Tony Vickers Byrne (640 X 480)

Five Minutes With... Tony Vickers-Byrne, CIPD’s Chief Adviser for HR Practice

Discussing his thoughts on the changing nature of work, modern demographics and people management

As part of our employee experience interview series, we caught up with Tony Vickers-Byrne, Chief Adviser for HR Practice at CIPD, to get his thoughts on the changing nature of work, modern demographics and people management.

One of the leading figures in modern HR, Tony draws on over 25 years’ experience at director level and has been instrumental in the development of HR best practice over the past decade. He has also worked as HR director and a chief adviser for Public Health England, where his expertise covered key agendas such as diversity, inclusion and employee wellbeing.


As we enter a new decade, how do you see the dynamics of HR management evolving over the next few years?

There’s no doubt that the principles of good work, corporate governance and employer transparency will continue to develop in years to come. During 2020, we expect to see an even bigger push on workplace wellbeing and mental health, flexible working, technology, inclusion and supportive workplace cultures. This is in line with our new profession map at CIPD that stresses the need for HR to hold their organisations to account if they are not acting ethically, or compromising the health and wellbeing of their staff.

The welfare of their staff should be a core consideration for every line manager; yet a recent survey we ran in 2019 shows that only 50% of line managers have bought into the importance of this responsibility. There’s clearly more work to be done.


Our research shows that 49% of HR professionals are now looking to integrate technology to support talent acquisition and onboarding. How do you see the role of technology evolving within the average department?

There’s real potential for new technologies and HR systems that utilise automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to free up time for HR and people managers across a wide range of functions – recruitment, training and development and payroll, to name a few. Technology will also give managers the time to develop increased levels of trust and performance by providing a more personalised service to their colleagues.

Yet when looking at integrating any new technology, the starting point for every HR department should be to evaluate the immediate and long-term impact it will have on their existing workforce. New processes in areas such as hiring and selection and developing talent acquisition pipelines must be truly inclusive to maximise fairness and efficiency.

There’s also a chance that new technology could disadvantage some existing and potential employees. Significant efforts have been made by a number of employers to improve the neurodiversity of their workforces, and this could be compromised. For example, the nature of some detailed or repetitive work may no longer be available for some employees on the autism spectrum, and this also needs to be taken into consideration.


People in the UK are also working and living longer than ever before. What considerations should HR be acting on when it comes to getting the most out of ageing workforce?

Absolutely right. The June 2019 figures from the Office for National Statistics project that more than 24% of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or more by 2042, up from 18% in 2016. The impact on society and the workplace will be significant.

Businesses can get ahead of their competitors by creating age-friendly workplaces where people of all ages are supported, valued and fulfilled. Early access to support for issues around: health or caring; small, practical adjustments to the workplace; flexible working arrangements; managers that treat staff with empathy and compassion; and an age-positive culture, including at the point of hiring, are all essential considerations.

A recent research study conducted by the Centre for Ageing Better has also shown that, in many essential ways, older workers are just like their younger colleagues. They want work which is meaningful, intellectually stimulating and sociable. They want jobs that are flexible and come with opportunities for learning, mentoring and career progression. Organisations can provide advice on planning for later life to allow their employees to make the best arrangements for work, finances, lifestyle, health, career, home, family and retirement – this has been termed a mid-life MOT or a mid-life review.


The task of managing multiple generations of workers is a tough challenge for any HR department. How can companies ensure harmony and engagement at all levels?

A successful multi-generational workforce can be achieved if the organisation is committed to listening to all its staff and acting on this information. Many organisations benefit from a network of diversity employee networks, representing the views of the whole range of protected characteristics. Executive champions can be a good idea to represent different voices at senior leadership team  and board level. Some organisations also ensure that their network leads have direct and regular access to their CEO.

The majority of millennials want flexible working options too, so we’re talking about workplace improvements that will be welcomed by everyone, not just older workers. The key is that managers have the headspace and are willing to engage with all of their staff and understand the things which really matter to individuals.

As for payroll services, an audit of pay outcomes to check they are not discriminatory against employees of any age should also be considered. If policies are developed in open and transparent dialogue then they are less likely to be seen as unfair – it’s as simple as that.


Learn more about the key people management trends and strategic challenges facing HR professionals today in our latest Undercover HR Boss research guide. Make sure to download your free copy today!

Undercover HR Boss

Gathering insights from hundreds of senior HR leaders across multiple industries, we’ve uncovered the challenges facing HR today when it comes to the employee experience and what HR really needs to do to improve it.
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