Festival of Work helps frame future’s opportunities

It’s not just the worlds of art, literature and music celebrating their professionalism this time of year. Hot on the heels of our second Festival of Global People, the CIPD held its first Festival of Work this June.

Image from CIPD Festival of Work panel session
The new format brought together two existing events in the HR calendar, the Learning and Development Show and the HR Software and Recruitment Show, with the CIPD’s new Future of Work Show at London Olympia.Much like the Festival of Global People, held in May, the CIPD’s two-day Festival of Work is another important forum for people to gather, learn about and discuss the changes in our workplaces the result of megatrends like new technology, demographic, geopolitical and environmental change. 

The world of work in revolution

Talking after the CIPD event and explaining the thinking behind it, Peter Cheese, the CIPD’s chief executive, said: “The world of work is undergoing a major revolution brought about by new technology such as artificial intelligence and in which the role of people will drastically change.“The aim of the festival was to open a conversation on these issues and to provide insight and practical solutions."It brought together not just HR and L&D professionals, but policy makers, trade unions, business leaders, and managers which shows just how important the debates on the future of work are.”

Multi-disciplinary approaches

The Festival of Work welcomed panelists over the two days from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, highlighting the value of interconnected approaches to resolving these big challenges around how to reskill workforces, defining and embedding Good Work principles, and making artificial intelligence work for everyone.Former chess world champion Gary Kasparov and now chair of the New York-based not-for-profit body Human Rights Foundation gave the opening keynote.He made the case for why, in a world where technology is ever-more prevalent and sophisticated, the future of work is still human. He believes we must work together with technology to turn visions of a better future into reality.

Enabling AI

How we manage technology and artificial intelligence were overarching themes at this conference accenting the future of work. On Day two, “torchbearer for ethical IT” Dr Sally Eaves presented with Rob McCargow, director of AI, technology and investments at professional services firm PwC.This fascinating double-header explored what AI actually means for organisations. They made the case that the reality is somewhere between the dystopian and utopian views often the context for debates - and that HR has a key role to play in influencing the impact of AI.Rob McCargow said that a mix of biases built into much AI, hype around its capabilities and impact, and a lack of governance adds to mistrust around tech. For HR, one opportunity is to repair this “cognitive dissonance” about the role of AI at work. For Mr McCargow and Dr Eaves, HR has a role to play in acting to change the narrative around AI and how it can protect people, enhance lives and support economic growth.“This is all about agility, creative confidence and learning for life,” said Dr Eaves.

Adapting to survive

This thinking was much in evidence throughout the Festival of Work’s learning and development and HR technology workstreams, developed further in workshops, masterclasses, discussions and talks, alongside book-signings, well-being areas and free learning sessions on inclusion.“In the next 10 years we will see real progress on many of the biggest issues raised at the event,” said Peter Cheese.“We will see more inclusive workplaces and have a much stronger understanding of meaningful work. A real watchword of modern business is that in a fast-changing world you need to be more agile and responsive.“If you don’t adapt or start to understand how to use technology and AI effectively in the workplace, then you will struggle to drive growth.”

Read more from the Festival of Global People in the summer issue of Relocate Global - out this month - and about the Festival of Work in the autumn issue.

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