CIPD Festival of Work – Key takeaways

Suzanne Rouart

Written By Martine Thomas, HR Solutions Manager

22nd June 2023

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The key themes impacting HR in 2023


The CIPD Festival of Work is the UK’s largest celebration of people at work, and we we’re delighted to be able to exhibit at this year’s exciting event. Held in Olympia, London, on the 7th and 8th June, it brought together HR leaders and innovators to share the latest trends and challenges impacting the world of work.


We had an amazing time at the event and were inspired by the many engaging topics being discussed in the keynotes and around the exhibition hall. What was abundantly clear from discussions was that, with the pace of change accelerating, HR leaders need to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the new future of work.


Here are the key themes we took away from what turned out to be a buzzing event:


1. Addressing the challenges of the hybrid workforce:

With a return to the traditional 9-to-5 unlikely to be on the cards any time soon, if ever again, HR urgently need to take stock of the impact hybrid working is having on managers and employees to address the challenges of keeping dispersed workforces connected and engaged.


From innovative, new technology to evolutions in learning and development, we were inspired to see the creative ways that businesses have responded to this challenge.


The key take-away for us was how prioritising digitalisation and harnessing the power of analytics is vital in understanding and addressing the impact of hybrid work on the emotional connection employees have with their managers and the business.


Ways of working and engaging employees will continue to rapidly evolve and it’s exciting to see HR leading the charge in establishing a positive future of work for employees no matter where they work from.


2 The rise of AI in the workplace 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hottest topic in every sector as it rapidly changes the way we work. From automating tasks to providing insights, AI is having a major impact on the workplace and our lives, so it’s a key topic of debate for HR leaders.

There was a lot of discussion about the role of AI in the future of work and some of the key topics included:


  • How organisations can embrace AI to automate tasks and free up employees to focus on strategic priorities
  • The role AI plays in providing insights that can help HR make more informed decisions
  • The ethical implications to consider when using AI in the workplace
  • How to ensure that AI is used in a way that benefits the business and employees
  • How to tackle the fear that AI will replace people


It is clear that AI is going to play a significant role in the future of work and HR leaders need to be prepared for change and urgently review how they can use AI to improve efficiency and make work easier for everyone.


They also need to address concerns head on and clearly communicate how the use of AI will impact their workforce to help mitigate resistance to new ways of working. Clear policies and procedures are essential to ensure that AI is used in a fair and ethical way.


HR leaders also need to create a culture of trust and respect where employees feel comfortable raising concerns about the use of AI in the workplace, so it can be embraced as a force for good in the workplace.


3. The urgent need for line manager empowerment

With the red-hot recruitment market and talent shortage significantly impacting HR, there is an urgent need for HR to be as strategic as possible. But talented HR professionals are too often bogged down in the day-to-day tactical support of line managers dealing with employee relations matters, like sickness absence, grievances, disciplinaries and performance issues. In order to enable HR to have more time to focus on strategic priorities, line managers need to be better equipped to deal with people matters in the moment.


By empowering line managers with policies, processes and the technology to self-serve more employee relations matters, HR will have more time to focus on where they add most value to the business, and line managers can build better relationships with their direct reports.


As leaders in the field of employee relations transformation, through tech-enabled manager empowerment, we were excited to see the huge appetite for enabling this at the event.


4. The ongoing need to prioritise ED&I initiatives

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) was also one of the hottest topics being debated as HR leaders strive to ensure their businesses keep pace with the ever-evolving needs of society. There is more and more evidence to support how more diverse workforces drive business success, but there are still significant barriers to true equity for minority groups.


From discussions about gender diversity to neurodiversity, it was inspiring to see the appetite for better understanding, continual learning and drastic change to overcome the barriers to creating a level playing field for individuals in work. Taboos were being broken and discussions were authentic about the uphill challenge we still face in creating inclusive workplaces where everyone is treated fairly and feels valued, respected and seen.


5. The importance of employee mental health and wellbeing

In today’s fast-paced and demanding world, employee wellbeing is more important than ever and this was being passionately discussed. HR leaders need to find ways to help employees manage stress, cope with change, and stay healthy. Recognising everyone as individuals and building closer personal relationships with employees is vital to protecting wellbeing, reducing absenteeism and creating a happy place to work.


The need to put mental health first aid on an equal footing to physical first aid is a priority for HR leaders as they tackle rising mental health related absenteeism.


The future of work is people-first

These are just some of the key themes that we were inspired by at the CIPD Festival of Work, and the overarching message we took away was that every business needs to be focussed on developing more people-first strategies. As the world of work continues to evolve at pace, we’re excited to be a part of driving change for a better future of work.


How can employee relations transformation help?

Employee relations transformation can help HR leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the future of work by understanding more about the issues impacting their workforce. Empowering managers to build closer relationships with their direct reports is a vital component in employee relations transformation, helping build trust and respect between employees and managers.


If you are an HR leader embracing the future of work, then employee relations transformation is a key area to focus on. By transforming your employee relations practices, you can create a more productive, engaged, and inclusive workforce.


Introducing a revolutionary ER technology solution

empower® by AdviserPlus is uniquely designed to reduce the complexity and risk in the management of employee relations matters, because it empowers line managers to self-serve employee relations matters in a risk managed way, with guided journeys and safe-guards throughout the process, ensuring HR are engaged as and when required.

With a solution like this, fewer cases need to be escalated to HR, because they are dealt with effectively by the line manager. This means that talented HR teams can spend less time dealing with simple, tactical ER tasks, and will have the data and analytics to hand to be able to focus on complex issues and strategic initiatives. In addition to these functionalities, the system provides oversight of cases, offers dashboard visualisations of volumetrics and trends, and offers an unparalleled of analytical insight to inform decision-making. Click here to find out more.

“This is why I really like this system, because it’s self-service you can do a hell of a lot yourself and use a lot of templates that have already been pre-written for you without the worry of making mistakes. I have found it much quicker to deal with someone now.”​ – Virgin Atlantic





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