New human resources event envisages future workplace, workforce and work practices

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Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, moderates this year's conference at Grosvenor House.

Businesses across the food sector and beyond need to start executing strategies to create a suitable and thriving workplace, workforce and working practices in the wake of new demands and opportunities presented by digital technology and younger generations entering the world of work for the first time.

That was the overarching message from the new annual event for HR professionals in the UK fresh produce, foodservice and retail sectors, which took place at The Grosvenor House hotel on London’s Park Lane.

Organised by Produce Business UK (PBUK), The Fresh Careers Fair and the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), and sponsored by MorePeople, the inaugural conference concentrated on the subject of ‘The New World of Work: Fresh Strategies for the Workplace.’

Three fantastic speakers tackled the challenges and potential; Philip Ross, a workplace futurologist and founder and CEO of UnGroup; David Frost, Group Organisational Development Director at global produce business Total Produce, and Perry Timms, a leading HR thinker and founder of People & Transformational HR (PTHR)

“We’re all grappling with the same stuff… how can we put people in a position where they do their best work and they genuinely go home with a sense of fulfilment, and we build a society where people are nicer to each other,” said Timms, who presented proven ideas, models and methodologies to create a “better business for a better world”.

For Ross, the future essentially lies with ‘Jelly Bean working’ – a physical, social network in the workplace that will attract, retain and energise employees.

“If you combine this idea of people, place and technology you have a very different vision for how your people can work,” he explained; giving various examples from around the world of how the workplace is changing.

“You can shave a huge number of pounds [£s] off the bottom line by working with real estate or facilities, and you can generate a much more positive working environment that promotes wellbeing for your people.”

Frost, meanwhile, looked at the importance of succession planning in the fresh produce trade, and the best methods for attracting and retaining young people joining our industry. 

“Where we’re trying to head is to make sure we have the best people, we hold on to them, and we develop them, and that we become attractive to people,” he pointed out; revealing how Total Produce is creating a ‘talent pipeline’ for the future.

The bespoke, one-day event was attended by a broad showing of HR professionals and specialists from some of the biggest companies in the UK fresh produce industry, including: G’s Fresh, Mack and Keelings, as well as recruitment specialists MorePeople, Henderson Brown and Redfox Executive Selection. 

Guy Moreton, CEO of MorePeople, said the aim of the day was to create a new opportunity for HR colleagues to share learnings and network with each other. 

“We were conscious of a lack of events aimed specifically at HR professionals, despite some real HR challenges in the food and fresh produce sectors, so were very keen to support Produce Business UK and the FPC to create this unique event,” Moreton told PBUK.

“Our aim was to present some forward-thinking speakers who could offer real food for thought on the future of HR, and encourage delegates to apply these ideas to their own sector. It was also great to see delegates networking in the breaks, and sharing their experiences with others from the industry. 

“If people take back just one or two key learnings from the day to discuss with their colleagues then it will have been a real success.“

Event moderator Nigel Jenney, who is the chief executive of the FPC, encouraged attendees to go away feeling inspired to realise change in their businesses.

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the future of the workplace, which could be our industry if we’re willing to apply them,” he stressed. 

“It’s not about whether we’re a brand or not, it’s about challenging our self-belief to adapt to some of these new opportunities.” 

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