Blog: ‘CIPD Festival of Work’ event (part 1 of 3) from Emily Allen

Tue 27 Jun 2023

Angela Tracey-Brown

Product Manager - CMI

One of the reasons I love my job is because working for a learning organisation, there is a real emphasis on CPD and ensuring I keep up to date with the HR profession, which is something I am passionate about. Therefore, I get to go to great events like the CIPD Festival of Work.

Festival of Work is a fantastic opportunity to connect & collaborate with like-minded professionals and it provides innovation and the opportunity to learn about the future of work.

It’s a two-day event offering numerous short, snappy half-hour talks which is the perfect length for some snapshot learning, on a broad range of topics. The atmosphere is always buzzy and welcoming with a great opportunity to meet others. There are “stages” dotted around the venue, which gave it the ‘festival’ feel it was aiming for, with live music and a friendly vibe – all in all, a perfect learning environment.

In 2023 I feel that there is more reason than ever to stay up to date as a HR or learning professional. There are so many disruptors in the workplace, we need to be learning from each other. There is so much good practice and interesting research and experience going on, HR need to be learning from each other, and taking their learning to support their CEOs to make good people-related decisions.

This festival came in a year when we have had months of strikes, when austerity has had a huge impact on our public services and quality of lives for the past decade or more, and prices are rising so everyone is feeling poorer and financial wellbeing is newly on the HR agenda. There is still division over Brexit, and the mental health repercussions of Covid are still being felt. We have the mass exodus of the over 50s leaving the workplace, and Gen Z entering with very different expectations that they are not afraid to ask for. Covid has changed our attitude towards flexible working, working from home and learning from home.

So it’s safe to say, we need to keep our finger on the pulse and not presume that the policies and procedures and even the psychological contracts we used to have, are fit for today.

The organisations that continue to invest in their people now that will be stronger when we get out the other side

Leadership skills are changing and the focus on wellbeing, inclusion and ESG are no longer “nice to haves” – they need to be built into our organisations. We are in a cost-of-living crisis and we know from previous crises that it’s the organisations that continue to invest in their people now that will be stronger when we get out the other side.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at some of the key themes in turn including the rise of Artificial Intelligence and how it affects our working lives; and the continuation of hybrid-working. Look out for these.

This week I’m focusing on the cost-of-living crisis which was discussed at the Festival. 
I was really interested in how organisations are supporting their employees through the current cost-of-living crisis; a crisis which is impacting people more than the Covid pandemic – and this time we are not “all in it together”. Hearing some good organisations talk about how they are supporting their employees (TFL, Virgin Atlantic etc) was inspirational. Employees’ financial wellbeing is so heavily intertwined with their wellbeing and mental health, it’s important we give employees as much financial stability and the ability to plan where we can. After all, if employees are worried about their mortgage and bills, will they be as productive at work?

And like any crisis, the repercussions will be huge and felt for a long time. Therefore, we need to be supporting employees now and being the employer we want to be.

Fearne Cotton’s talk on mental health and being honest and supportive with each other was inspiring. She references an ongoing 80-year Harvard study on having a fulfilled life. Across all sorts of lives, backgrounds and journeys 2 reasons for happiness were consistent: having strong relationships (friends, romantic, family), and going through challenges. Challenge, although tough at the time, makes us more resilient and therefore happier in the longer term.

Work should be a place for good, and that part of being a responsible organisation is providing good work and meaning for people.

The emphasis on financial wellbeing, general wellbeing and mental health is such an important aspect for HR to focus on and influence. Peter Cheese believes work should be a place for good, and that part of being a responsible organisation is providing good work and meaning for people.

HR professionals – it’s time to step up and treat this like the crisis it is.
Next week I’ll be taking the subject of Artificial Intelligence – currently a hot topic in many sectors.

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