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Key takeaways from the CIPD Festival of Work

9 June 2023 9 min read

CIPD Festival of Work

The edays team spent a lively and exciting two days exhibiting at the CIPD Festival of Work at the London Olympia this week. The event welcomed more than 10,000 delegates, and we met a whole host of business leaders and HR professionals from some fantastic organisations.

The edays team at the CIPD Festival of Work

As the name suggests, the event was a celebration of work – how to get the best out of people, how businesses can adapt and thrive, different ways of working, and how to provide support and opportunities to people on their career journeys.

During the two days we got stuck into plenty of talks and took onboard some interesting insights and key takeaways, which we’ve rounded up in this article.

Key takeaways from the CIPD Festival of Work

Employee experience

The theme of employee experience was definitely at the forefront of the majority of talks, presentations and panel discussions that took place at the Festival of Work. It’s an incredibly important topic and one that stretches across many different areas of business and the world of work, from recruitment through to training, workplace culture, line management and more.

For senior management teams and HR, it is important to really consider what it is like to work for your organisation. How much flexibility you offer, what leave packages, policies and processes you have in place, what your office is like and how you use it, and how supported people feel are all great places to start when answering that question. Clearly, it’s not something that can be solved overnight, and businesses need to be able to strategise and commit to a solid approach when assessing what sort of employee experience they offer, and how this can be improved.

The pandemic was mentioned frequently during various talks and discussions at the event, and it’s evident that organisations and the world of work are still feeling the seismic effects of how it has transformed many people’s relationship with their job and their employer. Many employees are now wanting greater flexibility than ever before, and despite some notable companies such as Google and Meta insisting that workers return to the office, as many as a third of UK employees say they would quit if asked to return to the office full-time.

Providing employees with a positive and supportive experience in as many aspects of their work as possible is now firmly within the top of many organisations’ priority lists. Since by doing so, you are able to match up to and even excel against your competitors, attract better talent, improve productivity and retain your workforce more easily.

Flexibility for non-office workers

With so much conversation around the topic of employee experience, it was positive to see the issue of how to provide flexibility for non-office workers also being discussed in detail.

In the UK, more than 60% of the workforce are non-office workers. And while the majority of office-based workers in the UK (78%) are now working in a hybrid or remote model, this is obviously not something that can be applied to all employees across all sectors.

For industries such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, construction and many more, organisations must consider other ways to implement a greater level of flexibility which will benefit workers who are required to attend their place of work on a full-time or regular basis.

At the Festival of Work, CIPD’s Senior Policy Advisor Claire McCartney shed light on different options for workers in front-line and customer-facing roles that can enable greater flexibility, including:

Team-managed flexible working schedules – for example, each week one member of a project team takes ownership of everyone’s schedules and rotas, and each person can select one morning where they start late or one afternoon where they can leave early.

Flexibility in hours worked – an organisation may choose to allow workers to fulfil any weekly hours during the weekend, work overtime which can then be taken off in lieu, or request night shift work.

Split shifts and job shares in customer-facing roles – some organisations can opt to look at split shifts and job sharing roles to allow for greater flexibility and variety in work. Retail organisations may even consider extending their opening hours to allow for more shifts to be worked, creating a benefit for both the employees and the business.

Flexible fortnight pilot – an initiative that gives employees the choice of four options: non-standard start and end times; working from home; reduced working hours; and working from another location once per fortnight. Any employees who wish to introduce these options into their schedule can make a request ahead of time and adjust their working patterns accordingly.

Greater notice and control over shifts – simply by giving employees as much notice as possible as to what their upcoming shifts will be, and avoiding last minute changes where possible, organisations are able to provide better flexibility and clarity for all. And, enabling workers to swap swifts easily amongst their own teams, without supervisor approval, helps to empower individuals in choosing when they are able to work.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion remained at the forefront of the discussion at this year’s CIPD Festival of Work, and it was great to see so many organisations embracing the ways in which diversity in the workforce can be achieved, supported and celebrated.

It is such a huge topic, but as guest speaker Kanya King, founder of the MOBO Awards pointed out, a great starting point lies in allyship. Ensuring that line mangers, senior team members, HR leaders and everyone associated with an organisation are there to support one another and create nurturing relationships, is a vital step in fully embracing diversity in the workplace.

And diversity, equity and inclusion touches upon so many areas of an organisation and its people – from the inclusive language used in policies, to flexibility offered surrounding childcare, working environments and equipment and so much more.

People analytics and how to use them

How to understand and utilise people analytics has long been a key component in the world of HR, but many discussions centred around the right analytics to look for when assessing employee experience, engagement, wellbeing and productivity.

Absence plays a big part in this. Understanding absenteeism within your company, and knowing what your absence rates are is a clear indicator of how well (or not) your employees are doing. If someone has taken three sicknesses absence in a short space of time, then checking in with that individual in an open and understanding way could make them feel listened to and supported, and help to get them back on track.

The same goes for leave. Are employees taking enough breaks? When working from home for example, many workers report feeling more productive, while for others it is easy to fall into a habit of starting early and finishing late without proper boundaries in place between work-life and home-life. Ensuring your employees are taking frequent breaks, and adequate amounts of annual leave, means that they are getting the deserved rest that they need and avoid falling into burnout.

Employee engagement

We couldn’t talk about employee experience without delving into employee engagement as well. Another key takeaway from the Festival of Work was how organisations can better engage with their employees to ensure their wellbeing, productivity and retention within a company.

It was fascinating to hear about some of the hidden signals to look out for which might suggest that an employee has become disengaged. Whether it’s their sudden change in behaviour, their absence rate, or whether they’ve stopped engaging with the company’s social media content – it’s about spotting the subtle signs that someone is either struggling with their role or perhaps struggling personally.

Often the first time businesses realise their employees are disengaged is the moment they hand in their notice – and whilst employee engagement surveys are immensely valuable in reviewing the general sentiment and contentment of your employees – they can miss some key data that would otherwise alert you to potential issues.

How can edays help organisations in tackling these issues?

Whether you’re looking to streamline your processes when it comes managing absence and leave, gain insight into how absence impacts your organisation, or provide your employees with an easy platform to view, request and manage their own leave entitlement, edays can help.

Log and track sickness absence in just a few steps. Record the reason for absence and view absence rates on an individual, department or company-wide level. And, set triggers that alert managers when certain criteria has been met – if an employee has had a number of sickness absences in a short space of time, our system will let you know so that you can take proactive steps to address any issues before they become detrimental to your organisation.

Our Time Submission module allows employees to log their hours worked, record overtime and assign time spent on different projects, so you can monitor output as well as where resources are being used or are most needed.

When it comes to leave, employees are empowered to make requests for holiday easily and quickly. Managers are then notified of the request, which can then be approved or denied in a couple of clicks. No more complex spreadsheets or long email chains to manage.

As well as providing a better employee experience, you are also able to monitor the wellbeing of your teams much more easily by ensuring that employees are taking enough breaks and are supported when returning to work following sickness. Not only that, but greater visibility of who is off and who is working enables better resource planning to ensure that workflows remain on track when people are absent.

Book a free personalised demo of edays to learn more

Georgina at edays
June 9, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.