HR’s route to success

The HR profession can be a curiously self-critical one. You wouldn’t catch many accountants openly bemoaning the quality and calibre of their fellow professionals. Or senior lawyers taking aim at the massed rank of their junior colleagues and questioning their ability to rise to the top. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the HR profession has a mixed record in securing credibility and influence.

Personnel Today ran an article last month based on a speech from David Smith, the former Asda people director, talking about the good and the bad in HR. There was much in what he said that I wouldn’t disagree with. But part of my reaction was a heart-sinking, ‘here-we-go-again’ moment.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), under Jackie Orme’s leadership, is determined to attract the brightest and the best into the profession. We’re also determined to raise the bar in HR, so that the best of HR practice today becomes the norm tomorrow. We’re constantly scanning the horizon so we can equip professionals for the demands they’ll face in the future.

But we also fear that a profession that knows so much about employer brand suffers from ‘cobbler’s shoes syndrome’ when it comes to its own brand. How can we expect to attract future talent, graduates with the world at their feet, or able career movers from other professions, when we undermine ourselves so consistently?

We’re far from complacent at the CIPD; we recognise there are challenges. That’s why we are embarking on a journey to ensure the profession is truly fit for purpose well into the future.

To do that, an absolute given must be that HR professionals will have the business knowledge and focus not only to provide the right HR support at all times, but also to contribute to the overall direction and success of the organisation. This isn’t new. In my own career I’ve seen the difference the best HR people can make to a business. I want the CIPD to help build the capability of the HR profession as a whole, and therefore enhance our collective contribution to organisational performance and success.

This mission lies at the heart of the new CIPD HR Profession Map. The map is an important part of our journey, and replaces our old professional standards. While it maintains our rigorous standards, the map is a more dynamic means for us to set out clearly the knowledge and behaviours expected of professionals at all levels, from the beginning to the end of their careers. We believe what we have done with the development of the map is set out an aspirational vision for HR practice excellence.

But it is not just about what we at the CIPD believe. We’ve built the map on the basis of consultations and insight we’ve gathered about the profession at its best today, and we’ve road-tested it thoroughly with HR departments in the real world. That’s crucial, because the map forms the foundations for all our work on qualifications, membership, career development and the development of the HR function.

The CIPD is also embarking on new research into what next generation HR will look like. Again, this is about ensuring we remain at least one step ahead of the game, so we can adapt what we offer to meet changing needs.

I’ve joined the CIPD at an exciting time, both for the profession and the institute. I think the profession is at a point of positive change which, if we get it right, will see us making a greater contribution in the future. But I also think it is incumbent on the profession to paint a positive picture. We need a strong employer brand for HR so we can attract the brightest and best talent – which is essential if we are to maximise the future contribution we make as a profession.

Stephanie Bird, director of HR capability, CIPD

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