Our top five takeaways from the CIPD annual conference

By Anthony Wolny | 18th November 2018 | 13 min read

Invigorated and inspired by the CIPD annual conference last week, we're still beaming from the insightful discussions held across the two-day event.

It was fantastic to see so many HR professionals all in one place, and we had a great time chatting to as many attendees as we possibly could.

Since the event, we've been revealing our top five takeaways from the conference. Read on for more...

Takeaway one: Employee wellbeing

As expected, employee experience was a key focus of the CIPD conference, with wellbeing taking centre stage. Part of a series of free learning sessions, one of the top talks for us discussed creating healthy workplaces.

The CIPD hosted this, citing the results of their latest survey on health and wellbeing at work, including the finding that a high volume of work is the top cause of stress-related absence.

During the discussion, the following three issues particularly resonated with us:


The new trend of ‘leaveism’ – working when on leave – is a true sign of the times. Before the arrival of technology that enables us to work anywhere, anytime and on any device, it would have been near impossible to work outside of the office. And as a technology company ourselves, we often ponder the struggle of how an ‘always on’ work culture can negatively affect employee wellbeing. Particularly when coupled with remote working – when work and home are the same place how can you switch off?

Financial wellbeing

We greatly encourage the importance the CIPD placed on viewing wellbeing holistically – covering mind, body, heart and social aspects. This includes financial wellbeing which is often a neglected area, even though money worries are a significant cause of employee stress. Worryingly, only 24% of CIPD’s survey respondents believe that employees have the knowledge and skills to make the right reward and benefit choices to meet their financial needs.

Investing in line managers

With all of this to consider, we agree wholeheartedly with the session’s closing remarks on how organisations, particularly line managers, have a big job in encouraging the wellbeing of their team members. They absolutely deserve the investment in understanding how to support their team members health and wellbeing – as well as assistance in supporting their own.

We’re keen to help…

Here at Cascade HR, we’re keen to help organisations build a culture that places employee wellbeing at the centre. Take a look at our recent interview with Mind on the importance of recognising stress in the workplace, and keep an eye on our Resources for more on this important topic.

Takeaway two: Tech, analytics and evidence-based decisions

No surprise that another highlight for us was the focus on how technology can help HR professionals, and organisations as a whole, make better decisions.

A topic that has been treated with nervousness by the HR world in the past, people data is quickly becoming a valuable and essential tool for organisations big and small.

While HR is by no means solely a numbers game, having reliable data that can be easily collected can give useful insight into issues such as sickness levels, overall performance, diversity, turnover, and much more.

The ability to delve into the data, finding trends in particular business areas – or even geographical regions for larger companies – can help HR Professionals better understand how their HR processes are working, and where their people need support.

The data also can help to get the attention of the wider organisation, particularly if there’s an issue that requires urgent attention. This leads to valuable conversations, and ultimately evidence based decisions that make a true difference to how an organisation works.

When used effectively, the analytics available through sophisticated modern technology can simplify decision making in organisations. However, as discussed at the conference, the plethora of data and analytics available, and what it all means, can become overwhelming.

But, luckily, this is an area in which our expert team at Cascade HR excel.

We can help

Take a look at our recent insight guide on using big data to conduct better workforce planningspeak to our team about your people data needs, and keep an eye on our Resources for more.

Takeaway three: Engagement, experience and people management

Worryingly, management style was rated as the second top cause of stress related absence in the 2019 CIPD survey on health and wellbeing at work. And that statistic really got us thinking….

Here at Cascade HR, we talk about engagement a lot. After all, by streamlining processes to free up time and empower employees, our products and solutions are a great way to improve employee engagement. But how can we do more to encourage management styles that add to engagement?

Listening to the free learning session on ‘Life after appraisals – a new performance management model’ hosted by Clear Review was a poignant reminder of the importance of conversations between managers and their team members. The traditional appraisal process is a good example of the binds that often get in the way of meaningful conversations.

During the session we agreed wholeheartedly that busy managers often feel pressured to prioritise the things they’re held accountable for – for example, ticking boxes and submitting forms. But organisations are often missing a trick when they believe that completing the form is the task at hand, instead of focussing on encouraging meaningful discussions between employees and managers.

Changing the emphasis from filling in forms to having regular conversations is key to boosting employee engagement and experience. We were also interested in Clear Review’s encouragement to replace objectives with agile goals, and building cultures of accountability and behavioural change.

With the future of work already here, we’re keen advocates of reviewing the way things have always been done to make sure they’re still fit for purpose. Technology like ours has been created to simplify processes that have historically revolved around formal documentation, giving way to meaningful and regular conversations taking centre stage.

Find out more

Discover what’s shaping the future of work with our video or take a look at our recent insight guide on maximising employee engagement and keep an eye on our Resources for more.

Takeaway four: Becoming a top employer brand

The expectations employees have on their workplace have risen dramatically in recent years, and this is having a huge impact on employer brand.

Now, to be considered a top employer, the way you attract, retain and develop your people needs your full attention.

Here are a few thoughts we had during the CIPD annual conference…

  • Attracting – more than a decent salary and benefits package, job seekers are keen to understand how working for you is going to add value to their lives. They want to know what you value, how your organisation is contributing to social responsibility, and that, by working for you, they’ll be contributing to something significant.
  • Retaining – from encouraging flexibility, freedom and collaboration, to valuing conversations and accountability over form filling, there are many topics to consider when developing a strategy to keep your top talent. But for us, it all seems to come back to focussing on building a culture that prioritises engagement. Making your people feel valued, appreciated and involved in all you do goes a long way.
  • Developing – professional qualifications, formal training, mentorship, apprenticeships, building career paths and more…the world of learning and development has grown astronomically. And with so many development possibilities, where do you start? The best employers are offering their people the choice of methods to help them develop to their full potential. Dedicated and regular conversations about development, generous budgets, and by-in from senior leaders are all necessary tools in making this happen.

Find out more

Such a huge topic, we’ll be talking more about this over the coming months. But for now, take a look at our recent interview with Darren Nuttall, Director of networx, market leading recruitment software and recruitment service providers, who spoke with us about how giving a great first impression as an employer starts way beyond a candidate’s first day.

Takeaway five: Change is here to stay

They say the only constant in life is change. And with the world changing faster than ever, we say with a high level of confidence that change is here to stay. So, change management is a skill worth taking an interest in.

That’s why we enjoyed UK Mediation’s learning session at the conference on ‘Change management – turning resistance into collaboration’. As huge fans of organisations who champion collaboration, we know that this is needed more than ever during a period of change.

For HR professionals, a key challenge is to mange the often unavoidable disruption that change brings – employee engagement and morale can be seriously damaged during periods of uncertainty.

Employers tend to encounter a range of attitudes and abilities from employees at the mere mention of change. Forward thinking team members become frustrated if they feel their organisation’s ways of working are lagging behind, whilst employees who favour more traditional ways of working can often feel sceptical of the value the change can bring, or nervous about their ability to adopt it.

Trying to engage all parties while making decisions that help the organisation to move forward can be a difficult balancing act.

We can help…

Explore this topic in our insight guide Managing change: can HR software help?