Growing the future workforce: reflections from the IES HR Directors’ Retreat

Blog posts

5 Oct 2023

Dan LucyDan Lucy, Director, HR Research and Consulting 

At our annual HR Directors’ Retreat held last Friday at our home here by the sea, there was plenty of opportunity to reflect on some of the big challenges facing HR and, importantly, ideas and suggestions from expert and leading thinkers on how to frame and address those challenges with greater confidence and clarity moving forwards. As well as time to take in some wonderful sea views on a bright and sunny day on our wonderful South Coast!

The day began with IES Director, Tony Wilson, crunching the data and providing a sweeping narrative overview of our current UK labour market, its strengths and challenges, as well as taking a look into the future as to what the rapid advance of technology is likely to bring in terms of both opportunity and risk. Tony highlighted that how we cope with the future is not solely about mitigating risk but also about how we build in resilience to cope with whatever changes come our way, equipping ourselves and our workforces to better manage in uncertainty.

We then focused on a part of the labour force that has hit the headlines in the Covid and immediate post-Covid era, that of the older worker. With a recent reversal in the long-term trend of older workers staying in the labour market for longer, we were privileged to welcome Catherine Foot, Director of Phoenix Insights, to provide a strategic view of why organisations need to adapt their approaches to attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing older workers. The business case for doing things differently only gets stronger as the labour force gets smaller and skills shortages persist, alongside the moral, social, and economic case. Catherine highlighted the importance of developing a truly inclusive culture as a crucial element to success.

With barely a moment’s breath, we gamely tackled the future skills challenge presented by (generative) AI as well as the development of technology more broadly. Ross Stevenson, Chief Learning Strategist from Steal Your Thoughts, drew on an extensive range of compelling evidence to outline the future skills challenge as well as provide some useful frameworks (cue audience members busy scribbling) for structuring how we respond. Ross helped us calm our fears, recognise inflated expectations, as well as make the whole business seem more manageable. Thanks Ross!

After a tasty lunch and some enjoyable conversation, we continued the direction of travel from authoritative views of the context impacting the world of work to practical ways of responding to the challenge, including enhancing the lived experience of employees. Michelle Clark, Executive Director of Diversity and Talent at The Children’s Society talked us through a People Experience Framework approach to HR practice. Authenticity is a much-used word in HR circles and a much sought after quality when it comes to leadership. In locating her approach in her own experience, Michelle really brought that quality to life. Central to the approach was the idea of connecting the organisation to the individual rather than vice versa, which seemed a subtle but important shift in emphasis.

We finished the day with an expert contribution from Declan Slattery, Chair of the Global Advisory Board, Talint Partners, on the importance of talent intelligence in driving strategic decisions. With inimitable style, Declan gave a whistle-stop tour of what organisations from a variety of sectors are doing to attract talent in a challenging market which is likely to stay with us for a while yet!

All in all, it was a thoroughly fun and thought-provoking day. Our hope is that the event provided our guests with the opportunity to take a step back from the day to day, reflect not just on today but tomorrow, and leave equipped to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Subscribe to blog posts

Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.