The changing role of the HR institute

Duncan Brown and Ralph Tribe discuss the value that the Chartered Institute
of Personnel and Development provides to the profession

Duncan Brown, assistant director-general of the CIPD

In 31 Songs, Nick Hornby says it is far easier to write about things
you don’t like than those you do. Maybe this is what motivates the occasional
critics of the CIPD who appear in the pages of Personnel Today.

The CIPD is not perfect – far from it. But we offer good value for our £96
annual membership fee. And most of our 117,000 members agree. Our latest
independent research found that three-quarters of members "value the
status [their] CIPD membership carries"; two-thirds feel the CIPD has
helped their career development and provides thought leadership; and 88 per
cent agree that it speaks with authority on professional issues.

It isn’t just an internal love-in, either. Membership has grown by 56 per
cent since 1995. Usage of our website has risen by 17 per cent in the past year
to 150,000 user sessions and seven million hits a month – half of which are by

So what have the modern day Romans of the people management and development
profession ever done for you?

The CIPD has more than 35,000 students. A quarter study through the flexible
learning route, and 4,700 graduated last year. And we have just finished
re-accrediting hundreds of our qualification providers against a new set of
professional standards.

We have introduced innovative certified programmes, such as our advanced
e-learning certificate. Around 12,000 delegates took part in CIPD training
events and courses last year, while HRD week in April is the premier event in
Europe for training professionals.

The institute has also led the way in demonstrating links between HR
practices and organisation performance. We will release case studies on making
these relationships happen at a public sector conference with the Cabinet
Office in March, and in May, we will publish results from our two-year study
into organisations such as Jaguar, Tesco and Nationwide.

We draw many senior professionals into our work, with an influential group
of vice-presidents and policy panels. Those who have recently been involved on
our information and consultation taskforce include the HR directors of Corus,
Granada, and the Prison Service, while the HR/organisation design directors of
M&S, Cadbury Schweppes and Oxfam were part of our ‘Organising for Success’
group. More than 500 CEOs and HR directors took part in this latter study.

Our annual conference and exhibition in Harrogate attracts more than 7,000
visitors, including leading thinkers such as Gary Hamel, Charles Handy and
Michael Porter.

We also offer a huge range of information and advice on practical issues. We
run a dozen surveys of trends and practices each year, with 5,000 copies
downloaded for free each month. As many as 14,000 people a month view the Quick
Facts section on our website, and 3,500 people use our library and legal
telephone helplines each month. Our specialist forums have 6,000 members and
hold 40 events a year, and our 48 branches host more than 300.

But are we influential? Last year, the CIPD’s media coverage doubled, with
200 mentions a month in the press. Examples include our absence survey and
pensions work on BBC Business Breakfast, and features in the Financial
on organisation design and human capital research.

We have strengthened our relationships with the Government to better
represent our members’ views. For example, we helped the DTI host discussion
groups on information and consultation, and chaired the Department of Work and
Pension’s working party on age diversity.

Contributing to the public good is also an important objective. Our work on
employing ex-offenders has drawn this issue to national attention. More than
40,000 free copies of the findings have been distributed. Along with Business
in the Community, we are researching the effects of corporate social responsibility
on career decisions, and producing free member guides on CSR and pensions.

The challenges facing the profession are rapidly shifting, and the CIPD
needs to continually improve its response. Plans for the next year include
adopting chartered individual membership status, redesigning the website, free
member toolkits, implementing new member communications and further enhancing
our conferences and courses.

We would welcome feedback from the HR community, but remember: Rome was not
built in a day.


Ralph Tribe, CIPD member and vice-president of HR for a global media company

When will the CIPD will stop telling the HR profession how relevant it is
and how much value it creates, and start asking us?

When people – particularly senior members – talk about the CIPD, they almost
invariably express a huge frustration with its inability to demonstrate
tangible value. The CIPD clearly has an obligation to address this perception.
Yet disappointingly, its leadership has consistently chosen to ignore or
dispute this feedback, arrogantly dismissing it as a marginal view, rather than
a mainstream one.

The organisation draws significant revenues from membership fees and other
commercial activities (nearly £30m per annum), but seems largely incapable of
redistributing that value in any measurable or meaningful way to its members or
to the profession – which presumably is the sole reason for its existence. HR
professionals are entering an era where failure to demonstrate measurable value
is no longer an option. Yet the leaders of our professional institute seem
unwilling to respond thoughtfully or constructively to this challenge
themselves – it feels like a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

No doubt the CIPD will respond to my opinions with protestations that it
does offer value for money to its members, through its support of strategic HR,
its achievement of chartered status, its educational efforts, and the ‘value
for money’ products and services it provides.

But such assertions are questionable. Its lack of strategic impact is
blindingly obvious to anyone remotely interested in seeing tangible results. It
is likely that the CIPD has spent millions over the years on research that is
largely unknown or inaccessible, and which therefore fails to educate or
influence. Ask yourself: what specific piece of CIPD research has genuinely
made any difference to you or your organisation? I assume the silence is

With regard to chartered status, the CIPD apparently fails to see the
hypocrisy in trying to create a closed shop within a profession where most of
us want to make it easier for good people from other disciplines to move into
HR, not harder. On education, surely most of the credit has to go to the
institutions providing it, rather than the institute.

And in terms of products and services, the CIPD doesn’t provide anything
that other commercial organisations couldn’t deliver to us – often at lower or
zero cost. For example, two of the three main publications in the HR market are
free to readers, and yet our own institute effectively charges us via our
membership fees for receiving the third. It advertises this as an important
benefit of paid membership. Should we really feel grateful?

Similarly, we are apparently lucky enough to receive a discounted rate for
the Harrogate conference. Yet, among others, Richmond Events (which runs
something comparable on the Oriana) provides free access for delegates –
commercial exhibitors fully subsidise delegates, effectively paying for the
right to talk to us.

The CIPD charges HR vendors to talk to us, but in contrast, it also charges
us for the privilege.

Anyone who has seen its palatial surroundings in Wimbledon, or noticed the
director-general Geoff Armstrong’s compensation package – which comfortably
exceeds £300,000 a year – has to wonder whether the creation of member value is
the absolute priority it should be for this leadership team. Where is the value
that the CIPD’s significant revenues should be delivering?

If the CIPD is to avoid a crisis, Armstrong and his colleagues need to wake
up to the fact that their membership is increasingly disenfranchised or
alienated to the point where, if there were a credible alternative professional
body for HR professionals, a frighteningly high proportion of us would probably
defect without a backward glance.

The CIPD must start listening. If it can’t deliver a more compelling value
proposition for our membership, then it doesn’t deserve our loyalty, and we
will have to go it alone.

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