Why 2022 is HR’s moment to shine: reflections from the IES conference

Blog posts

5 May 2022

Claire CampbellClaire Campbell, Director of HR Research and Consulting

Follow @clairecampbellj

Last week’s IES annual conference was a chance to step away from the day-to-day challenges of HR management, and think ahead to the future of work in our current context.  There were many highlights of the day (not least Cary Cooper suggesting that HR get rid of the 10 per cent of managers who shouldn’t be allowed near people- ‘you know who they are’) but here are my top takeaways.

1)  We’re in the most challenging labour market of the past 50 years. With lower participation levels and a high number of vacancies, recruitment is harder than ever before, and we need to think creatively about flexibility and job design to attract people who may not be actively looking for work. In an extracted conference presentation, IES Director Tony Wilson details where all the workers have gone (and when they are coming back).

2)  Whilst the future is uncertain, it is clear we need to create workforce plans and skills development strategies to ensure we have the workforce we need.  Projections and future scenarios of which industries and skills (such as green jobs) will grow can help you to plan ahead.

3)  Young people entering the workplace feel it’s a very unequal playing field, particularly exacerbated by their experiences of Covid.  Employers need to look at ways to boost their confidence in their employability through work experience and mental health support.

4)  Hybrid working is increasingly about how you lead and engage your team, not about picking the right number of days to have people in the office.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that arbitrary rules around presenteeism are likely to provoke resentment. Employers can help by creating reasons for people to come together, and workplaces that people want to attend for a purpose.

5)  Creating healthy workplaces is now a board priority in many large organisations, now acknowledged to be a driver of productivity.  The challenges are to ensure all line managers are capable of supporting their teams appropriately, particularly when managing remotely, and that SME staff also benefit from interventions which work.

All in all, we have a unique opportunity post lockdown to equal up the playing field – through widening recruitment channels, supporting flexible working and a focus on developing future skills. We have the ear of the board for workforce issues and a growing body of evidence about what works. There’s never been a better time for HR to take a strategic lead.

Subscribe to blog posts

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