How can the CIPD boost its clout with the Government?On 21 Nov 2000 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. With HR professionals calling for a‘more political’ CIPD, Stephen Overell looks at what the institute can learnfrom other organisationsPersonnel Today’ssurvey on the political profile of the CIPD harvested comments from theprofession that are unlikely to bring smiles to the faces of the institute’ssenior hierarchy. The CIPD ought to be morepolitically proactive, many HR managers say (News, 14 November). It should havea stronger presence on the national stage, stimulate clearer thinking onemployment policy and try to head off badly drafted legislation before it cando any damage.Such calls are not new. Whenever theissue of political influence comes up, as it does every few years, senior CIPDofficials pointedly say they do not want to become jabbering TV punditsobjecting to this or that or be found skulking at the back of press conferenceshanding out photocopied sheets of ready-made quotes. Leave it to the TUC or theCBI, they say, with a faint air of distaste. The CIPD is not that kind of organisation.The institute is about professionalstandards, best practice, quality research and practical insight into how tomanage and develop people. So the issue dies down and it is back to the usualbusiness.DifferencesBut there are two possible differencesthis time. First, the storm of legislation that has affected HR professionalsin their daily lives has had a profound impact – some 15 new employment rightsin the past three years at an estimated cost of £12.3bn. It is perhaps going abit far to say this has politicised the profession but it has had a profoundimpact none the less. Second, this is a government that,to put it kindly, places a high value on presentation – or as head of HR atPrêt à Manger Bruce Robertson prefers, “So much of the Government’s approach isswayed by public opinion.” Perhaps, as the senior HRprofessionals surveyed by Personnel Today seem to be saying, the CIPD shouldreposition itself as more of a representative organisation. As well as being“the leading professional body”, it could also be the “voice” of its members. The obvious comparison lies acrossthe Atlantic in the form of the Society for Human Resource Management, the USequivalent of the CIPD. At 150,000 members to the CIPD’s 105,000, it is not thatmuch bigger, given the disparity in the size of the workforces. Butthere are some very different intentions behind the way it describes itself.The SHRM says it is “the leading voice of the human resource profession”. RepresentationAs well as the expected educationand information services, conferences and seminars, it also offers “governmentand media representation”.Last week it, along with otherbusiness organisations, took the US Government to court to try to blocklegislation imposing a duty on employers to implement ergonomics programmes tocut down on repetitive strain injuries among workers. The CIPD has a far quieter take onrepresenting its members. When the Government seeks views on new legislation orinitiatives, the CIPD duly consults its 48 branches and feeds back what itfinds. But while this may be a version of representation, HR managers seem tofeel it is not giving the CIPD the presence and clout of, say, the Institute ofDirectors or the Law Society. Participants seem to want a more aggressive tack,more of a stand. “The CIPD should be involved in thethick end of politics and legislation development with the Government and tradeunions,” says Suzan Grant-Foale, assistant personnel officer for Anglia TV. Such a perception of the institutearguably places it in the role of a functional-specialist version of the CBI.The CBI – which claims to speak for business, despite having only 2,000companies and 180 trade associations in its membership – has parliamentaryofficers lobbying heavily behind the scenes, six officials in Brussels and apress office of five that is not averse to placing stories and redirectingjournalists. Not quite the CIPD’s style, perhaps.Two survey respondents say the CIPDshould become more like the Law Society. But according to Simon McGrath, UK HRdirector of insurance group Willis, CIPD procedures limit its ability torepresent HR in the way that the Law Society represents solicitors. “Unlikevirtually any other professional body, the CIPD does not elect its council andofficers by a ballot of the members,” he says. “We are far less democratic than,say, the British Medical Association or the Law Society.”That is true. The Law Society –perhaps a bad example, given recent bad press – has a directly elected council,an elected president, elected vice-president and deputy vice-president but anappointed chief executive. The CIPD is run by a council, madeup principally of 48 branch chairs elected by the branches, and an executiveboard, which is appointed. But then the two organisations aredifferent: the Law Society also regulates solicitors. And, it should be added,not all well-known employer organisations that claim to be representative havedemocratic structures – quite the opposite, in fact. Ostentatious image?Those respondents who want a morepolitical voice for the profession in Westminster, or a more ostentatiousnational image for the profession’s principal body, are likely to bedisappointed in the short term. But since the CIPD’s Harrogate conference, whenpresident Don Beattie first indicated that the institute would seek greaterinfluence over policy, it has not been idle. The institute argues that it hasstepped up its political contacts by the appointment of Dr John Philpott,former head of the Employment Policy Institute and a well-known employmentspecialist, as chief economist. And it continues to stress thatwhile it believes it has excellent relations with civil servants in both theDepartment of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education andEmployment, the question of influence hinges partly on timing. It is not thatthe messages are heard but when they are heard. This line, however, may not holdmuch water with its members for much longer. How the other bodiescompareCIPDMembership 105,000Function “Leading professional body for those involvedin the management and development of people”Structure Council made up of 48 branch chairs,seven vice-presidents and senior officials. Executive board of 16 appointedmembers. Senior officials are appointedParliamentary unit NoPlaces press articles NoIncome £27.6mCBIMembers 2,000 direct member companies, 180 indirectFunction Representing views of businessStructure Council of 110 members with positionsrotating between top 350 companies; president’s committee of 60 peopleincluding 20 chief executives or chairs; 22 standing committees; appointeddirector-general.Parliamentary unit YesPlaces press articles YesIncome Nearly £71mInstitute of DirectorsMembership 53,000 Function Representing the views of company directorsStructure Policy and executive council of upto 20 nominated membersParliamentary unit NoPlaces press articles NoIncome £23.5mLawSocietyMembers 100,000, Function Representing and regulatingsolicitorsStructure Directly elected council,president, vice-president and deputy vice-president, appointed chief executiveParliamentary unit YesPlaces press articles YesIncome £57mSocietyfor Human Resource ManagementMembership 150,000Function “Leading voice of the human resourceprofession in the United States”. Offers “government and media representation”and offers education and information services, conferences and seminarsLobby unit YesPlaces press articles YesIncome Not knownwww.shrm.org Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed.