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CIPD Festival of Work: Day two round-up

What the HR magazine team learned on day two of the CIPD Festival of Work

The HR magazine team has been at the CIPD Festival of Work. As well as today’s top stories, here’s what else we learned...

  • “First impressions count [in onboarding], so... think about what's important from yes to desk,” advised Stephanie Davies, CEO at Laughology. “So from them saying 'yes' to them getting to their desk, what are you doing to engage them?” For Anju Sethi, VP of talent, change and D&I at King, to onboard new employees successfully employers should show curiosity and find out about the individual rather than telling them lots of information about the company. “Think of onboarding and induction as inviting someone to your house that you don’t know,” she advised. “You wouldn’t start off by telling them where all the food and alcohol is; you'd ask them about themselves and about their journey to get there. When people join they want to figure out how they fit in and what it feels like to work there.”
  • “We should have on the door [of offices] – like you do on packs of cigarettes – that your line manager is potentially dangerous to your health,” said Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester. Speaking on a panel about mental health in the digital workplace he explained that bosses are the main threat to employees’ health. Also on the panel, Matthew Webster, head of wellbeing and futureproofing at British Land, spoke of workplace design's role in wellbeing. “What comes first: the workplace environment or culture? I think it’s a bit chicken and egg,” he said, pointing to the creation of spaces where human contact not just digital contact is encouraged and enabled. Webster told of a growing interest in creating “black spots” in both workplaces and public spaces where there is no internet connectivity. This provides a space for wellbeing, human conversations and a break away from the always-on culture, he said.
  • Mark Duffy, head of talent acquisition at Ryanair, shared how the airline rebuilt its employer brand after the pilot rostering crisis in September 2017. Issues with pilot holidays and the CEO being seen on video saying pilots have easy jobs led to strikes and thousands of flights being cancelled. “We went from doing great to having the worst employer brand in the market,” he said. “Some pilots were tempted to move to competitors and attraction was difficult. The employer brand was damaged in the eyes of pilots.” Duffy told how Ryanair recognised a need to “do something different” to rebuild its EVP. Key to this change was leveraging social media to dispel myths about the company, reach out to pilots recently made redundant from other airlines, and keep employees up to date with news on Ryanair. Duffy encouraged other organisations to use social media to build their employer brands. “It’s a free tool so get the message out there,” he said, adding that through this Ryanair was able to recruit 106 pilots who had previously left the firm and fill its quota for pilots for the current year.
  • Workers need to be equipped with “psychological flexibility” to ready them for the future of work, according to managing director of WorkLifePysch Richard MacKinnon. There are three parts to this, he said. The first is “showing up to have a mindful presence in the here and now”, which “allows us to respond in a better way to what’s actually happening”. Secondly it’s having a flexible self concept, which is about realising “you can have a thought [but] you’re not that thought”, and that a thought “is not an instruction or call to action”. Lastly it’s about having clarity around what’s really important to you, he said: “That gives us that internal compass”. “Psychological discomfort is all around us and we can’t get rid of it” he said, but it’s the way we approach this discomfort that matters.
  • AI and automation have the potential to make recruitment a “hyper-personalised process,” according to Megan Marie Butler, AI product and technology analyst at CognitionX. She gave the example of technology to see who you have in your organisation that might fit a role. Matthew Dunn, former head of recruitment, global at GSMA, agreed that tech in recruitment should be used to improve the process rather than just automate it. It’s about asking: “How can we use technology not just to solve an assessment or sourcing problem, but re-engineer the process?” he said. “So it’s AI not just as a drop-in solution but to enable us to think differently.” Brett Heasman, manager of discover autism research and employment at University College London, gave the example of recruitment tech that can “correct for” ingrained invisible human biases when it comes to recruiting autistic individuals. “AI has the ability to aggregate vast amounts of data and handle individual qualities”, as opposed to the human who will always be looking for the “average of what you want”, he said.
  • Finally, we learned from keynote speaker Neil Harbisson, that it’s possible to “dress in C major or A minor” or to eat a song! The ‘world’s first cyborg artist’ and co-founder of Cyborg Foundation, Harbisson had an antennae implanted into his head in 2004 so that he could hear the frequencies of colours, to counteract being colourblind. He explained he dresses according to how the colours sound; and he shared that chefs are now experimenting with making food that ‘plays a song’ when you can hear the frequencies of its colours. Harbisson spoke on the increasing number of individuals now augmenting their bodies to gain an extra sense – including humidity, time, which direction North is and sensing something’s behind them. He predicted that such augmentation will be mainstream by the late-2020s and that we will come to see it as ethical, highlighting how much energy we’d save if everyone had night-vision for example. There are now many young people who identify as cyborg and seek to have technology implants to fulfil their ‘natural’ identity, he highlighted, positing the idea that inclusion of “trans-species” individuals might be the next D&I issue coming over the horizon.