Louise Fisher, HR Director for Xerox EMEA and Chair of the CIPD Board said: 'The sessions that I attended were of a really high quality and I learnt a lot – always a sign of a good conference!' And Alan Price, Chief Executive of Croner Group Ltd, passed on feedback from his team that this was 'genuinely the best conference yet'.

Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, opened the conference by speaking passionately about the need to bring the 'human' back into the workplace. Following this, Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur and business author, appealed for everyone to be open to learning in her keynote address. Margaret argued that the real act of leadership is to have the humility to admit our mistakes and to milk these mistakes for every last milligram of learning. She extolled the value of helpfulness as a key organisational virtue, recalling Lego's mantra that only two things aren't acceptable at Lego - not to ask for help when you need it, and not to give help when needed.

Margaret Heffernan's keynote address was extremely well received and Annual Conference delegate Emily Allen summed it up in her tweet: 'Wow, amazing keynote by Margaret Heffernan. The key to successful business? Helpfulness. Going to keep this woman on my radar!' Some other takeaways tweeted from the session were: 'Three characteristics of great teams: empathy, participation of every member, more women' from HR Manager, Natalie Ellis and 'Fab quote on effective teams; we focus on bricks (people) but the mortar's more significant (relationships)' from Andy Lancaster, CIPD's Head of Learning and Development.

After her keynote, Margaret was interviewed on stage by Laura Harrison – CIPD’s Director of People and Strategy, who said of the experience: 'What will stick with me was Margaret's analysis of types of team (and people) needed for different business activities. Innovation teams need to be loose, rely on the free flow of information, have a basis of trust, but can be very fluid in terms of their constituent parts. Some people will flourish very well in this environment, the fluidity suits them and offers opportunity for learning and development. Execution teams (after the innovation stage) need to be tightly defined and the guiding framework is one of governance; clear accountabilities and timelines.'

Recorded before the conference, watch this video of Margaret Heffernan making the compelling case for everyone to be involved in the making the future of work human.

Manchester Central was packed out for both days of the CIPD’s Annual Conference and the event was characterised by though-provoking ideas and stimulating debates with academics, thought leaders, HR and L&D professionals and industry experts. Delegates heard that employment law is due a shake-up following the Uber tribunal ruling, if it's to properly understand and regulate the gig economy. Other memorable moments came from the closing keynote with Gianpiero Petriglieri - Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. To quote Laura Harrison again, here are two insights from Petriglieri that she said are firmly ensconced in her brain:

  1. To lead is to be unhappy: happiness is being present, right now, appreciating or feeling gratitude. To lead is to live in the future, drive for change, it has an inherent discontentment.
  2. Leadership is sacrifice: part of what has gone wrong in twenty-first century businesses is the disconnection between sacrifice and hope. Leaders are not really seen to make significant sacrifices (executive pay for instance) but ask organisations to make significant sacrifices (such as public sector austerity) without proportionate hope attached. Which really echoes the ongoing 'good business' debate that we're engaged in through our Future of Work is Human programme.

The pervading theme of the conference was that the future workplace needs to be intrinsically human - we are people and not resources, and it's HR's role to ensure employees are valued in a world of increased automation and volatility. As such, it's only fitting that these reflections should end with sincere thanks going to all the people - the speakers, exhibitors and visitors - who contributed to make this such an inspirational event. We hope to see you all again next year.


Watch this video, recorded before the conference, of Margaret Heffernan making the compelling case for everyone to be involved in the making the future of work human.

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About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.