HomeEmployee ExperienceHR StrategyHighlights from the CIPD Festival of Work 2024

Highlights from the CIPD Festival of Work 2024

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We were at the CIPD Festival of Work conference this week, and several key topics emerged from the discussions, presentations, and panels. Let’s dive into the fresh insights we gathered.

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The art of perpetual change management

Unsurprisingly, discussions about change and transformation circled back to AI (and GenAI), one of the main drivers of the fast-paced changes we’re facing. However, a key aspect many overlook is the transformational part of adopting such a new technology, rather than the “boring AI” – how do we use it, and the use cases, etc.

The pace of change we’re experiencing today will be the slowest. Even a well-crafted three-year strategy can quickly become outdated, so your change management models and programmes must adapt. If you’re still expecting periods of stability after implementing a change management course, you may face disappointment, as change should be seen as a constant and positive force.

The superpower now is ongoing adaptability and resilience, and HR is the key to the transformational differentiator, the key to driving organisational and behavioural change. “Your culture and behaviour are the foundation upon which change can thrive.”, says Toby Hough, People & Culture Director at Hibob.

The more reliable and effective way is to adopt a change mindset, having trust, transparency, and effective communication as the foundations within teams in the face of change. These elements act as a stabilising force amidst constant change.

As team traits like these are crucial, investing in leaders is vital. They are the catalysts for breaking down silos and setting the tone for the company culture. Speaking of leadership development, Jacques Quinio, Leadership SolutionsDirector at Right Management, emphasised the importance of having a “success profile,” an enabler for organisations to assess and invest in the right people, build up a leadership pipeline for more consistent leadership development, and provide the right topics and skills to get them ready to lead the business to success.

Human success fuels business success

According to Zensai’s presentation, 70% of people are considering quitting their jobs due to a lack of career progression and skill development opportunities. The things you should focus on should be human success – employee growth, productivity, and happiness. If you give employees the right tools and arm them with the right skills, they will do a great job and stay engaged, ultimately helping the business achieve its goals.

For HR professionals, there’s a need to focus on people-centric policies. Robin Daniels, Chief Business & Product Officer at Zensai, explains that employee engagement, learning, and performance are interconnected pillars that, when combined, result in better business outcomes. Organisations that effectively engage and develop their employees see higher profitability and growth.

A good indication that your people-centric management is working? When you’ve created an environment where employees feel “net better off,” meaning they gain more from their work than they put in.

L&D’s strategic rebirth

The L&D function is transforming into a more strategic role, shifting away from the legacy challenges of merely responding to C-suite directives on employee skill gaps and creating programmes that can quickly become outdated due to the rapid pace of change and technological disruption.

So, how can L&D function work more strategically with business leaders? The answer lies in asking the right questions, securing a seat at the decision-making table, and allowing L&D initiatives to be driven by different departments.

L&D professionals mustproactively identifying skill gaps, driving data-driven initiatives aligned with business objectives. This requires upskilling yourself in analytical thinking, strategic planning, and effective communication with senior stakeholders. It is also important to have the confidence to push back on top-down requests and understanding when the root issue lies with sources, not courses.

Embrace AI as your information-curation partner, enabling hyper-personalised and contextually relevant learning programmes tailored to the business environment. And take it a step further: champion new technologies like generative AI, dispel myths, and play a leading role in bridging the gap between CXO’s and staff’s concerns regarding AI adoption.

But, with the breakneck pace of change in mind, L&D professionals must also manage potential resistance and ensure learners aren’t overwhelmed with too many programmes, maintaining an achievable pace and digestible content.

AI disruption knocks, will you answer or ignore?

Generative AI was a recurring theme throughout the conference discussions, highlighting the urgency for businesses to internalise its potential to maintain competitive advantage.

About 43% of workers reported needing training to use generative AI effectively, while 35% reported that their employers restrict the use of these technologies, and only 16% of employers have guidance on its use. These stats stress the urgency for HR and people leaders to work closely with stakeholders to implement AI strategies and craft human-centric AI policies to realise the potential of AI.


These few topics – strategic L&D, effective change management, leadership development, and embracing AI/Gen AI – are closely intertwined. Undoubtedly, having a strong internal culture and a people-centric management approach can help guide organisations through uncertainties.

*Statistics in the article come from the presentations at the conference.

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