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Lessons from the CIPD conferences: people-led transformation

Themes from the CIPD conferences in 2019: part 2

It’s been a few weeks now since our time at 2019’s CIPD ACE in Manchester and after taking some time to review my notes, another common theme cropped up across a range of talks at this year’s event.

In case you didn’t see our last instalment from the 2019 CIPD conferences, here’s a quick recap.

My name’s Alice; Content Manager, HR enthusiast, and resident copywriter here at Kallidus, and I wanted to share with you my favourite things and key themes about 2019’s CIPD ACE conferences.

For anyone who wasn’t able to make it or hasn’t been to one of these events before, the five streams of talks, panels, and workshops taking place were:

  • Well-being, inclusion, and flexible working
  • Tech, analytics, and evidence-based decision
  • Professionalism, voice, and change management
  • Engagement, experience, and people management
  • Learning, recruitment, and talent management

People-led transformation

Many organisations will claim through their branding, PR, and advertising that they are putting employee well-being at the top of their agenda. From the increasing understanding of mental health in the workplace through to the increase in flexible working, organisations of all sizes are fast seeing the return on putting employee needs first.

But at the CIPD ACE conferences this year, a clear theme prevailed among many of the discussions – the importance of putting your people at the heart of organisational transformation.

Here are my top takeaways regarding the importance of your people from 2019’s CIPD ACE conferences.

1. Moving away from top-down decision making

This was a huge topic that came up again and again at this year’s conferences. From the future of performance management to deciding whether it’s the right time to invest in tech, a recurring theme at the conferences was the importance of consulting with employees at all levels. We seem to be moving away from an era of making decisions at the C-Suite or board level and democratising the process of transformation in the workplace.

2. Continuous cycle of caring

A phrase I heard a few times in the conferences was “take care of your people and they will take care of your customers”. We’ve spoken a lot on this blog about the importance of motivation and morale when it comes to employee and learning engagement. While this mantra has been making the rounds for a while, a real stand out at the conferences this year, especially with a big focus on mental health and wellbeing, was the sheet importance of looking after your employees.

3. Everyone has their own context

Scott D McArthur kicked off one of the conference sessions with the phrase:

“I want you to picture a dog in a yard”

What do you see when you read that phrase? Perhaps a dog from your childhood, a film you like, or your own pet. What about the yard? With four or five different definitions ranging from shipping to dollar bills, everyone’s understanding will be different.

The key lesson that that Scott discussed in his session was that everyone brings their own context to any given situation, so it’s vital to meet your employees in the middle and communicate clearly. This point was less about letting your people lead the charge with transformation and more about making sure you put your people’s needs first when understanding how to communication change within your organisation.

4. If tech doesn’t work for your employees, it won’t work for you

One of the sessions I attended focused on finding the right tech for your organisation. With women working in HR and L&D across a variety of organisations, from the NHS to construction, they discussed a wide range of challenges when it comes to selecting and implementing HR and learning tech.

Something several of the panel members discussed was the importance of including people at all levels in your decision-making. A great example came from Lizi Marsden, of the Great Places Housing Group who discussed their methodology of getting employees of all levels involved through a survey. Using a ranking system, they took the answers and compiled a list of top ten requirements needed by their people for their new LMS.


These are a few examples of how organisational transformation is coming more and more from the people at the ground level. Top-down structures are becoming a thing of the past, with optional performance management, democratised technological changes, and improved communication and transparency. With people-led transformation taking place at organisations of all shapes and sizes, from the BBC to the Edinburgh Council, 2020 is the year to put your employees at the heart of organisational change.

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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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