Who are the CIPD and what do they want with us?

Seems like a strange question to ask really. Who are the CIPD? And……what do they want of us?

Like many of you, I get a nice letter once a year asking me for money. I fill out the various forms and I put the invoice through to my accounts department where the good people that work there, happily process it.

And then once every so often I get a copy of People Management through the post and I read it….well sometimes. I used to look at the jobs, but not so much these days. I get invites to branch events….but they’re not really me. I’m not a “society” kind of a guy.

So what is in it for me and if those good fellows in accounts were to reject my payment, would I be willing to put my hand in my own pocket and cough up the hundred odd quid that I’m asked for?

I don’t know. Or at least I didn’t know.

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to spend some time with Peter Cheese, the new CEO of the CIPD for a coffee and a chat. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not slow to crack a few old surname jokes. And it would be easy to make some, although I’m sure Peter has heard them all.

But sometimes you meet someone who really inspires you, someone who makes you think. Peter is one of those guys. We share a lot of concerns and we share a lot of ideas about the future and so it would be easy to say that I’m just kowtowing to someone who thinks the same as me. Maybe I am. But I left our meeting more confident about the future of the CIPD than I have ever been before. Maybe this is the start of something?

Leadership is a funny thing, leadership is often about being unpopular. I have a feeling that Peter might be unpopular…at least with a vocal minority. But during the time that I spent with him, I have to say that I experienced a clarity of purpose that the CIPD has lacked for many, many a year.

Take the new look People Management magazine, it certainly feels different, it certainly looks different. The cobwebs of institutionalisation seem to have started to be blown away (although they still need to call in the web designers tout de suite). And as Peter says in his introduction to the latest edition, “We’re developing a clearer framework for the way we communicate, placing us at the heart of the changing worlds of work, organisations and work forces.”

The CIPD at the heart of the changing world of work, organisations and work forces…..now there would be a thing, a long overdue thing…..

The CIPD needs to be leading the debate, not following it. It needs to be pulling on the collective knowledge of its membership, the people who are there, day in and day out, working with organisations on their needs and challenges. Not just focussing on long and academically heavy studies that appear months after a news story has passed. The CIPD needs to be a voice for its members, not a voice for itself.

So, are we turning a corner? I’d like to think so.

A we enter our conference season, I look forward to a bright new dawn from the CIPD. I look forward to a renewed sense of meaning, I look forward to EVERY member having an equal voice and remembrance of the fact that a vocal minority are exactly that….a minority.

I look forward.

And, in my opinion, you should do too.

We still need to answer the questions that started this post.

Who are the CIPD?


What do they want with us?

There is a lot to yet be defined, a lot that is yet to be discovered and a lot that is yet to be concluded. But…….if you’d allow me this, I’d like to take the opportunity to misquote the inimitable Professor Green…..and allow my foible of playing with people’s names to emerge just a little.

“The future’s bright, the future’s Cheese.”

For the moment at least…..let’s see whether the mountains are truly conquered.

I’ll go back to my day job now…….

The CIPD Annual Conference starts on Tuesday 6th November in Manchester. You can follow developments on Twitter via the hash tag #CIPD12. I’ll also be giving my thoughts on it here and you can follow fellow members of the blog squad, such as Doug Shaw, Flora Marriott, Sukh Pabial, Perry Timms, Rob Jones, FlipChartRick and Mervyn Dinnen to name but a few. And of course, the CIPD….. on @CIPD!


  1. Doug Shaw · November 5, 2012

    Good post, thanks for sharing Neil. Based on your first impressions I’m encouraged.

    One thing the CIPD might look to take more advantage of is their local branches. We’ve spoken about this – and the impression I and many others have is that often, they are very isolated, from each other at least. I wonder what the CIPD could do to build a more connected local network?

    Having the main conference in Manchester is helpful because it has geographically central (ish) for the UK, and it’s not London. I love London but sheesh – does it have to play host to soooo much stuff? And surely there’s also room in the calendar for a few locally connected branches to reach out to one another and put something together with appeal to their members? I wonder if Mr C might encourage that?

    See you in Manchester – D

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      You know, I’m pretty sure the CIPD are on to all of these points.

