Does business experience count for nothing at the CIPD?

After three days at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) annual conference, my ears are still ringing from all the personnel jargon that reverberated around the halls.

But once you cut through the swathe of consultants eager to create the next trendy TLM (three-letter acronym), there were some definite BFOs (that’s ‘blinding flashes of the obvious’, for those not in the know).

Take, for example, the presentation by Royal Bank of Scotland’s Neil Roden and CIPD president Vicky Wright: they concluded that HR could no longer do ‘people’ without the ‘numbers’. Hard stuff is just as important as soft skills to guarantee HR’s relevance in the future.

This is what we’ve been writing about in Personnel Today for some time.

Our 360-Degree Appraisal of HR (Personnel Today, 24 October) confirmed that organisations want their HR departments to be proactive and business-savvy. However, not everyone in HR is equipped for that. You can’t just expect to magically transform HR from being an administrative function to being a real strategic business partner practitioners need to be taught these skills and acquire that knowledge.

That’s why it is time for the CIPD – currently the main provider of HR qualifications – to respond to market demands. Not just in upgrading the business element of its courses, but in reviewing its policy on recognising and rewarding experience gained outside HR.

A senior HR figure has called the CIPD hypocritical because it does not recognise her operational management experience. Specsavers’ Emma Hughes (page 1) claims her own trade body does not value what she has achieved in her career outside HR by refusing her fellowship status. She may be the first to complain publicly about this, but I doubt she’ll be the last.

Clearly, any trade body can set its own rules. But as organisations put more pressure on HR to make a business-critical contribution, this ‘time-served’ rule looks increasingly out of date.

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