Last week saw the highly anticipated launch of the inaugural CIPD Festival of Work, welcoming over 10,000 visitors, 250 exhibitors, and 160 different speakers to Olympia, London. Over two action-packed days, visitors and delegates took part in world’s largest celebration of people at work.

Conference sessions were based across three main themes, underpinning some of the biggest issues facing the world of work today – The Future of WorkHR Technology and Learning and Development. Across the exhibition floor, visitors were able to connect with leading market exhibitors, enjoying free showcases on latest products and ideas. SME’s and start-ups showcased their new ideas in the Innovation Village, while visitors were also able to unwind between sessions with free yoga sessions, dog-therapy and more at the Well-Being Village.

Interviewing visitors and speakers about what good work means and why it matters to them, CIPD also launched its new channel Good Work TV at the Festival.

Day one

Proceedings began with opening keynote, Garry Kasparov, former chess grandmaster and first world champion to lose to a computer when he was beaten by IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. Kasparov shared his take on the increasing influence of AI in todays world of work, suggesting that contrary to many popular opinions, many jobs and sectors are not embracing new technology and AI nearly fast enough (read more in People Management here).

CIPD’s second annual UK Working Lives report − a comprehensive assessment of UK job quality − was launched at the Festival. This year’s findings revealed that work-life balance for many UK employees is a particular problem, with around 60% saying that worked longer than they wanted too – therefore negatively effecting their health and well-being. CIPD CEO, Peter Cheese, said that to help reduce the problem, employers ‘need to be offering all staff a wide range of flexible working arrangements and actively promote their take-up’.

Other first day highlights included:

  • A call for line managers to better support remote working within organisations. Helen Honeyman, head of HR policy at RBS, said ‘if your line manager doesn’t value it [remote working], your team doesn’t value it’. Helen caught up with Good Work TV and elaborated on how flexible working contributes to good work.
  • Marco Galer-Reick, HR director at Black Sheep Coffee, made the case for ensuring employee engagement is centred on the individual. For leaders, getting to know their teams as individuals will only lead to greater engagement and motivation.
  • Alistair Cumming, head of L&D at Lidl GB, stressing the important role of classroom-based learning and it’s need to evolve as new technologies emerge.

Day two

The second day of the festival saw the launch of the CIPD’s People Skills hub. The hub is a free online resource, providing small businesses and people managers more generally the skills needed to develop their people management skills. Practical guidance and support on everyday HR issues are available, as well as broader advice on designing people strategies.

Peter Cheese chaired a discussion surrounding the UK’s productivity conundrum with panellists, including Chris Giles, Economics Editor at the Financial Times, and Tina Barnard, Chief Executive of Watford Community Housing Trust. The panellists explored potential reasons behind why UK productivity growth has slumped dramatically in the last decade. Part of the discussion surrounded the role of managers, and in particular the challenging role for middle-managers in delivering upon organisational strategy, especially when faced with numerous layers of bureaucracy.

Other conference sessions ranged from discussions around gamification within recruitment, tackling skills shortages during the fourth industrial revolution, developing successful L&D teams for the future and well-being and mental health within a digital age.

The Festival culminated with closing keynote, Neil Harbisson, the world’s first Cyborg Artist. After sharing his experiences on becoming the world’s first cyborg – and how it effects his daily life – he explored more broadly how humans and technology are becoming more integrated, and how we as humans are taking an active role in our own evolution. Harbisson stressed that by merging with machines more and more, we have the ability to enhance our own potential and creativity – therefore also transforming the way we work. Harbisson shared more on his thoughts about the future of work with Good Work TV.

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