  2. perrytimms · November 5, 2012

    Very well put piece here Neil.

    I think I’ve always had blind faith in my “industry body” looking out for my professional concerns and being there to support things I needed and believed in. I’ve heard people knock the CIPD regularly in the past and it almost became trendy (in some quarters) to do that. I heard lots of L&D folks say “well of course really, it’s the CIP – they don’t promote the D bit enough”. Out of touch; too expensive blah blah.

    I’ve found that at odds with my experiences at almost every turn.

    Sure, I am included in “that” list from People Management; I’ve spoken at conferences and been invited to research projects and think tanks. And each and every one of those gave me a deeper sense of connection to my profession, my chartered body and a belief that it does way more good than people who spoke to me with scathing remarks and gritted teeth have experienced or assumed.

    It’s been an interesting 4+ years for me and I’ve valued the CIPD beyond comprehension. They took me into areas of exposure, thinking and experiences I couldn’t have dreamed of.

    Now, that’s just me and I guess I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been largely inactive at local branch levels which I am now addressing having stepped away from a UK job that took up a huge amount of my free time.

    I’m now independent/freelance/sole practitioner whatever you choose to call it and when it comes to renewal next year coming from my own pocket am I as willing to pay up? Without hesitation. Why would I even think otherwise when my experiences have been so positive and fulfilling?

    Of course, my disposition to being a positive sort with optimistic tendencies is only surpassed by the likes of Megan Pippin and Tasha Stallard which means I would think like this. But I hope people don’t confuse optimism and even my self-confessed faith with naivety.

    Having worked in public and not-for-profit arenas all my career one could argue I’m not commercially minded – but I have such a strong network with private sector practitioners that I feel acclimatised to thinking about business cases; “true” returns; bottom line; P&L; M&As and the like – that I don’t feel naive.

    I feel passionate; informed and driven by what I do for a living and to hear you talk of Peter Cheese and the CIPD moving towards something more like my ambitions for HR as a profession, then you can double my personal drive.

    I have an unwavering belief that HR CAN be a more renowned and critical part of future successes in organisations; UK PLC and do great things for the good of the general workforce population now, and in the future.

    We do need a strong, resourceful and driven chartered body so I am really pleased to hear you write so convincingly about this.

    Controversy is good for stimulating debate; intellectual sparring is fab for increasing viewpoints and challenging convention yet we should not forget how sincere, well constructed and positive appraisals ALSO get people fired up in all the right ways. You’ve done that here, so thank you.

    I hope I can create some #HRInsight and use this hashtag (co-located with the official #CIPD12 one of course) that I jokingly created in our twitter exchange with Monica from your organisation; as I attempt to do my bit and derive maximum value through tweets from 3 days of collective wisdom housed in Manchester. Eclipsed no doubt by you and all those fab people you’ve mentioned in your original post.

    There’s some terrific, inspiring and committed people in HR, time to leverage that more? I think so. I think you’ve started that right here.

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      Great comment Perry, the profession needs more people like you.

  3. Sinead Carville (@SineadCarville) · November 5, 2012

    Great post Neil and I was really encouraged by Peter’s article in PM. Particularly his vision of better engagement with L&D, more relevance to SMEs & more support for regional activity.

    Being based on the island of Ireland my opportunities to get to the big conferences are limited. I was meant to be attending this week but being heavily pregnant has ruled this out. There is also bigger cost implications to attending an event that requires flights and accomodation. Having attending HRD12 it was evident that not many of my Irish colleagues had made the trip. The content that would been available throughout the 3 days planned this week was really appealing as well as the networrking opportunites that these events throw up. I would love to see something similar being offered with NI/ROI with emphasis on SMEs and regional specific issues.

    I would also it to be easier to participate within the regional commitees. The mammoth application/interview process required to get involved with the CIPD NI branch was far too bureaucratic for my liking. CIPD need to make it easier for people to get involved.

    I am looking forward to seeing some action on what Peter discussed with you and feeling a lot happier about my subscription for next year.


    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      Making it easier for people to get involved….spot on.

  4. Meg Peppin · November 5, 2012

    Mmm. Yes, I am generally optimistic, thanks for the shout Perry and I love your energy but am rather tired and less optimistic in relation to the CIPD.

