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CIPD Festival of Work 2023: what you missed on day two

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The CIPD 2023 Festival of Work returned to Olympia London on 8 June. Here are some of the highlights and what you may have missed from day two of the event.

Commitments to employees keep leaders on track through turbulent times 

Neil Morrison, director of HR at Severn Trent, said it is important to build trust through communication through the current economic uncertainty. 

“At Severn Trent we have made it completely clear to employees that there’s no chance of redundancy,” he said. “We know they may be seeing people around them getting made redundant or reducing hours, and we want to take away some of the anxiety of the current times.” 

Morrison said that making strong commitments like this can be used as a tool to keep policy in line with your values. 

“In this case, we now know redundancies are not an option and we will always look for other solutions. Communicating those values mean we have to honour them. 

“If you ever do have to break those commitments, you then do have to be completely honest about the pressures you’re facing and why this is the only solution.” 


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Listen now: How can companies communicate with purpose?

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Employers need to work closer with local services to plug the skills gap  

Paul Devoy, CEO, Investors in People: “The UK economy has had persistent skills gaps and shortages for decades.

He added: “Universities get paid on the basis of what people want to study, and courses don’t necessarily equate with what an employer needs.

“Students in their late teens are making huge investment decisions on their future and the information, advice and guidance they are getting on the ROI on these decisions needs to be much better. Only then can they be making a fully informed choice.”

Devoy recommended HR reimagines local educational services as part of a talent pipeline, adding: “Local further education colleges have huge potential to help employers, but they aren’t used enough.”

To address the UK skills gaps and shortages, he encouraged employers to work with local colleges and other learning providers on their future skills needs.

“This is going to require more investment from employers as we currently lag behind other European countries in terms of our investment in training.”


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Skills for the future: How tech can help solve the skills conundrum

Bill promises to eliminate qualification bias in job applications


AI outputs need to be tested for quality  

Numerous talks at the Festival of Work touched on AI’s future impact on the HR profession but Karen Silverman, CEO of The Cantellus Group, warned HR to be mindful of blindly trusting its output.  

She said: “We have to prioritise viewing the outputs of these models. The language models are overwhelmingly trained on western data with little input from other places of the world, so the predictions it comes out with may not be the same as the way a human may reason.  

“Our workforces need support in how to ask questions and make space for questions. Meetings are going to be more about questions than answers. 

“The [AI generated] answers are going to be easily generated, so the focus become on picking the right answer for the context you have.” 


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HR and AI: How can HR use AI effectively and ethically?


Employing ex-offenders is key to corporate responsibility 

Jacob Hill, managing director of ex-offender employment consultancy Offploy, said employers limit themselves by not being open to ex-offenders. 

“There are 14 million people with a prior conviction,” he said. “That is a huge swathe of potentially very talented people to write off.” 

Darren Burns, director of diversity and inclusion, The Timpson Group said the company’s ex-offender initiatives received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers. 

 “Society has changed. Our customers expect us to be working within the community. Every time our founder tweets about employing people with convictions, there are tens of thousands of comments in support. 

“People say that they have brand loyalty to us, because of this work we’re doing.” 


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How Iceland’s rehabilitation director unlocks ex-offender recruitment


Recruitment strategies are changing in response to talent shortages 

Many organisations are grappling with talent shortages and are having to switch up their recruitment processes to keep up.  

As part of its talent strategy, hotel chain Lore Group has changed its recruitment processes to appeal to older workers and local residents where its hotels are based.  

Simon Tetley, head of talent a Lore Group, said: “The hospitality industry is known for having a young workforce, so we have tried to widen who we target and who we get in, and have done a lot of work around what hospitality can do for you as a candidate.  

“The talent recruitment role is now no longer just HR, it’s 50% HR and 50% marketing. To get the best people you have to identify your values and put those into your brand. Digital is key, no matter what generation we are in. 

“We now know the potential of hiring from local communities. You can get someone with no experience to a point where they’re a superstar in your team.”  

Sonia Pawson, interim director of government skills at Government Skills and Curriculum Unit, has built a core curriculum for the whole of the civil service to broaden its talent pool. 

She said: “There was a challenge in breaking down stereotypes, so we’ve set out the core skills for everyone working in government, the first time this has been done. We soon realised we needed a lot more talent in science, tech and data. 

“We’ve done some detailed capability mapping and identified critical skills for the future. It’s helped us focus on what talent is missing.”  

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