Constructive criticism is the way forward for HR

Geoff Armstrong, director general of the Chartered Institute
of Personnel and Development, answers criticisms levelled against the
organisation at this month’s HR Forum on board the Aurora

I don’t know what type of drink it was that flowed on the ‘love boat’
(Conference News, 18 May 2004), but it seems to have got everyone terribly
depressed. This tendency for self-flagellation and excessive navel-gazing is an
unfortunate feature of some who comment on the people-management profession.

But I think it is dying out. In the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD)’s recent ‘state of the profession’ survey of more than 1,000
senior HR professionals, three-quarters believed their influence with senior
colleagues had increased in the past three years. Two-thirds also said business
strategy was one of the three most important activities in which they
personally engage.

The way for the HR profession to demonstrate its effectiveness is for its
practitioners at every level to demonstrate that they are adding distinctive
value. This is why we are constantly conducting rigorous and cutting-edge
research into the value that people management does add, and projecting this
research to a wide range of audiences, including the wider business community
and the business media.

Our research includes surveys of representative samples of our members and
non-members, which could be contrasted favourably with some of the ‘quick and
dirty’ surveys that do so much to run down the profession. It also includes
in-depth research designed to show the value that progressive people management
adds to business performance.

Dynamic process

Our research is not just about adding to the sum of academic knowledge,
though. It is used to show what needs to be done to craft the winning practices
and strategies that deliver tangible results, and to develop the professional
standards that equip people moving through the profession with the necessary
knowledge and confidence to do their jobs in many different circumstances. This
is a dynamic and constantly evolving process that many of the most senior HR
leaders take the time to contribute to.

We are not a trade union. Nor are we a trade body. We build on the expertise
our members bring from their day-to-day activities in leading change in the
real world. Our strength as an organisation comes from the rich and diverse
range of experiences we can draw upon to achieve this. And it is this depth of
experience that will continue to boost the image of the profession.

We do work closely with public policy makers, shaping and influencing what
they do. Take a look at our website to see the range of issues we’re involved
in, drawing on the expertise of our members.

Of course, there is more to be done. We have to keep getting better at
equipping HR professionals and their line colleagues with the evidence, tools,
learning and information on how to make people management and development a key
source of sustainable advantage. In the case of the most senior HR
professionals, we need to engage more of them more actively in what we do. And
we can become better at offering them development opportunities that take them
to the boardroom and the chief executives job – on merit, not by special

Let’s not cry into our beer. Continuous self-challenge is healthy. But let
us use it constructively, to build on the strong foundations and success of the
CIPD and its members, rather than standing outside the institute complaining it
doesn’t do enough for us.

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