Lyn Goodear swaps notes with Peter Cheese (FCPHR), head of UK human resources body CIPD.
Lyn Goodear: I’m quite envious of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s (CIPD) resources in the research area. Research tells us so much about the profession. What areas of research have you recently undertaken?
Peter Cheese: We recently researched CEOs and their attitudes towards their HR professionals in ‘The HR Outlook Leader’s Perspective’. We found that they do value their HR leaders and HR functions. They often talk about ‘the good ones’, as trusted advisers who provide an independent or objective view around the senior tables. We have to make sure we’re building the right kind of organisations, with the right sorts of leadership and culture. We need sustainable businesses, which are also responsible businesses. CEOs get the HR they deserve, but HR also gets the CEOs they deserve. We are also looking at smaller enterprises. I think it’s easy for professional bodies to focus on big organisations. It’s good for the big HR, but the reality in both our countries is that two-thirds of the workforce is employed in small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The research is looking at SMEs’ critical growth points and the kinds of issues and challenges they face. We haven’t always done a good job of serving SMEs and this will help us with that.
LG: AHRI is also concentrating on the SME sector and how we can best serve them. Another area of mutual interest is the 4G workforce. I noted you’ve written a recent column on the subject in People Management.
PC: Diversity should cover generational differences as it’s important to understand what this means for organisations in shaping and colouring the future workforce. It also comes back to the need to fill the skills gap. In many countries, there is high youth unemployment, but we still also have a lot of skills gaps. We have to think more strategically about tapping into different sources of talent in order to help fill those skills gaps. It’s not only generational differences, there are also other areas of diversity, such as differing aspirations and educational backgrounds, that should be examined in more detail in order to recognise people as individuals with lots of hidden aspirations and expectations.
LG: No doubt this is an exciting time for the HR profession. There’s an exponential rate of change and the ability of this profession to influence and make a difference is very real.
PC: Absolutely, it creates a very exciting agenda for us. I don’t think there’s ever been a more interesting or important time to be in HR. A lot of these contextual shifts are creating more interest among business leaders about the real challenges around building the right kinds of organisations and attracting and retaining the right kinds of people to grow and survive in this very changeable environment. We need to increase the professionalism of HR. If I was an accountant I would fully expect to be professionally qualified and part of a professional body, and that would be the norm and a key part of how the finance function sees itself as credible and qualified. We all have a recognised professional skill-set and a mutual understanding of what it means to be professional. And yet we haven’t always seemed coherent or strong enough in terms of requirements of CPD and continuing to grow our skills equally. There’s got to be more consistency internationally. Unlike finance and accounting, we don’t have common standards or a common framework for HR professional competencies and skills. A really important starting point is to compare more mature HR institutes and bodies around the world in terms of HR competencies and skills and work out how we can begin to have more commonality in our qualifications and training.