5 Key Takeaways from CIPD Festival of Work 2020

Jun 15, 2020 | Blog

The CIPD’s Festival of Work went digital this year, offering a wholly virtual conference experience with speeches, panels, exhibitors and wellbeing offerings.

Here are our 5 key takeaways from three days filled with powerful insights and learnings:

#1: Leadership in crisis needs to be collaborative and inclusive

Leaders need to care about others, guide their people and listen to them. “The day people stop bringing their problems to you is the day you have stopped leading them”, says Dame Helena Morrissey, leader of the 30% club.

She emphasises the importance of inclusive leadership and mentions that uncertainty actually provides a lot of opportunities for leaders to change their style of leadership.

Inclusive leadership should be about “less command and control, more empathy and connectivity, empowerment, listening, communication, transparency, permission to fail, to disagree and to learn”, says Morrissey.

In addition, Sean Penistone, Director Leadership, Learning & Talent at BT, defined 3 key roles leaders play in the “new normal”:

  1. Purpose: Articulate & energise people around purpose
  2. Empowerment: Empower individuals to do meaningful work
  3. Environment: Create safe conditions for collaboration and rapid experimentation

#2: Learning & development is key to addressing racism at work

John Amaechi, psychologist, consultant and former professional basketball player, opened the second day of the conference with a powerful keynote. He emphasised the importance of learning and development as a solution to many issues organisations and society as a whole are confronted with today, including the longstanding issue of racism.

“We need to make sure our people are aligned to our values”, says Amaechi, highlighting that organisations need to put more focus on spreading and maintaining their values to make this learning successful.

Amaechi also emphasised that racism itself is learned and, therefore, can also be unlearned. But it is important that we start this now and don’t let this important discussion become “just another trend”.

#3: Employee mental health must be a priority for organisations

Mental health and wellbeing has been another huge theme throughout the conference and has become much more of a priority to organisations due to the current crisis. Wellbeing of employees has been impacted by this crisis and managers need to make mental health and wellbeing a priority. Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind, gets to the heart of it: “Staff wellbeing needs to come first and foremost.”According to Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at CIPD, wellbeing is a strategic outcome for businesses and, therefore, must be fully embedded in business strategies as soon as possible.

#4: Purpose & sustainability should be at the core of business actions

Now more than ever, businesses should step up and show that they can act responsibly.Professor Simon Anholt, Founder of the Good Country Index, said that the best driver for a brand is how the business behaves in society. He suggests that collaboration is key to solve our problems and behave more sustainably. “We need to collaborate and we need to cooperate in order to solve our problems”, says Anholt.

Andy Briggs, CEO of the Phoenix Group, adds that “customers won’t want to invest in businesses which don’t have sustainability at their core” and that leaders should be more ambitious to bring about radical change. He said the fact that companies managed to quickly adapt to remote working environments shows that big changes can be made quickly – so “why do we talk about becoming greenhouse gas emission-neutral by 2030?”

And it does not need to be up to managers only: In our own learning session at the CIPD Festival of Work, Unipos Sales Director Syed Mujtaba talked about how to effectively engage employees in sustainability initiatives through engagement and recognition.

#5: Making collaboration an integral part of workplace culture

In the closing panel of day 2, Natasha Adams, Chief People Officer at Tesco, highlights the strong sense of collaboration that has developed as a result of the COVID crisis. For Tesco’s employees, the work from home set up turned out to be a lot more collaborative than expected and Tesco is planning to keep up the focus on collaboration and flexibility moving forward.

Both Natasha Adams and Valerie Todd CBE, HR Director at Siemens, shared their experience on the importance of collaboration, engagement and good communication in virtual work environments and putting your people at the centre of the recovery from this crisis. This focus needs to become an integral part of the workplace culture, everybody at the panel agreed.

The power of visual communication

Another thing this year’s Festival of Work has taught us: we should definitely learn to draw. Simon Heath impressively illustrated many of the great sessions of the conference, highlighting key learnings and insights.

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