Should the CIPD strike off poor practitioners?
CIPD must crack down on rogue HR practice
As the national CIPD conference kicks off this week in Harrogate, Paul Kearns
agues that a professional body which does not have the teeth to tackle
malpractice in its ranks lacks credibility
Fortunately, the cases are very rare but we have all seen professional
bodies dealing with malpractising doctors, crooked accountants and bent lawyers
who are accused of malpractice by having them struck off.
One presumes that the guilty parties originally satisfied rigorous selection
procedures and became professionally qualified, but this did not prevent them
abusing their position, being negligent or just totally incompetent.
Paradoxically, it is on these very occasions that the authority, integrity
and credibility of professional custodians, such as the General Medical
Council, are actually strengthened by a strong and decisive response to a very
sensitive and embarrassing issue.
It may be hard for HR to accept that the theory of probability applies equally
to our industry, which means we must also have our share of incompetent or
negligent "professionals". In fact we are in an even more vulnerable
position, as we have no control over who works under the HR umbrella.
For a start, there are thousands of us practising (including me) without
being on any register, so it is impossible to have us struck off. Second, and I
think even more alarming, is the absence of any absolute standards which would
allow any General HR Council to distinguish clearly between what constitutes
best practice and malpractice.
Here are two simple examples of exactly what I mean. Have you seen that very
popular training intervention, which works on the premise that personality
types can be coded as blue, red, green or yellow? Is this best practice, just
harmless fun or malpractice?
What about my own personal experience many years ago when I was told I had
been recruited to replace my incompetent predecessor. For allI know he is still
practising incompetently to this day.
Last year the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development proudly announced
its chartered status, which was supposed to put it on a par with other
professions. Whatever its members may have gained in PR terms it is patently
obvious a profession with an institute that legitimises all HR practices by
tacit acceptance is no profession at all.
This is not a witch-hunt. Most HR professionals have the ethical standards
and competence one would hope for. The issue here is how to ensure the term
"professional HR" actually means something.
If the CIPD fails to impose standards on its members it will never be taken
seriously and leaves the market wide open to charlatans parading under
theindistinct title of HRM practitioner. A courageous approach is needed.
Outlawing specific practitioners and their malpractices would mark a big step
towards achieving true professional status.
Paul Kearns is senior partner at Personnel Works
We set the standards the world aspires to
Institute Secretary Kristina Ingate counters that the CIPD has a code of
practice and does take action after complaints. But she urges caution
The criticism of the CIPD from Paul Kearns which coincides with one of the
institute’s major national events at Harrogate this week, comes as no surprise.
But his latest commentary suffers from a lack of both information and
Three main points need to be made to provide a rather more complete account
of the issues. First, personnel and development is not a statutorily regulated
"closed shop" profession. It benefits from open access for all who
can meet the CIPD’s comprehensive professional standards. The profession
greatly benefits from individuals going out into other areas of management or
consultancy as well as from those coming in to it for substantial parts of
Comparisons with other professions, which operate from a different
historical, constitutional and regulatory base, are not especially relevant or
Second, the CIPD operates a Professional Code of Conduct that enables anyone
to complain about the standard of performance delivered by a member.
The code is widely distributed. All members are sent it from time to time.
It is publicly available on request, on our website, through libraries, CABs
and other advice bodies. It is aimed at preventing malpractice, improp-er
behaviour or any other form of unprofessional conduct. Every complaint is
investigated by the Institute Secretary and, if merited, is considered by the
Professional Conduct Committee.
Since we are not an exclusive closed shop, we have no powers to formally
debar a member from practising nor to directly remove his or her livelihood if
they are found wanting. But we can and do take action if a case is proven, and
we make that action known to all relevant parties.
Extreme care is taken in the examination of claims made under the code. By
the nature of their work, personnel and development professionals are liable to
work in conflict situations
People who do not like their treatment at the hands of their employer can
unfairly blame the HR professional personally and seek recourse by asking the
CIPD to discipline a member. That is where the test has to be professional
conduct, impropriety or breach of the code. We are not in the business of
second-guessing the policies or grievance procedures of the employer or the
decision of an employment tribunal.
The third point is that the CIPD has a strong professional framework to help
us make judgements related to conduct where they are required. We are proud of
our comprehensive professional standards, which define the competencies our
members are expected to demonstrate. And we provide extensive facilities for
those competencies to be continuously developed by our members.
Our magazine, web-site, branches, courses, conferences, publications and
research are used extensively to help members, and others in the managerial
community, to do their job better.
We provide a very broad learning resource. Our value is constantly
demonstrated in the real world. Qualified CIPD membership is the hallmark and
we shall go on trying to get it better. It is the model to which many
organisations in the HR field around the world aspire. We are not complacent –
but we do strive to be the best in serving the needs of our members and in
advancing the highest standards of thinking and practice in our field.
Where conduct issues arise, the procedures are there to deal with them but
our key goal continues to be that of providing professional frameworks. We want
to support our members in circumstances where their value-adding contribution
through- out the economy continues to grow and is increasingly recognised.
The CIPD’s Code of Professional Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures can be
downloaded from www.cipd.co.uk – and can be found under Train, Qualify and
Kristina Ingate is the institute secretary of the CIPD