Almost 2.5 million people have turned to the CIPD for timely expert advice and guidance throughout the pandemic

The CIPD’s free Coronavirus Hub has helped people professionals support and protect their people and their businesses amid a rapidly developing crisis

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Since March, almost 2.5 million people have visited the CIPD's Coronavirus Hub to access reports, guidance and other information to help people professionals support and protect their people and their businesses amid a rapidly developing crisis.   

In response to a growing pandemic that has affected workers and workplaces on a scale never seen before, the professional body hurriedly pulled together working groups in March to plan how to support its members and the wider world of work.  A key part of this plan was to provide rapid response guidance and advice on what to do as the crisis developed.

Providing up-to-the minute advice and guidance

The CIPD’s Knowledge Content team, which edits and publishes expert advice and guidance on the CIPD website, took a central role in planning the content required. In early March, the CIPD Knowledge Content team began by responding to member queries sent in by email. But, by day two, queries had reached over 50 a day, so the content team then moved to publishing answers to frequently asked questions, and launched the CIPD Coronavirus Hub. At this stage, advice was largely focused around washing hands, sending staff home if they showed COVID-19 symptoms, and closing offices. As the pandemic unfolded, the team updated the guidance daily, to reflect evolving implications for employers. By October, the CIPD’s coronavirus factsheet and employer response guide had been viewed more than 472,000 times.

By the time furlough and the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak had become regular topics of conversation, the rapid-response content development process was established. HR experts, legal advisers, policy engagers, researchers and editors across the CIPD met regularly to discuss the latest information required to support the profession and how to develop it at speed. The Content team engaged experts, both in-house and external, to write new guides, and when government guidance changed – as it did frequently – the team was able to update relevant factsheets, FAQs and employment legislation. New COVID-related questions were planned into regular CIPD surveys, and additional surveys were commissioned to track the effect of the virus on work and the people profession.

Top five coronavirus pages, excluding the hub itself (based on page views from March to mid-October 2020):

  1.  Furlough Guide – 1,210,423 page views
  2.  Furlough FAQs – 478,794 page views
  3.  Coronavirus FAQs – 344,949 page views
  4.  Returning to the workplace guide – 337,029 page views
  5.  Coronavirus factsheet – 238,451 page views

Creating the most relevant advice and sharing it as widely as possible 

By sourcing information from the UK Government website, and coordinating with other bodies, such as BEIS, Business in the Community, MIND, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Society of Occupational Medicine, the CIPD sought to create the most relevant advice and share it as widely as possible. Regular conversations with members through round tables, surveys and the CIPD customer helpline provided up to date information on the topics that were immediately relevant to practitioners as the pandemic response changed at pace.  

Internationally, the CIPD’s Asia, Middle East and Ireland websites created mirror coronavirus hubs, which could deliver localised guidance based on advice in that region, while also sharing relevant guides on topics such as managing remote working, leading and communicating through a crisis, and health and wellbeing. 

In March, coronavirus and furlough topped the search terms on the CIPD UK website, a trend that continued all through the summer. An early decision had been made to give open access to all the coronavirus support information, and our coronavirus advice and guidance contributed to a 78.5% increase in visitors. 

In April, in the height of UK lockdown, views of coronavirus content peaked around 68,000 a day, and on one occasion, the level of visitors accessing the FAQ sections pushed the whole CIPD website into go-slow, prompting a revision of the pages and a website reboot.  

That month, traffic across the whole CIPD UK website rose by 82% year on year, with the hub proving to be the most visited page on the website and furlough the most searched for term. By October the hub had been viewed over 4.4m times by 2.4 unique visitors.

Bringing our content to life with webinars, podcasts and interactive tools 

As well as guides and factsheets, the CIPD launched a series of webinars, inviting practitioners, legal advisers and topic specialists to outline the key issues and answer questions from the audience.  The Content team ran two a week on the most popular topics as soon as the speakers were in place. Such was the demand that even if the sign-up was not made available until one or two days ahead of the event, audience figures remained high. And the platform had to be hurriedly extended to allow increasing numbers to join. Furlough and wellbeing stand out as the most popular topics. The first webinar, on furlough, received 1,987 registrations, and has since been viewed on YouTube over 8,000 times. A second furlough webinar – answering questions – was the second most popular (1,871 registrations and 1,908 YouTube views), followed by health and wellbeing (1,268 registrations, 2,095 YouTube views).  And downloads of the webinar ‘Looking after your remote teams’ (1,094) shows there has been an ongoing interest in this topic. 

The monthly CIPD podcast also moved to COVID topics, looking at business survival and managing remote workers’ wellbeing, the latter of which in its first six months was listened to over 12,000 times – a figure usually achieved over 12 months – with monthly engagement still reaching up to 1,000 more. 

To help manage the complex issues facing HR practitioners through furlough and returning to the workplace, the CIPD quickly created a workforce planning guide. It featured a visual decision tree using questions to lead the user to the best available options, providing links to relevant guidance. Later, the team turned this into an interactive quiz-style web tool that simplified the process and was used over 3,700 times in four months. The CIPD has kept this tool up to date as guidance has changed, and by October it had racked up almost 32,000 views.  

Continuing to champion better work and working lives and supporting the Black Lives Matters movement

Although the pandemic dominated much of the CIPD’s work this year, its team of experts were still able to publish most of its regular reports – with an all-important COVID lens.  

Outside of COVID-related content, the five most popular reports for the year-ending 30 June 2020 were: 

  1. Health and Wellbeing at Work (annual survey): 46,879 unique page views throughout the year. 
  2. Labour Market Outlook (quarterly survey): 36,716 unique page views throughout the year. 
  3. The Good Work Index (annual survey): 31,979 unique page views throughout the year. 
  4. Building Inclusive Workplaces (report and practical resources): 29,819 unique page views from September 2019 to year-end. 
  5. Managing and Preventing Conflict at Work (report and guidance): 26,732 unique page views from January 2020 to year-end.

The CIPD’s Good Work Index is based on an annual survey of employees in different occupations measures UK job quality according to seven dimensions. For the first time this year, the CIPD gave users access to interactive charts that easily display the results according to profession, individual or overall scores. The chart can show very quickly, for example, that while skilled agriculture scored overall top for good work, and top for work life balance, job design, relationships and health and wellbeing, it scored bottom for employee voice. The Good Work Index is the third most popular – non-COVID - publication of 2020 with 31,979 unique page views, behind the Labour Market Outlook (36,716 unique page views) and the Health and Wellbeing at Work (46,879 unique page views).

Having established working practices that enable the team to innovate and flex at speed, the CIPD put them into play again to build an anti-racism hub following the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Following the same rapid response format, it published answers to common questions, this time around racism in the workplace and covering issues such as how to support colleagues, create an inclusive workplace and start difficult conversations around race. A series of three webinars around race, facilitated by Frank Douglas, a former CIPD board director and expert on race, covered black history, how to create a pro-inclusive leadership plan, and the future of an inclusive workplace. Collectively, these webinars received over 2,000 registrations. The CIPD has continued to add support and advice on ending racism in the workplace, including detailed guides, recommended reading material, and short videos from black HR professionals about their lived experiences. 

Looking ahead 

The CIPD Content team will continue to build on its experiences, working with internal and external stakeholders to provide up to date coronavirus content when needed, sharing knowledge to support HR practitioners in their work and supporting our work on topics such as the right to request flexible working, ethnicity and gender pay reporting and paying the living wage. 

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