Guilty but no conviction – where next HR ?

The CIPD's response to attacks on the HR profession last week

The CIPD’s response to attacks on the HR profession last week

Battered and bruised from Lucy Adamsgate, as a profession we arrived back at our collective desks this week seemingly alive and kicking. The prophet of female doom at the Telegraph went back to writing further uninformed drivel for her dwindling aged readership, Barack Obama collected from the BBC board the ‘incompetent of the week’ prize for his handling of well, everything and our mild-mannered HR feud (hawks and doves) last week now looks like the proverbial 2 bald men fighting over a comb.  

Pitchfork at the ready, this hawk was up for joining the militant wing of HR last week in response to an attack on my profession and the good people within it. I was dismayed at the sheer numbers of doves spouting the ‘we bring it on ourselves’ line, rising from their twitter slumber to acknowledge that well, it was all our fault really and we should accept we are crap, and a jolly big thanks to the Telegraph for reminding us.  With friends like these no wonder we are the whipping boys (but mostly girls) of industry ?

Over in CIPD Towers, Mr Cheese’s response (primarily on Twitter it seems) was a nice 140 character tut tutting played out to three men and a dog.  His new wingwoman (and a big welcome to Deputy CEO Susannah Clements, aka @AuntGardiner on twitter. :roll:) who describes herself as feisty, proved it by throwing in accusations of misogyny at the ‘journalist’ before rebuking herself offline and offering tea and sympathy later that day.  Now I appreciate it’s a broad church at the CIPD, a tough turnaround agenda and with Peter only 5 minutes in the door too they need time but that appears to be something they are running out of. As the latest XpertHR survey reports the CIPD represents at best a third of HR people in the UK, I know quite a few folk who viewed the somewhat clueless and leaderless approach last week as a proverbial last straw in a long struggle to understand what value their annual membership drives. However, more immediately, this ‘no comment’ approach missed a great chance to debate some salient issues beyond the hysteria, and the highly respected blogger Neil Morrison rightfully asked ‘shouldn’t we call out bad practice’ as one of those. We love best practice and embrace it like the first throes of a teenage romance. We court it with umpteen award ceremonies a year to celebrate them (and rightfully too) but you mention the dark side, ranks close and you are treated with the sort of distaste accorded to last night’s dirty stopover clothes. Funnily enough our business colleagues have no problem raising the issue leaving us inside the profession with an utterly unbalanced debate on moving the agenda on.

On a practical note I wanted to follow up on my own blog last week when asked to expand on the issue of ‘barring’ as a part of any professional reform package for HR. Taking up the challenge to develop my thoughts on this I visualised the following article as an indication of some future reporting of our profession. And it goes like this :

Daily Telegraph Business section 8th May, 2015.

Three HR professionals have been barred from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD),  another has been suspended for a year and several others ordered to pay costs totaling nearly £100,000 for their roles in Billy Big Co, the company at the centre of recent revelations regarding senior board misconduct, excessive payments and poorly executed people practices.

The punishments resulting from the inquiry by the profession’s Joint Disciplinary Scheme, which investigates serious allegations of misconduct, are the most severe yet handed out at one time.

The most severe penalty was imposed on Jack Hackett, who was HR Director for the group and who presided over HR practices that were deemed excessive, costly and unwarranted and whose conduct was far below  the standard expected of the senior presiding HR practitioner responsible “as to bring the profession into serious disrepute”. It ordered that he lose his FCIPD membership and pay costs of £70,000. He is not expected to appeal. 

He is the 13th HR professional this year to be barred by the CIPD in an attempt to drive a higher level of accountability and performance for those reaching the key influencer roles within the HR industry and are typically board level appointments. Both the IOD and the CBI have responded positively to the profession’s recent attempts to develop greater value and accountability and a CIPD spokesperson has indicated that all money raised through its self-policing body is reinvested into a wide range of reskilling efforts for all its members.”

Now I don’t know if this is the answer, or forms part of where we wish to go but I am conscious that this forms a massive departure from today’s CIPD code of professional conduct which dates from 2012. Today that code applies to less than a third of the HR profession so only covers a sizeable minority. However, if you combined this ‘stick’ with an aspirational tough barrier to entry (qualified to practice) underpinned by a supportive, engaging, developing ethos (and the CIPD is getting better at this) would it bridge the credibility gap, raise the ethical bar for some and drive better outcomes for us and ultimately UK industry as a result ?

Finally, a simple google search tells us that Lucy Adams holds Fellow status of the CIPD so I guess is in scope for a test case for the existing professional code. Perhaps this was the reason for the Institute’s muted response, only time will tell and if something does happen it’ll probably be out of earshot as signalled by Susannah Clements’ blog last week. Of course, if the case is upheld then a range of sanctions are considered, from advising on future conduct to expulsion from CIPD Membership, allowing the expelled member to join the majority ranks of her profession in this country and with a little bit more disposable income each year as a result.

That’ll show her who she’s messing with 🙂 

Until next time.


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