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CIPD Festival of Work 2024: Day one round up

Journalist Stacey Dooley talked about how her career has changed after becoming a mother

The CIPD 2024 Festival of Work began at the Excel centre in London yesterday (12 June). Here are some of the highlights and what you may have missed from day one of the event.

HR should prepare for post-election changes

The Labour Party has proposed a host of changes to employment law which HR can begin preparing for, said Lucy Cobb, employment law specialist for Bright HR.

One key pledge is extending statutory sick pay to the first day of absence rather than the fourth, as well as raising the rate in line with wages.

Cobb said: “This is an important time to look at how you are managing absences and how you can get them down, as this could have a large financial impact on the business. What is your absence policy? Are you holding return-to-work meetings to discuss with employees how you can support them and minimise those absences?”

Additionally, Labour is proposing a ban on 'exploitative zero-hours contracts'.

Cobb said: “With this conversation coming up around zero-hours workers, and additional rules possibly coming into play, now would be a good time to consider the status of anyone you have on a zero-hours contract. Are they truly zero-hours, or do they work regularly for you?”

Read more: Conservatives' manifesto: What HR needs to know

Wellbeing should focus on causes not symptoms

HR should focus on tackling structural issues that are causing mental health problems at work, according to Matt Holt-Rogers, head of wellbeing at consultancy Wellbeing4business. 

He said: “There’s a saying that goes ‘you can’t put a clean fish back in a dirty tank'. Meaning, if you provide support for someone’s mental health symptoms but then you put them back in the same environment that has caused the problem, then the symptoms will just come back. You need to look upstream and find out what is actually causing this low mental wellbeing.”

Natalie Sparrow, colleague engagement and inclusion manager for Southeastern Trains, said the company has started to include work- related stress in risks assessments, to try and prevent work-related mental health issues from occurring.

She said: “We have historically used the reactive ‘sticking plaster’ approach, where we react when a problem arises. Now, we are trying to look at our systems and where we can prevent stress from coming up, for example how we implement new technology, or where there are conflicting deadlines.”


Creating a digital heart for engagement

In 2021, the new CEO of healthcare provider Bupa, Iñaki Ereño, challenged his internal communications team to create a digital platform that could be at the heart of employee experience. They had three months to do it. 

Ereño's perspective of the company culture informed the internal communications strategy, explained global product owner of Workvivo at Bupa, Rebecca Clifton.

Speaking at a panel on the employee experience stage, Clifton used Ereño's analogy of Bupa as an elephant (a large animal that is part of a herd) to outline the strategy. She said: “Our new CEO saw Bupa as an elephant. That was really a gift from an internal communications perspective. He wanted us all to feel part of something much bigger than just the sum of our parts at Bupa.”

Bupa collaborated with Workvivo by Zoom to create a platform that could integrate their employee base through internal communications.

To begin with, the Bupa communications team outlined their guiding principles. This then fed into the company's approach to creating the platform and made a point to come back to throughout the process.

The platform created with Workvivo made sure that all Bupa employees knew these company values, added Jo Hudson, group director of internal communications at Bupa. 

This was particularly apparent among frontline employees, some of whom did not previously own devices or have email addresses. 

“Every person knows this strategy, the details of it and is engaged with the elephant in some way,” Hudson said. And the platform had results: “The engagement for me is an overall stand out, our engagement is at 83% and that is impacted by the company values.

“It feels like a different place to work than three years ago.”

Read more: How can HR integrate new digital tools?

Evolve hiring to meet refugees’ needs

The number of people who were forcibly displaced from their homes grew by 8% from 2022 to 2023. 

As people are increasingly displaced due to climate change, persecution and conflict, employers have a responsibility to make the workplace more accessible and inclusive for refugees, suggested senior requalification caseworker at RefuAid, Bea Walker.

Walker said: “Globally, over 110 million people are thought to be forcefully displaced, so it's important that employers are evolving their hiring efforts to suit that number. 

“It's important to consider the value people from a refugee background can bring to the workplace, viewing people as highly skilled professionals in their respective fields rather than taking pity or seeing people as a drain on resources, and to challenge some of the stereotypes we see in the media.”

Aissa Chenchana, CIPD student member and alumnus of the CIPD trust bursary fund, said he faced challenges with language, culture and finding a job when he arrived in the UK as a refugee. 

He said: “The cultural differences were a major burden for me here in the UK. The language was so hard for me because I couldn't just communicate and get the right information to apply for certain jobs. 

“Recruiters lack knowledge about the legal applications for refugees. It is tough to get an interview. I applied for maybe 300 positions in the UK but I never got an interview.”

Read more: A mindful approach to refugee recruitment

A lesson in communicating corporate values
As employers increasingly focus on retaining employees, corporate values can offer a competitive edge.

Alyssa Jaffer, senior manager at Global Rider Communications and co-chair of the learning and development (L&D) committee at Deliveroo, said: “Corporate values are so important. So many companies do the bare minimum on that, so there's a lot of opportunity to embed culture in corporate values.”

These values should be communicated from recruitment through to exit interviews, explained Alexandra Head, head of talent and resourcing at the University of Southampton.

She said: “Make sure you’ve combined all the different strands of HR, so L&D and diversity, equity and inclusion speak to internal communications, then you have a reward package and talent strategy that reflects that.”

Corporate values should be demonstrated at the top, Jaffer added.

“When leadership leads by example, that sets the tone. For hiring managers it’s crucial that those values are there and are underlined,” she said.

HR is responsible for speaking to employees to ensure they feel inspired about corporate values, Head added.

She continued: “When HR teams speak to the workforce and make sure they are excited about working here, suddenly you get a lot more buy in and reinforce your core values.”