· Features

Day two of the CIPD Festival of Work

?The CIPD’s Festival of Work has been a little different this year, swapping the Olympia in London for a virtual conference experience fit with exhibitors, speakers, and wellbeing facilities.

Here, HR magazine rounds up three key elements learned from day two of the conference.


“In a decade or 20 years, we're going to look back and be unimaginably horrified at how we would let people do stuff to other humans without properly assessing the architecture of the learning.”

Inevitably learning and development was at the forefront of the Festival of Work. David Rock, co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute, offered his perspective on the value of virtual learning.

Elaborating on his architecture analogy, Rock described the building blocks of what enables people to not only take in information, but to also retain and recall it at a later date.

Briefly described, the four ‘active ingredients’ of long-term learning were:

  • Attention - when the hippocampus is activated and we are focused on one thing. One great way to do this virtually, Rock said, is to have a call with people but to tell them they can put themselves on mute and they will be called on to answer at any point.
  • Generation - taking an active, creative role and not just taking things in passively.
  • Emotion - when emotions are stimulated the hippocampus is alerted that the material is important and worth encoding as memory.

Spacing - people can’t generally focus for more than 15 minutes at a time so it’s important to vary tasks, and breaks, to help us retain information.

Critically, Rock added: “What you want to do essentially is build learning where everything fits together. Nothing is standing alone. Everything connects. And there's a real discipline to that.”


“My top tip is get people to learn how to reflect: Do it. How did it go? Do it again. How did that go? And get feedback, because that's the way you become the best you”,

said Danielle Grant, director of transpersonal leadership development at LeaderShape Global.

Grant spoke of the importance of the ‘purposeful pause’ when looking at experiential learning.

This was also picked up by Benjamin Murray, business partner for learning technologies at the NHS, who explained how the ‘purposeful pause’ and reflective practice is really helpful in his organisation. Yet the challenge, he said, is that people find it uncomfortable to reflect on what they’ve done.

“One way that I've been able to encourage this [reflection] is by doing confidence based assessments. So not just as asking a question but then asking them afterwards ‘how confident were you in answering that question?’”

By encouraging reflection in this way, Murray has been able to glean meaningful insights into the learning gaps encountered by others and not miss future opportunities or challenges.


“It’s important that we don’t do a snapback [to how we once worked] and step forward by thinking carefully about the future business we choose to run”, said Natasha Adams, chief people officer at Tesco.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion on lessons from the coronavirus pandemic, Adams explained how the crisis had allowed organisations to put into sharp focus what really matters and what to prioritise. Tesco, Adams explained, had been able to work more collaboratively and flexibly, and this new found simplicity ought to be held onto as organisations move forwards.

This sense of collaboration was highlighted by leaders across the conference, with the focus now on how HR can capitalise on these new found ways of working and make sure that they become part of the workplace culture, rather than reverting back to what has always been done.

Click here for more coverage of the Festival of Work 2020.