CIPD’s flagship Next Generation HR project must stay practical or it will lose support

The CIPD is at risk of alienating HR professionals unless it makes its flagship research project ‘Next Generation HR’ as practical as possible, rather than focusing it on academic debate.

The HR membership body unveiled the initial findings from the study – which involved interviews with 80 HR practitioners across 14 organisations – at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Annual Conference in Manchester last night. The project aims to kickstart the profession into thinking about how it can become more business-led, and urged delegates to consider how they can achieve sustainable organisational performance post-recession.

But HR managers told Personnel Today they feared the research lacked practical guidance on how to make the necessary changes.

Syd Farley, director of targeted development at bottling company Coca-Cola Hellenic, said: “It was useful but I didn’t get a lot of practical advice from it. It was showing me the direction but not giving me any pointers on how to get there.”

During the presentation on the findings, HR chiefs from corporate giants including Tesco, Nationwide and BT took to the stage to explain their involvement in the project.

But Hazel O’Brien, HR manager at the hotel firm Carlton Group, said the project was hard to translate across to her HR team, which was significantly smaller with different challenges to those larger companies.

“There seemed to be a focus on what the big companies are doing rather than those with smaller HR functions,” she said.

David Albone, HR manager of Connect Housing, added the advice given onstage as a result of the project did not easily transfer to the not-for-profit sector.

However, Microsoft’s HR mananger Aneta Jajkowska said the research project was “helpful”. “It is not a breakthrough idea that we are hearing for the first time, however it made me think about the importance of it. It was more of a theoretical-based reviewing of what we know, but it was helpful to hear that overview,” she said.

Samantha Kemsley, senior HR manager at professional services firm KPMG Channel Islands, added it was vital HR had a plan of action to help lead businesses out of the recession. She said: “The HR profession has to have a forecast of where the business is going. It’s essential right now because we are in a state of flux.”

Lee Sears, strategic adviser at the CIPD, who introduced the project last night, told the magazine the research was not intended to offer practical advice at this stage.

He said: “The intention behind the project is to provoke debate and get people to start to think differently. It’s not designed to create a toolkit and next steps. This is very much the beginning of the process.”

Sears added: “There’s a huge amount of untapped and latent capability within the HR profession and sometimes HR [people] are not in the right place at the right time to use the influence they could have. We want to support HR to move more into the heart of the business, more consistently.”

A full report of the research will be published in January and will be followed by nationwide forums enabling HR professionals to discuss the new direction for the function.

The CIPD refused to outline how much the Next Generation HR project had cost to run.

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