch us deeply. The words of these amazing people – and many more, have brought me insight, hope and comfort this year. In whatever way you find hope and comfort, I hope the holiday season will bring plenty of it to you.

We’ve an action packed 2020 planned and I’ll be sharing more on that in January. But in the meantime, I extend enormous thanks to all of you for all of the work you do, day in and day out – especially when times are tough.

And I extend love too.”