CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022: highlights part three

Transforming disengaged employees, a wellbeing crisis and data for EDI – People Management runs down the final day

Andrew Ferraro

Bringing the CIPD’s flagship two-day conference to a close, the final day boasted key insights for HR from practitioners who revealed their strategies – which complimented the previous day’s speaker sessions

From a complete turnaround of “fed up” employees to reinforcing EDI through the “hearts and minds” of your workforce, People Management provides a bite-size runthrough of the talks: 

How to turn ‘fed up’ into ‘reinvigorated’ 

In trying to get its new people strategy off the ground, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had to drill into what wasn’t working, said David Bearfield, director of the office for human resources at the UNDP. 

He described a gruelling six-month schedule of meetings to understand “what didn’t work” in HR. “There wasn’t anything that [actually] worked, all we did was transactional stuff to keep the lights on and people were fed up,” said Bearfield. 

Now, the strategy, which won at the 2022 People Management awards, boasts 90 per cent of staff who say they are proud to work at the organisation. He also described how he reinvigorated the traditional staff appraisal system into a talent review system, in which “problems are addressed and people are identified” for career progression. 

One key change was its pay and recruitment processes, which saw an overhaul of its fair pay for interns, and also access to a wider talent pool – “not just those in the know” about the UNDP’s open roles. 

With the appointment of global student ambassadors and new global targeting in its graduate programme, UNDP saw 38,000 people apply to the programme. Bearfield said this was down to its strategy which championed a “strengths-based rather than experience- based” selection process.

Extending EAP to families helps employee wellbeing 

Looking back to the turning point that made his organisation rethink employee wellbeing and mental health, Farouk Mangera, director of HR operations at Maria Mallaband Care Group, spoke about his experience of working in a frontline organisation and the real challenges of pandemic regulations changing “not by the day, but by the minute”.

Recognising the stark need to shift its focus to wellbeing and mental health during these uneasy times, Mangera realised the value of an employee assistance programme (EAP) that extended to workers’ families. 

With the organisation now being able to see “the real-life impact” of this investment decision, Mangera shed a light on the importance of key, but vulnerable, sectors like adult social care to support wellbeing: “Now we've come to the end of the pandemic, the attrition levels in the sector have gradually increased because of all the lived experiences [during Covid-19],” he said.

Quoting recent data which showed that adult social care, demand for which is increasing, has “160,000 unfilled vacancies on any given day”, Mangera highlighted the importance of “engaging the workforce” and looking into the reasons why “turnover might be a big issue”.

Now with the added blow of the cost-of-living crisis, he cautioned that “sectors like social care are likely to face further challenges” as employees need extra support to balance their income towards the growing cost of food and bills.

HR should be aware that employees who feel included will see inclusion as invisible 

Speaking on a panel about EDI, Philippa Bonay, director of people business services at Office for National Statistics said that “inclusion is invisible to people who enjoy it” and that HR should acknowledge that fact. 

Bonay also emphasised that organisations wishing to improve their EDI need to look closely at data. “Get really good sources of data, use that as evidence and check the actions you have chosen are the right ones,” she said, adding that employers need to ensure their actions are “having an impact”. 

Tola Ayoola, head of leadership and engagement at Cabinet Office, said that employers should try to feed employee’s hearts as well as their minds, because employees will remember “lived experiences and when they feel something touch [their heart]” as opposed to anything else. She said: “bring the lived experiences and keep on bringing them, and think about how that will impact the organisation.”

Meanwhile Annika Allen, head of diversity equity and inclusion at All3Media advised for HR to “continue having those courageous conversations, be brave and bring up topics that you might not be aware of in the workplace,” she said. Allen also revealed a current project in her organisation involving an employee workplace inclusion passport, so employers can keep track of the factors that help employees perform, feel included, and get the support they need.