CIPD Northern Ireland Conference: Focusing on the Future with People

Belfast’s ICC was the venue as 250 HR and learning professionals from Northern Ireland and beyond gathered for the inaugural CIPD Northern Ireland annual conference on Tuesday.

Wellbeing, inclusion and the impact of technology were the core conference themes highlighted by CIPD Head of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Lee Ann Panglea, as she opened the event.

In the opening keynote, CIPD Membership Director David D’Souza challenged delegates in a gentle but provocative way, to embrace an uncertain future by ensuring that they are loud and proud about what HR can and should do. He explained the need for people professionals to be prepared.

Dublin-based brain scientist, Professor Shane O’Mara, then wowed delegates with a compelling well-being message. In his genial quick- fire way he demonstrated that our memories are unreliable, and that we don’t get nearly enough sleep or exercise. The themes of being more prepared and agile were developed by leading psychologist Dr Richard McKinnon as he explained how we could all benefit from working more flexibly.

Northern Ireland, with its highly productive and growing fintech sector, is a hub of technology. The big theme of adapting to technology was addressed by BBC presenter and futurologist, Timandra Harkness, who gave a fun and fact-filled exposition on technology, big data and artificial intelligence. She explained how people professionals should be excited not scared.

An inclusion debate highlighted the heavy burden of a singular inclusion agenda around religious affiliation. Government has neglected to build better inclusion across a wider range of issues, but organisations led by the people profession are not waiting on Stormont.

Delegates heard from speakers including Paul Gillen from international law firm Pinsent Masons, on how we can build a wider inclusion agenda. Paul gave a wry and passionate account of how law firms were changing, and how building networks across areas like sexual identity and disability were essential to the future business of a corporate law firm.

Danske Bank HRD, Caroline Van Der Feltz, referred to Danske’s progress on gender diversity, taking action even without the legislative force of the gender pay gap to look at diversity in an analytical way. As she explained, inclusion is a business agenda. “Diversity is about the people we want to recruit as both staff and customers” she said.

How HR adds value to the organisation whilst valuing the people is a recurring theme for the profession. Linda Kennedy-McCarthy provided a tour de force of her career as a senior leader in major firms in tough environments such as mining, construction and telecoms. A truly inspirational final keynote for delegates.

In her closing remarks, Lee Ann Panglea urged not just conference delegates, but the 3,000 CIPD members in Northern Ireland, to take the learning and networking out to their organisations to help build the future of work in Northern Ireland.

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