This month I had the pleasure of attending the CIPD annual conference and exhibition, held in Manchester, UK. I had not attended this conference before, so was very much looking forward to hearing about the challenges HR professionals are facing straight from the practitioners themselves.
This year’s CIPD Annual Conference theme was “Embracing the new world of work”, focusing in on digitisation and technology as well as the social and political changes going on around us. The conference was opened by Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, who gave a hugely engaging and inspiring keynote about the need for a digital future that is fair and inclusive for all. This was a fascinating keynote, as personally I am very excited by the doors technology can open but also concerned about our reliance on technology and the potential for disconnecting from the ‘real world’ and the impacts this may have. Baroness Lane-Fox’s talk gave much food for thought around the impact technology is having on all aspects of our lives. Digital advances are happening faster than ever before and there is a real risk for organisations getting left behind if they don’t embrace the possibilities new technologies can bring. This session really made me consider my own use of technology and how, as a consultant and a Psychologist, I can help my clients get over the ‘fear factor’ and make the most of the possibilities they have available to them.
Baroness Lane-Fox predicts that the key qualities of future employees will be “resilience, curiosity and entrepreneurship” and the idea of resilience being critical to the future success of individuals and organisations was echoed in many of the sessions I attended. Regardless of the topic or sector in question, it was clear to me that attracting and developing talent that can adapt to the ever-changing world we live in will be increasingly important to employers.
I ended the first day of the conference attending a talk by journalist and author Timandra Harkness on artificial intelligence in the workplace. The focus of this entertaining and informative session was automation, and the impact this is having on current employees. Timandra highlighted some of the potential uses of automation and technology in the workplace such as facial recognition software to monitor employee wellbeing and happiness, and tracking employee health through the use of wearable devices. My particular takeaway from this session was the role automation can play in recruitment in terms of increasing diversity in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion are likely to be very high on the agenda for most organisations; highlighting the benefits of tech-forward assessments that are more free from biases and how adverse impact may be a good conversation starter for organisations who are still struggling with moving away from more traditional assessment methods. I know it helps my clients see technology as a positive force when I mention that some of our assessments can actually use technology to increase fairness.
After enjoying some of Manchester’s excellent nightlife, I returned for the second and final day of the conference which included some insightful cases studies on a range of topics including absence management, wellbeing and the use of technology for collaborative learning. However, the real highlight of the day came at the end of the conference in a session led by Professor Gernot Schulz. Professor Schulz is an Orchestra Conductor and was joined on stage by the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra where he used various conducting techniques as metaphors for leadership in organisations. Part of my role is to help organisations understand what makes a great leader for them and this session re-affirmed to me that developing well-rounded leaders is more crucial than ever against a backdrop of constant change. I left the session not only thinking about the critical role leaders play in the success of organisations but also with a new-found interest in watching orchestral performances!
Thank you CIPD, I look forward to seeing what insights the 71st annual conference will bring next year!
Katy Welsh is a Senior Consultant at PSI Talent Measurement.
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