Friday 22 November 2013

The CIPD is leading - but in the wrong direction?


cipd-logo.png   cipd-centenary.png

During its centenary this year the CIPD has been congratulating itself on its long history of leading HR into the future.  I agree that the institute has been leading, but as I noted in my previous post, it’s also great to see it starting to lead the profession much more proactively.

Leadership is a difficult business, and I’d much prefer the institute to be leading in a way that I disagree with than not leading at all - as this still gives people something to bat against.

So here goes, as I do think they are leading in the wrong direction!  Take the CIPD’s new framework for the future of HR:



 The framework consists of the following four aspects:

  • Changing context.  I completely support the need for this to be here.   Business needs, workforce expectations and the opportunities provided by technology have all changed beyond all recognition over the past few years.  So has our experience of the different ways of doing HR.  But these ways still aren’t well enough known.  There’s still far too much belief that HR’s just about doing basic things well and that there’s nothing new in HR anyway.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  The changing context, and the impact of this context, need to be much better understood than they are.


  • HR and Learning Processes, Practices, Policies.  What’s this doing here?   There’s nothing new about these.  OK, the way that we need to do HR, including learning, has been transformed, but why not put something like HR innovation, or internal transformation in the framework to make this clear?  And if we do want to put something about what we’re doing now, let’s make it clear that what we really need to focus on is outcomes, not activities!


  • Science of HR.  This is where the framework really loses it!  OK, there may be a need to introduce more scientific approaches, to learn from neuroscience etc.  But science isn’t the difference that will make a difference to our organisations’ success.  What we need is to be more strategic; to build more compelling workplaces; to be more creative; and artful in our solutions.  The difference is ART - you’re going to be hearing a lot more about this during this year!


  • Business and Commercial Insight, and Analytics.  Oh dear, oh dear.  Firstly, yes, we need business and commercial insight, but again, that’s not going to make the difference.  Much more important than this is insight into people and organisational culture.  That’s going to help change our organisation’s much more than developing the same skills our business colleagues already have!  Similarly, with analytics - yes, we need to use whatever tools and approaches we can to further our insight about our people, but it’s what we do with the analytics that will count.  Most of that is still going to come from good, calibrated intuition, and enhanced imagination!


So how has the CIPD got themselves stuck down this blind alley?

Well the fact that Peter Cheese spent 30 years at Accenture, promoting their systems, solutions and structured methodologies probably has something to do with it.  (This experience takes more than a few years to recover from - I know I’m still getting over just 5 years at Andersen Consulting.)

But more importantly to me, this leads to the other flaw in the CIPD’s leadership approach - that they’re trying to add leadership to the HR community, rather than leading from within the community.  It’s a subtle but important distinction.  Leading from within is about shaping and promoting an agenda, but taking that agenda from what the HR community believes, rather than developing this themselves, largely independently from the membership community.

I have lots and lots of conversations with HR practitioners and they’re not saying what the CIPD says.  This isn’t about needing leadership - these practitioners are already acting to promote agendas within their own organisations.  What they need is for the CIPD to understand this agenda, take hold of it and make it happen.

Still not convinced?  Take a look at the '100 Thoughts’ the CIPD asked for over the Summer and was going to publish but has apparently dropped (because these thoughts don’t align with their own agenda?).  Only one person in here mentioned science and one other metrics.  And this isn’t because we’re scared or suspicious about this (more about that soon), in my opinion at least it’s because we’ve investigated these and we don’t see them as the future of our profession!

Peter’s absolutely right about the importance of the following questions:

“The world of business is transforming. The recession and the banking crisis that triggered it, combined with a multitude of high profile crises in organisations across the public and private sectors, have changed the game. The questions that business leaders in both public and private sector and in all sizes of organisations are looking to answer are those of people management and development: How to restore trust; build employee engagement; tackle skills shortages; and help solve economic and societal problems like youth unemployment and issues surrounding fairness in pay and reward."


It’s just that in my opinion again, the CIPD’s new framework provides the wrong set of answers.

Your thoughts?


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