The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has launched a new professional level of membership in a bid to improve recognition of the profession at all levels.
The Associate level membership will come below the current Chartered Member and Chartered Fellow levels, and the CIPD expects thousands of HR professionals to apply for it.
Those able to apply for the new level will include support level HR professionals like HR administrators and officers, and HR managers who have not quite reached the level of the Chartered Member. The associate level is classed in the CIPD's 'professional' membership category rather than within the student, affiliate, graduate or licentiate levels.
HR professionals who succeed in gaining the new title will be able to use the designatory letters "Assoc CIPD" after their name, indicating to current and potential future employers the level they operate at and the skills and experience they have obtained.
Sue Upton, director of membership at the CIPD, told Personnel Today: "We wanted to give recognition to the many thousands of HR practitioners working below the level of Chartered Member and Fellow, but who are still making an impact in the profession."
With the introduction of the new level the CIPD has also changed the way criteria for meeting each membership level will be met. Traditionally members had to display their professional knowledge through CIPD qualifications, but now they will also be asked to demonstrate how they applied this knowledge in their workplace, through impact reports.
Upton said this process would help the recruitment and "professional recognition" of HR workers. She said: "This will signal to the employer that someone can do the job not just that they have an underpinning knowledge. Now employers will know what they will get if they employ an associate and what criteria they have met.
"For the individual it's a strong signal of what they have achieved and a transportable badge that they can take to employers."
Upton added although the level was still dependent on CIPD qualifications, the body was now looking at ways of opening up access to those without CIPD qualifications, with a new access route including a "range of assessment activities" due to be launched in December.
Initially those taking CIPD qualifications will be able to obtain the new Associate level for free, but from July a fee will be introduced.
CIPD members are currently charged £60 to upgrade their membership to Chartered Member or Fellow, but Upton said the charge for Associates would be lower than this and would just cover processing costs.
Upton said: "We don't want to put any barriers in the way of people accessing that grade. It is not clear how much it will be, we are only looking to cover costs."