CIPDNI: Belfast blog - Brexit and well beyond

It’s easy to think the times we live through are the most momentous ever and they certainly are not boring. A key element of thinking leadership in a topsy-turvy world is sense making and perspective taking. Whist working in an airline industry knocked off its axis by 9/11 I was re-assured by the fact that human beings will always have curiosity, a need to relax and do business, and will therefore until they develop self fight use airlines. With Brexit and the US election, it is easy to get lost in a reflective or regretful mood but we must move on.

Northern Ireland is the most severely impacted of all in the British Isles by Brexit and we highlighted that fact at our Brexit event held last month in the grand setting of Belfast Castle. Working with our Northern Ireland network led by Lynne Carson and staff team led by Avril Anderson, we brought our leader community together at the breath-taking Belfast Castle.

With politicians and media focused on constitutional and trade issues, HR’s attention should be on the workforce, the workplace will be different within a changing wider economy and society. The nature of work is defined very much by service industry jobs around retail, customer service and hospitality with pockets of large scale manufacturing particularly in food and drink. The workforce is like many parts of the UK, ageing and mixed in levels of skill and income. Migration and freedom of movement is a major consequence as the big food processors such as Moy Park face real challenges in retention of EU workers. The recruitment of European workers to rural factories supports other jobs and wider local economies. EU employment law looms large in the discussion and whilst most think the bulk of this legislation will be retained, some are also alive to the opportunity to tailor workplace laws towards the opportunity of a more flexible labour market. The workplace legal dimension of Brexit will be a feature of our NI Employment Law Conference in late January 2017.

We titled the event Brexit and beyond and one of the foremost opportunities we have is to build a well and resilient workforce. So at the end of the month CIPD NI ran our first network conference on the theme of wellbeing. Working with CIPD’s research team Rachel Suff and Louisa Baczor, we provided a timely array of insights on the need for flourishing workplaces. Using a fragrant mapping tool for wellbeing. (The “flower and petals”) we helped 130 plus practitioners drill into the domains and dimensions of a "holistic" approach to wellbeing. Delegates were able to build their insight throughout the day from both our speakers, case studies and their own conversations.

We heard from NI award winners South West College on their wellbeing programme which ranges from putting out the fruit bowl to Pilates and everything in between. Our “power panel” of senior practitioners involved Danske Bank, Wellbeing specialists Care Call, a Queens HR academic power generation company Veridian. Recurring themes were the fact that wellbeing wasn't a big ticket expense that line managers needed support and that senior leaders had to see the example. It’s quite clear that engagement wellbeing and resilience are intertwined and that if we pay attention to all of them we can develop a flourishing workforce.

Gordon Parkes HRD of NIE networks gave a funny and thought provoking presentation on the human side of engagement. His focus on real people not just numbers was key. But Gordon and his team also delivers impact so the metrics were there to show that if you value your talent, your talent values you! Our final keynote Aileen McEvoy of Diageo explained how the people who brew the black stuff develop the right stuff for the fast moving market they operate within. Aileen explained how Diageo tries to develop a growth mind-set and a focus on strengths and supporting people to be resilient. Finally we heard a heartfelt clarion call on the need to become better and managing mental health from NI Equality Commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow. It was fitting and inspiring end to how we build flourishing workforces so that we can perform well beyond Brexit and the other challenges and opportunities which await us.

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