CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022: highlights part one

Gen Z lacking tolerance, simple job ads and why we should stop talking about inclusion – People Management rounds up the first day

After a politically charged opening keynote from ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston – who discussed sustainability, ESG and the recent bullying scandal involving Sir Gavin Williamson – delegates at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition heard talks from a wide range of thought leaders and top minds in the HR sector. 

People Management rounds up the events of the first morning below: 

Gen Z don’t have the same tolerance to unfairness that might have been acceptable in the past

“I think the generation that are coming in now are not going to accept some of the things that some of us have accepted when going into the workplace, and HR and boards need to really catch up and realise that, actually, there's a role for activism,” Cheryl Samuels, deputy director of Workforce Transformation at NHS England, told the panel.

Acknowledging that people [belong to] sections of society which come with intrinsic inequities, Samuels voiced her belief that HR has a role to play in recognising when it sees “some of those inequitable practices, inequitable behaviour, discriminatory practices and bad behaviour”.

“Actually we have the courage of our convictions as a profession to really call that out because the responsibility for shaping the profession sits with us, and lots of people are looking to HR to provide that help and guidance, but some of our own HR departments are not representative,” she said.

Emphasising the importance of understanding the younger generations’ drive for justice and fairness, she said that “actually, without people who were activists to forge ahead with change… we would never have had the Race Relations Act, we would never have had the Equality Act and we would never have had the Sex Discrimination Act”.

Meanwhile, Matthew Pitt, head of people at Novus Property Solutions, told the panel: ”What attracted people before [were things like] your values and your purpose. In a cost of living crisis, that might go down the list – it might be fifth or sixth. So it might be pay and benefits.”

Drawing on the generational similarities, he said that, ultimately, all generations “still want to know – how am I going to be paid for a fair day's work? What are my hours? Do you encourage flexibility?” 

Employers should keep job descriptions ‘simple and direct’ to boost branding

Employer and consumer branding are “two sides of the same coin”, said Danny Stacy, head of talent intelligence at Indeed UK. 

During a panel discussion on employer branding, Stacy said employers should “keep things simple and direct” when communicating job descriptions. 

He was clear that marketing shouldn’t own any part of the employer branding strategy, but said employers should bear in mind the basic principles, and that a 10-page job description with benefits at the very end would be too much for anyone’s cognitive load.

On the same panel, Ebun Soyinka, global marketing and brand specialist at Clifford Chance, emphasised it was important to show young candidates that they would not lose out on opportunities to learn, with them having “missed out” on crucial networking time during the past two years of study. 

Meanwhile, Paul Bhangoo, global employer brand and attraction manager at BT, highlighted the importance of EDI as a pillar of the EVP. Now, the company’s content has to be created through this lens, meaning it has to be accessible, inclusive and have no unconscious bias. One way the business has done this is through removing “visual bias” and ensuring that employees are not just the “face” of the company. 

Sokinya noted that EDI strategies would mean different things in different countries, but having “a strong sense of your core message” was the most important thing.

We should stop talking about inclusion and make it a daily activity

When it comes to recruitment a lot of money can be spent on altering procedures to make it inclusive, said Nahida Ahmed, HMRC senior equality, diversity and inclusion consultant. 

Ahmed explained that the “attraction component” of recruitment is crucial to bringing in appropriate individuals and ensuring that the organisation as a whole feels inclusive. She added that it was insufficient to merely state that ‘we are an inclusive organisation’ – “we need to show that”. 

Ahmed said her ethos behind HMRC’s inclusive hiring procedure was a world in which “we stop talking about inclusion” because it is a “daily aspect of everyone's job, and it is incorporated into every activity we carry out within the organisation”. She added that “everyone is accountable for it [inclusion] and it is everyone's duty to fix it”.

According to Ahmed, recruiters can frequently gain HR skills through operational delivery. “As a line manager, you're addressing disciplinary complaints and you can apply these abilities to develop your people skills,” she said, adding that “there are other qualities that I could not acquire through my day work, and they were unquestionably essential for my function”.