What does the CIPD’s new professional standards framework mean for HR?

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The CIPD is in the process of building a new professional standards framework that will help HR professionals to navigate the rapidly changing nature of their work. Roisin Woolnough finds out more.

In March, the CIPD brought together HR professionals for a series of workshops, discussion and debates around the future of the profession.

This formed part of the industry body’s journey towards creating a new professional standards framework, which will launch next year. Its goal is to define the knowledge, behaviours and principles that its members should aspire to.

According to the CIPD’s Ruth Stuart, who is leading the development of the new framework, HR should be “at the heart of ensuring work is a force for good for everyone”, in an era where not everyone believes this to be the case.

In 2015, CIPD research found that 29% of business leaders and 34% of HR practitioners thought that they had to compromise their principles to meet business needs.

A backdrop of corporate scandals at companies such as BHS and Sports Direct has also injured trust in leaders, meaning there has never been a better time to revisit the principles that guide how we manage people.

Personnel Today spoke to the CIPD about what the new framework means for HR professionals and how it will influence the profession in years to come.

What are the new principles?

There are three key principles, according to Stuart. They are: work matters, people matter and professionalism matters. “The new framework has those principles at the core and it will show the types of knowledge and behaviour professionals need for the future,” she says.

“We expect the development of the professional standards framework to be an iterative process, not something that we do every 10 years.

“As the world of work continues to change we’ll be regularly reviewing and updating the professional standards. The principles will provide the foundation to the framework, but over time the knowledge and behaviours we need to put those principles into practice may change.”

Why do they need to change?

According to Sharron Pamplin, UK and Europe HR director at engineering consultancy Atkins Global, a member of the new framework’s advisory group, the HR profession is “at a crossroads”.

“We are living in a more VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous] world than ever before and experiencing an unprecedented rate of change,” she says.

“HR has to think about how it can add value to organisations, create market value and respond to change. HR will need to up its game to deliver value to today’s business. New competencies and ways of working will be required.”

Pamplin adds that the CIPD qualification curriculum has not changed significantly since she studied it herself, despite the world of work changing dramatically.

Will qualifications change?

Stuart confirms that the new framework is likely to mean some changes to qualifications, but says it is too early at this stage to confirm specifics on what will be included in future modules.

“I don’t think it will put anything out of date – it’s about continuing development,” she explains. “Our existing qualifications are still relevant and are a great way to acquire the knowledge needed to build a successful career in HR.”

The CIPD will continue to review the framework to accommodate demand for new skills, she says, such as situational judgement skills and ethical competence, as well as behavioural science and people analytics.

Professional standards framework: key principles

These are the three key principles to the CIPD’s new professional standards framework:

  • Work can and should be a force for good – for organisations, workers and the communities, societies and economies they’re part of.
  • People are fundamental to businesses and organisations; they are unique and worthy of care, understanding and investment.
  • For the people profession, this means being ambassadors by acting with integrity and championing better work and working lives in all we do

What happens next?

The CIPD anticipates launching the framework in 2018. For now, the focus is on gathering views from around the profession on what its priorities should be.

HR professionals can contribute to the conversation on the CIPD’s community platform and its LinkedIn group

“We are listening to and learning from HR professionals and the wider business community,” adds Stuart.

“It is very much a co-creation of standards. It is not CIPD-imposed,” she says. “We are also having conversations in other parts of the world, with people in the Middle East, Asia and Ireland.”

What day-to-day changes will it mean for HR professionals?

Pamplin believes that the focus for HR will change from being inside-out to outside-in. “Traditionally, HR has thought very much inside out, with end users being line managers and employees,” she says.

“Thinking about HR from outside-in requires different behaviours and values. It requires behaviours such as ‘How do you act as a professional?’ HR needs to take a more holistic view of organisations, rather than just having a people-focused approach.”

The principles in the framework also require HR to have a much deeper understanding of their business, and to understand the implications of external economic, political and environmental trends.

“You need to think about the end customer – the business,” says Pamplin. “Talk to any leader about what they need – it’s to have the right talent, the right leadership and the right culture to be successful. HR has never had a better chance to shine.”

Stuart adds that there will also be a greater emphasis on understanding behavioural science and more focus on ethical concerns, for example the use of data and evidence in decision-making. The key is to have a principles-based approach.

She says: “My message is that putting principles into practice is about the day-to-day decisions that you make, the day-to-day conversations you have and how you treat people.

It’s important both on a day-to-day level and in order to have a transformative effect on working lives. It’s about taking a step back and looking at why you make the choices you do.”

What can HR professionals do now?

Pamplin believes it’s never too soon to get to know the business better – whether that’s by reading analyst reports, catching up on industry news or going to industry trade shows.

She says: “You need to find out what customers actually want from their organisation. You need to build relationships with customers, analysts and shareholders. In order to really add value to the business, you have to be able to do that.”

Another role for HR, she adds, is to translate what technology means for the business and the impact of demographic changes, for example setting out the importance of broadening talent pools to ensure the organisation has the right skills for the future.

Are HR professionals ready?

“It’s a big step for some HR professionals,” says Pamplin. “HR is going into new territory and many will not feel comfortable about what they need to do.

“We have to really influence organisations, drive the talent agenda, help organisations have the right culture and leadership. We have to go out and talk to the end customer and do the research. The future is already here. It is required of HR professionals now.”

Stuart concludes that HR has a unique opportunity to help employees and managers cope with the rapid changes to the workplace and their place in it.

“Everything is changing incredibly fast and skills are changing all the time. As a profession, with our expertise in people, work and change, we have such an important role to play here,” she says.