I was in meetings most of yesterday so I completely missed the stink about the CIPD’s new campaign to attract people into the HR profession. A number of people took exception to the style and tone of the campaign, notably the HRD who posted an explosive rant on his blog. Over the past couple of days, a number of blog and Twitter comment threads have followed a general CIPD-is-crap theme.
But I’m not going to join in because I think the CIPD has really raised its game over the past few years and its progress carries some lessons for all HR professionals.
I am now into my second recession since starting work, or third if you count the mini-dip of the early 2000s. During this time, labour shortages and pay-hikes have turned to mass layoffs and unemployment, then back again. In between, an encyclopedia full of employment legislation has been passed. Workplace and labour market issues have been constantly in the headlines yet, go back a few years, and where was the CIPD? Almost invisible.
I used to rant at the telly every time some talking head from an organisation I had never heard of sat on the newsroom sofa pontificating about the latest labour market news. Often, it would just be the geezer from the employment agency down the road. “Where is my f**cking professional organisation?” I would shout, to the annoyance of my family and friends, “Why have they got Pandora Knownothing-Smythe on instead of the CIPD?”
It’s not like that now though. During the recent financial crisis, the CIPD has been up there with the best of them. Chief economist John Philpott has become one of the talking heads of the recession. The CIPD is regularly quoted in the national press. The last year has seen a further shift in its profile. Comment from John Phillpot and others is no longer restricted to employment issues; the CIPD’s pronouncements on the wider economic consequences of government policies are making the news too.
One of the factors which enables HR directors to gain and keep that elusive seat on the board is an ability to talk knowledgeably and confidently about all aspects of the business. The best HR directors don’t just speak HR, they speak finance, marketing and operations too. The CIPD has achieved something similar. It has gone beyond talking about workplace issues and employment law. These days, when it talks about economics and government policy, even the Wall Street Journal takes note.
By raising its profile in this way, the CIPD has enhanced the status of the HR profession and, thereby, the status of all of us in that profession. We have a professional body that is taken seriously because it has broken out of its narrow specialism and built its capacity to offer useful comment on the important issues of the day, an example that some HR executives struggling to make it to that top table would do well to emulate.
The Think HR campaign may be a bit maladroit and the CIPD has clearly failed to explain its purpose to its members, many of whom don’t understand why we need to attract people into HR when lots of HR people are being made redundant. The campaign has certainly irritated a few people.
But that is a minor glitch when you take into account the CIPD’s huge advance in prestige over the past few years. HR professionals are now represented by a highly regarded and heavy-hitting professional body. That reflects well on all of us; if our professional organisation is taken seriously, then, as its members, we are more likely to be taken seriously too.