    I have made many attempts to engage, get involved, identify potential solutions would love to have an opportunity to influence and shape how HR develops. I am active in many ways and still do actively promote the benefits of membership but see it as a one way effort. After hesitating about renewing my membership this year, I was invited to by someone at CIPD in an attempt to demonstrate that I am valued, after a serious of shambolic events. But nothing has changed.

    Neil you ask some questions, one of mine is what does it mean to be a Fellow – or any membership level? I worked so hard, put so much into it after all this time and yet it feels like I paid for a title, the most empty award. This is my greatest disappointment; I thought that it would be an achievement but it appears to be worthless.

    I think I know what they want from me, but I don’t know what they offer me.

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      Ahh the levels….I’ve written about that before. I’m not a fellow because I haven’t got around to the paperwork. Strikes me though it is given out too easily.

  5. Flora Marriott · November 5, 2012

    Great post, fascinating comments, and its really interesting to hear about Peter Cheese.

    I recently read a research paper called “From steady state to ready state: a need for fresh thinking in learning and talent development?” http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/research/from-steady-state-ready-state.aspx This kind of report is brilliant and I’ll happily pay my annual fee for work like this. It’s interesting, cutting edge, and is encouraging L&D practitioners not to peddle poorly understood and badly applied theories like Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles. Work like this helps to prompt us to stretch ourselves and challenge our thinking. That’s exactly what I want from the CIPD.

    And I have often benefitted from using the CIPD’s online journal service. It’s the same as used by most universities – Ebsco Information Services. It gives us online access to over 320 business and HR journals. I couldn’t access this information as an individual. And also the Ebsco portal lets you search for company specific information and news. The data you can get by doing this is way better than any Google search, and I’ve found it invaluable when preparing for job interviews. I often come across HR people who don’t know that this resource exists.

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      Surely more engagement would lead to more awareness of services too?

  6. Martin Couzins (@martincouzins) · November 7, 2012

    Agree with Flora. There is some excellent – and challenging – research taking place at the CIPD. Really like the work John McGurk is involved in, the Steady State report being just one of them. The issue is to socialise the work they do. Rather than talk about the social business they can start to role model it, which would be very engaging for members. For example, research projects could be ‘socialised’ so that members could see them develop and participate if relevant. Currently research takes place behind closed doors and is published to a place on the (enormous) website never to be seen again. Or rather loads of cost is then incurred in PR and marketing the report. A more open approach could save money, get people engaged and show how forward thinking the institute is. Winner!

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      I agree on the research, one of the things we discussed is getting the results out quickly and in a more engaging format.

  7. BurroughSam Burrough · November 7, 2012

    I declined to renew my CIPD membership about two years ago. I could easily have submitted the expense to finance and my organisation would happily have paid up. But why waste their money? As someone who specialises in the online side of L&D/Training/People Development, or whatever it is HR decide we should be called, the CIPD offered me nothing. It is positive that the CIPD are now trying to undo years of damage with reports like the one above (I’ll have to take your word for it as I obviously can’t access it). But let’s not forget they were one of the key forces in peddling the pseudo-science of Honey & Mumford & Co. The certificate in Training practice is(was?) rife with this stuff and people took it as gospel. Let’s not pretend that reports like this are innovative, they are important in helping to move the entrenched masses forward, but don’t give them more credit than they’re due – they’ll only get big headed.
    My second point should come with a caveat, my opinion may well be clouded by recent personal experience. The relationship between HR and L&D has to some extent been defined by the way in which the two parties are represented within the CIPD. HR don’t think they really need L&D and L&D resent HR for doing half of the things they think they could do better.
    So I won’t be renewing my membership anytime soon,and I would advise people in my position to seek out more niche organisations that more closely meet their needs like the eLearning Network or the Learning and Performance Institute. Although to be completely honest I’m not a member of those either, I get everything I need from my personal networks on Twitter etc. except of course the professional credibility, which let’s be honest is the only unique selling point such associations can offer their members.

    • Neil · January 5, 2013

      I’m always puzzled by the relationship between HR and L&D too. Something for a future blog maybe….

  8. Pingback: Open up research and case studies to tell the story (and include others in writing it) | itsdevelopmental.com

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