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Virtually Everything I Could Ask For to Expand My CPD | Festival of Work

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As the month of May drew to an end, I was consciously reflecting on what I had learnt during the month in order to update my Continuous Professional Development Plan and Record (CPD). During the lockdown I have endeavoured to be more disciplined and proactive in my reflective learning.

I’ve been able to do so as I could more easily dedicate a couple of hours or so on the last Friday of the month to carry out this task; as I was no longer in the office environment and so less prone to interruptions, questions, queries et al, this was an opportunity to grasp.

The thing is, to be totally honest, reflection isn’t one of my strong points; I prefer to take action, get stuck in, have a go and experience learning.  Looking back is hard for me as I am a great believer in the quote from Henry David Thoreau ‘Never look back unless you are planning to go that way’ and so with this being against my natural tendencies I always keep reflection as a dedicated and ongoing CPD item (as I know it is an important part of the learning cycle, a great capability to master and that it will help me to grow and develop further – even if I do find completing it a significant challenge).

As is often my habit when reflecting I wandered (electronically of course) onto the CIPD website and noted that this year the CIPD Festival of Work Conference was going to be held virtually.  I was intrigued and clicked on the link to find out more……when I noted that I could attend actual conference sessions for free I almost jumped for joy as my business budget and time limitations would not normally extend to attending the conference sessions themselves.  Every couple of years I visit the exhibition and the free learning and networking elements of the conference, but not the main gig – it was a stunning opportunity that I could not forego!

I signed up and downloaded the conference timetable so that I could peruse the options available. The choices were immense and selecting which to attend was quite a trial as there were just so many great topics.  To help me select I went back to my CPD document and closely considered the things that I had already identified that I wanted to develop…..and a two key entries stood out… enhance and develop my leadership skills and to continue to enhance my online training capabilities and so I focussed on topics that fitted those requirements.

The conference site was amazing and the availability of content simple and easy to find (if they do something similar for the November Conference, I will attend that too).  Being the activist that I am, I was at the conference an hour before it started and so I headed to the exhibition section to check out who and what was on show.  ‘The Method’ is a provider that piqued my interest as they help people to present themselves with maximum effect through the core principles that actors use, but in activity based virtual workshops (just my thing) so I signed up for a trial session – a big result for my CPD as I’d found something great within the first 10 minutes of attendance (showing that CPD action and activity planning doesn’t need to be arduous or time consuming).

Overall, I managed to squeeze in 11 conference presentations and two free learning sessions that covered everything from ‘Business leadership in an age of disruption – how to lead and thrive in turbulent times’; ‘Human’s versus automation’; ‘Developing our Leaders for the new normal’; ‘Leading growth and change – developing yourself as an agile leader to drive business transformation through’ to ‘Understanding the learning and creative brain’.  All of the presentations were recorded and so between now and the 11th July I can go back and watch some again or view those I couldn’t attend – so even better, and I’ve been given even more options for developmental exploration.

Each session was unique and very interesting. There were many common themes running through the content from thinking about the ‘new normal’ or ‘better normal’ and the influence of this on the future of the workforce, through to considerations such as whether businesses’ should ‘buy, build or borrow’ their employees.  With the current crisis having everyone thinking about the future one quote stood out to me from Abraham Lincoln who said ‘…the best way to predict the future is to build it’ This helped me to conclude that we need to embrace the change that is coming and look for the opportunities presented to build a better working world out of these un-paralleled times.

The expectations of what would be needed of leaders post the pandemic was a significant focus of the presentations. I really liked the suggestions from Helena Morrissey who said that for leaders to be great in the future they need to have more empathy and connectivity but also they need to give their colleagues permission to fail, disagree and learn.  This is something that I have been talking to the leaders in my organisation about as I know that I naturally hate the idea of failing, but in terms of it helping us to be more flexible, adaptable and agile, it is important in enabling future organisational cultures to thrive and generate exceptional productivity.

The final session I was able to attend was all about AI (by Dr Hannah Fry) and it was inspirational.  Her main point was that AI will not take away the need for humans to be within the workforce. In many ways they will be needed even more as the algorithms that run machines don’t understand context or nuance.

She gave an example of one of the very earliest self-driving cars (back in the late 1980’s if I remember correctly).  The scientists thought that they had taught the car to drive with all of the testing that they did, however they had only ever driven along normal roads, they’d not gone across any bridges……so when the car came to the bridge it drove straight off it, as it didn’t understand what it was.  Essentially the scientists thought the car knew how to drive along any road, but all the algorithm had learnt was to keep the grass verge on the left hand side (so it drove off the bridge trying to find it).  Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, but it is such an interesting thought when you also think about this in terms of training and development of humans too. As trainers have, we enabled individuals to learn or have we just taught them limited facts with no context or understanding?

Whilst all of the new knowledge and information was amazing, and this blog could go on for hours as I recite all of the fantastically interesting insight I obtained…… at the same time, I also learnt more about my concentration levels and learning by listening.  I know that I am a visual and kinaesthetic learner, but with the world moving more online and virtual I will have to hone my concentration skills so that I have more stamina throughout the day.  Interestingly the session entitled ‘Understanding learning and creative brain….’stated that for virtual training to be effective and embedded it needs to be short, intensive, regular and social, which I very much agree with, as I found the panel sessions where 3 or 4 people spoke each for say 15 mins and then answered questions from the floor far more engaging, and also I didn’t get as tired or distracted as there was real involvement of the audience in the sessions.

Out of my conference experience, I would highly recommend grasping every free ‘virtual’ opportunity you get over the next few months as they are a great way to continue to develop ourselves professionally and personally as HR and Learning and Development professionals.

Blog written by Michelle Maunder, CIPD tutor

Michelle Maunder, BSc. Hons, CTP, AMCIPD. Michelle is employed by TI Media as a Development Manager providing business enhancement strategies, systems development and training. In addition she is the Chair of the TI Media Staff Council, where human resource management and development forms an integral part of her role. As a Learning and Development specialist, Michelle also runs her own training business through which she undertakes freelance work as a tutor for various establishments and learning organisations.

Find out more about Michelle here.

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