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Feature interview: Nick Isles on the implications of the CIPD’s new Charter


In a special interview to mark the launch of the first issue of the new HR Zone newswire, the Institute of Personnel and Development agreed to an interview with editor Jon Seaton. Here Jon talks with Nick Isles, head of external affairs at the Institute, talks about the granting of a royal Charter to the Institute and the implications of this recognition for members as the CIPD is formally launched this week.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: The Institute of Personnel and Training became the “Chartered” Institute of Personnel and Training on the 1st July. Members and other HR practitioners will acknowledge this as recognition of professionalism and specialist knowledge, but what does the granting of “chartered” status really mean for the institute and its members? – Are there real benefits?

Nick Isles, CIPD: There are many!

Firstly, chartered status recognises the professionalism, body of knowledge and specific competencies that our members hold. By becoming chartered we have joined the premier league of professional bodies.

Secondly, chartered status means that we are, even more, a ‘must belong’ body for all those involved in people management and development.

Thirdly, the granting of chartered status means that we are recognised as a ‘must consult’ body by policymakers in Government and elsewhere on the whole range of ‘people’ issues and work.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: What does the CIPD currently see as being the key issues facing HR practitioners and the HR management role, and how is the CIPD approaching these issues?

Nick Isles, CIPD: People management and development professionals must take the lead as strategic business partners. The profession must grab the opportunities presented by the knowledge economy. This means benchmarking the world to find stimuli for better practice. We must become more efficient at evaluating our effectiveness and set ourselves hard business targets. And inside our organisations we need to be the eyes and ears of the customer as we shape our up seamlessly to delight them with continuously improving products, services and overall experience. In this new century, where the key to success lies in creating cultures that attract and retain talented people (who have many other opportunities open to them) and which engage their willing contribution stretching to ever higher levels of customer service, it is the people profession that will design the architecture and build the practices which deliver the needed capacities and behaviour.

Becoming more strategic is the overriding challenge for people management and development professionals today. I predict that in 10 years time there will be many more personnel and development professionals who have made it to the chief executive slot.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: CIPD has a substantial student membership and members who are still developing their careers. As these people move into more senior - and possibly more influential – positions, what will be the issues that they are likely to face in the future, and how will the CIPD be helping them then?

Nick Isles, CIPD: I think the key challenges are likely to be as follows:

  • Developing a global mindset and global awareness so that they can look at the needs of the company and its people world-wide and so manage business opportunities within a global perspective.
  • Designing, applying and continuously regenerating cultures in which talented people will give of their best because they want to, not just because they have to.
  • Creating capacities through people to achieve strategic ambitions that go beyond the traditional reliance on physical resources, which are no longer effective as creators of sustainable advantage.
  • Demonstrate that their work adds value at all stages of the strategic and operational processes of the organisations they work for.
  • Reflecting the “customer is king” reality by elevating people, not ‘human resources’, to the centre of organisational strategy and performance.

The CIPD will continue to support all its members in achieving a better understanding of those challenges and equipping members to respond appropriately through examples of best practice gained from our research.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: This interview will be going out to thousands of our training and HR members using Internet technologies such as the web and e-mail. Many of our members have asked how the CIPD will be developing its own website and Internet services. What can you tell them about this?

Nick Isles, CIPD: The CIPD is investing heavily to become an e-organisation. Our website has been recently re-designed and made more user friendly and we have launched a weekly update for those members who wish to subscribe to such a service and will shortly be supplementing that with a quarterly policy update.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: What is the CIPD’s current thinking on ‘member only’ access to the institute’s website? Will there be other parts of the site open to all visitors such as students who may not be able to afford membership?

Nick Isles, CIPD: People other than members can already access the website but it is a key member benefit and it is only sensible for some parts of the website to remain only for members to use. As to students affording membership. Our membership fee per annum is less than £100, which is affordable to most, and delivers access to our library services, fortnightly copies of People Management and comprehensive web-based services.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: Technology and global communications are helping new ideas and developments in HR spread across the world far faster than ever before. What is the CIPD doing globally to maintain its influence in HR and knowledge management?

Nick Isles, CIPD: Our major events are now being marketed internationally and we are active in chairing and participating in the European Federation of Training and Development Associations and the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: One of the questions our own members have asked is: “How does the CIPD decide the focus of its activities between personnel issues and training issues?” (There has been some expression that training and development appears to have been the poor relation in the IPD).

Nick Isles, CIPD: This is a misplaced concern. I think much of the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of our qualifications system. This has an emphasis on understanding wider business issues and personnel management issues in some of the courses that trainers take. Training members are as important and as well serviced as members working in personnel. There are interactive web-based services, HRD Week, the largest training conference in Europe, toolkits and a new range of ‘How to’ guides about to be launched.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: Many British businesses are facing difficult times and look to the UK government and to Europe for action to reduce pressure on businesses. What is the CIPD saying to the UK government and to Europe at the moment?

Nick Isles, CIPD: Our members have a wealth of experience and expertise that can inform the public policy making process on employment issues. It is the personnel profession that has responsibility for actually implementing new employment regulation. The CIPD has a long-standing relationship with both the DTI and DfEE, and we feed into their consultation exercises on all matters of concern to those involved in people management and development.

At a European level, at present, much of the new regulations emanating from Brussels are developed through dialogue between the “social partners”- the representatives of trade unions and employers. We think we should be part of that process along with others, as the present structure based on the old “two sides of industry” is out-dated and inappropriate. The Institute does, however, engage in dialogue with the European Commission and other key influencers in Brussels, such as UKREP, on an informal basis. Our Director General, Geoff Armstrong, serves as Secretary General of the European Association of Personnel Management, which represents the collective voice of the related professional bodies across Europe.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: Expanding on that last question, can you comment on government initiatives such as the New Deal? How useful have such initiatives been? Could the government be doing more, and if so what?

Nick Isles, CIPD: The New Deal is probably the most comprehensive, active, labour market policy ever instituted by any European Government and the CIPD were wholly supportive of it.

However inevitably there have been problems. Many employers have found a mismatch between the rhetoric and reality. There have been too few New Dealers coming through for the thousands of opportunities offered by employers and too few have been sufficiently job-ready. This is not that surprising given that the jobs market has been moving the right way and many of those who would otherwise have benefited from the New Deal have moved into jobs.

This has meant that those left behind are going to be very hard to place. It additionally emphasises the importance of education and training both within the workplace option but in the other options as well. Undoubtedly, without the New Deal, many young people would still be out of work.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: Can you give examples of how the CIPD is working with other bodies such as the CBI, trade unions, the new learning and skills councils to further the aims and roles of HR practitioners?

Nick Isles, CIPD: We are involved in the CBI’s Fit for the Future campaign. We are working closely with the DTI, DfEE, Skills Taskforce to name but a few bodies on making policy work. Our DG is also one of two non-executive Directors on the Cabinet Office management board.

Jon Seaton, HR Zone: Finally Nick, now that the CIPD has “chartered status” what will be the next goal for the institute?

Nick Isles, CIPD: Our overriding goal remains to be the best and best value institute for our members. To establish a new type of professional institute which responds quickly and flexibly to the processes at work in the world and develops appropriate responses and guidance for its more than 100,000 members.


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