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Festival of Work 2022: day one round up

The CIPD Festival of Work is back in Olympia Kensington for the first time since 2019.

HR magazine's editorial team has rounded up some key lessons from day one of the hybrid conference (15 June).

Leaders of the future will be activists

Throughout the pandemic, leaders have shown how innovative they can be. For Kiran Trehan, pro-vice-chancellor partnership and engagement at the University of York, now is the time for leaders to be revolutionary in their approach.

Speaking during the Leadership 2030: critical skills for future leaders panel, she said: “Leaders have to learn to be critical activists. Activism has played a really important part [in the workplace] and leaders need to move in the notion of purposefulness.”

Trehan said leaders will always have to deal with a crisis of some sort.

She added: “There’s always going to be a revolution of some sort going on, in the wider global world or everyday workplaces. And how can you lead in a crisis? By making informed and purposeful decisions.”


Children playing catch up to their parents

“The fact is that the generation coming through now will be the first generation in many decades who will earn less than their parents,” said CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese during the Festival of Work opening keynote.

Paul Johnson, director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, noted how much of an influence familial wealth has on employee income in today’s society.

He said: “Wealth has become much more important relative to income than it was 30 years ago. We know that the importance of your inheritance to your lifetime income is way more important now than 40 years ago.

“It’s an exaggeration to say we’re returning to Victorian times but actually your parents’ wealth is a much more important determiner of your wealth than it was previously, so there’s a big intergenerational inequality.”


Balancing benefits

Providing a benefits package that satisfies all employees can be a difficult challenge when the workforce is so divided in age, according to Haithem Albalawi, chief HR officer at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare.

During a talk on shifting the employee value proposition to recruit and retain talent, he said: “When people become more family-focused they want more deferred benefits; things that can happen leading up to and after retirement. Whereas the young generation want other incentives like cash, immediate reward and immediate recognition.”

“As people get older, their mindset changes.”


Skills gaps mean progress 

Some companies may be panicking about how to plug the skills gaps in their workforce amid the Great Resignation.

However, Andreas Schleicher, director of the directorate for education and skills at OECD, suggested it should be celebrated that the skills gap exists in the first place as it’s a measure of progress.

Speaking on a panel discussing how to bridge the skills gap to create the workforce of the future, he said: “I think skills gaps are a great thing. If we didn’t have skills gaps, it would mean that our society’s economies aren’t evolving.”


Racism is shape shifting

HR will no longer often deal with blatant name calling, but instead will witness racism in more covert ways throughout the workplace.

Jennifer Garrett, career coach and author, said: “HR will be hearing about microaggressions, if colleagues are speaking up. Or they might be hearing people saying I am speaking up, yet no one hears or listens to me.

“There may be two workers from a similar background whose names are being interchangeably used despite looking nothing like one another. This is what racism has shape shifted into.”

Garrett warned HR to be vigilant of what racism looks like now and in the future.  

When describing what HR can do to be a better anti-racist ally, she said: “Increase intelligence; illuminate power play; call in bias and stay vigilant.”


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