My experience at CIPD ACE 2021

By Giulia Falconeri, CIPD Manchester Branch Ambassador
6 January 2022

My first in-person conference for two years

Back in 2021, I won a ticket for the most significant event in any people professional’s agenda: the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition #cipdACE, which took place in Manchester from 3-4 November 2021. 

The hybrid event allowed delegates to attend in person or online. It was such an honour to be a UK delegate representing CIPD Manchester branch, and I loved every moment. I was inspired by the passionate speakers sharing their insights during conference sessions. 

There was such a great atmosphere; it was like being part of one big HR community and the event provided the perfect opportunity to network and share knowledge and experiences with fellow professionals and exhibitors. Being surrounded by so many people eager to learn and live the conference experience in person (after months of restrictions) provided a huge buzz.

CIPD Annual Conference and exhibition 2021
A collage of photos taken at #cipdACE in 2021, featured in our December 2021 newsletter

Hot topics and insights 

The conference’s overarching theme focused on workplace changes and the challenges brought about by the pandemic, such as hybrid working, the need for greater inclusion and diversity, and recruitment issues. 

Peter Cheese speaking at CIPD ACE

The conference opened with an inspirational keynote by Peter Cheese, CIPD’s Chief Executive. Peter shared insights into what HR has been facing since the pandemic, and the challenges people professionals will likely face over the upcoming months. It was such an incredible opportunity to listen to Peter Cheese live. He spoke about how we should be looking at these challenges as an opportunity to reflect, rethink and reset many aspects of the people profession. You can find the full programme of the activities and talks here:

Other key themes Peter discussed during his opening keynote were woven into subsequent sessions, such as the challenges HR professionals face with recruitment in this historical time and ‘the great resignation’. 

Lynda Gratton speaking at CIPDACE

I found Lynda Gratton’s session to be one of the most refreshing and forward-thinking. Lynda is a Professor of Management Practice at London Business School. She discussed how the ‘great resignation’ is influenced by many factors playing in people’s lives.

I was interested to learn how many trends we might easily attribute to the pandemic were already in place. Lynda highlighted how longevity, technology and society are three key trends shaping the current world of work and are key players in the great resignation. 

‘By January, if you’re not doing stuff about the long-term redesign of work, you’re not doing your job properly’

~ Lynda Gratton

Free exhibition and its activities

As part of my ticket, I also had the chance to participate in the free exhibition, get to know many HR services companies, and share experiences with other HR colleagues during the dedicated networking sessions. 

Day two began early as I attended the Modern Slavery fridge event organised by CIPD Manchester in collaboration Slave-Free Alliance (part of Hope for Justice). The event focused on HR professionals’ vital role in identifying potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. 

The People Library was one of the main attractions for delegates as part of the free exhibition and enabled delegates to hear interesting stories from a choice of storytellers who had all faced different challenges that enabled them to grow in various ways.

To find out more about the People Library read our recent article

My key takeaways

CIPD ACE enabled me to expand my knowledge about the current challenges we face in the HR world and learn how resilience and adaptability are crucial to encouraging development in our organisations. 

I came away from the conference and free exhibition with a strong sense that now, more than ever, HR practitioners play an increasingly vital role in the future of workplaces. 

Equally, the conference taught me that a lot more change is coming in the world of work (more than we have seen since the pandemic’s start). As people professionals, it is our job to create inclusive workplaces and embrace the changes that will remain with us for the imminent future of organisations. 

Conferences coming up

CIPD Festival of Work

15-16 June 2022
London Olympia

Sign up for updates


9-10 November 2022
Manchester Central

Register your interest

About the author

Giulia is one of CIPD Manchester’s branch ambassadors. She is passionate about employment law, L&D, recruitment and talent development. Giulia is currently working as an HR Advisor.

Connect with Giulia on LinkedIn and Twitter

Location Manchester, England E-mail Hours Our hours vary according to our programme.
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