My new job – explained

My name is David D'Souza and I've been the CIPD's Membership Director for two weeks now. I wanted to share both why I am excited about the role and some of our plans as an organisation. 

I've been working in HR for over 15 years. I've worked at the CIPD for the last 3 years (supporting our Branches and Council) whilst also getting out and about meeting our members and talking to organisations and people about some of the key themes in HR. The opportunity to influence things positively at the heart of a profession I'm so proud of is one that I could never turn down. The CIPD has over 145,000 members and is an increasingly important and valued voice in the world of work. It's a role that allows me to serve my profession whilst being confident that we are also driving change in work more broadly. It's exciting, it's challenging and I'm firmly up for that challenge. 

I've loved working with Council and the Branches and look forward to continuing that relationship in my new role. Before I talk about the future I want to thank them for the exceptional work they do for the profession. They are an invaluable voice and support for the profession and I think many people would be amazed if they spent time looking more closely at their work. We will get better at involving our members (and I'll talk more about that below), but people often underestimate the influence of Council and our online communities on our decision making and choices. We have a Board comprising of volunteers from across the sector and Council representing the profession in line with our Charter. We remain at our heart a membership body - a successful one that is committed to further improvement and modernisation.

So what does a Membership Director do? I've been asked that by two people ('Congratulations! But what do you do?) so I thought I'd describe the areas I look after, but also what I hope the impact of us continuing to improve will be. My KPI's will be about growing our membership and also improving the experience our members have in terms of their interactions with us. We want to grow membership by providing a superb community for people to join as they start in the profession and then remaining a career partner throughout someone’s time in the profession. My role exists to make sure that we balance our resources effectively and make the choices that we need to in order to improve those two key areas. In terms of structure the Membership directorate will include our Customer Service and Operations area, Membership Development and the team that supports all our volunteering activity. This makes sense in terms of bringing areas that are focused on design and delivery of some of the most important areas impacting members into one place. From customer enquiries to issues raised at Council we will have a view across the piece and a mandate to make improvements. 

Our members give us a voice, direction, support and an opportunity to make a difference in the world. We have a duty to lead and serve them - serving them by giving them the tools they need to do their job excellently - and leading them by helping shape an agenda which shapes their roles and business as the world evolves. We need to deliver now whilst supporting a better future. We need to do the serving part brilliantly to have the permission and credibility to lead. We need to be relevant for our students and for experienced and influential leaders in our industry. 

As with any organisation there are a number of things we can do better and want to do better. We are a relatively complex business and I'm aware of a number of areas (from the website navigation to speed of providing certificates) where there is work underway to improve things. We have choices to make and one of my roles will be to work with the rest of the senior team to make sure that our choices are made in the way we'd like the profession to work (principles based, evidence based and outcomes driven). Two of the areas I really want to focus on initially are painting the full picture of the value people can get from their membership and also further improving our commitment to 'member voice'. The membership value piece is a really interesting one as people often tell me confidently what would give them better value from membership - often the request is for something we already offer. That means we have work to do on communication - as everybody loses in that scenario. You lose because you could have been making better use of our resources - and we lose because you spend every day feeling less positive about the organisation than you should do. And it really does matter to me that people are both happy and proud to be associated with the CIPD. 

The second area on member voice is really important to me and I'll be asking the team to come up with a plan to review how and where we can improve this - and I'll be asking them to use feedback from our forums and members to inform that. The better we consult with our members the better informed we are about the consequences of our choices. We represent a large, growing and diverse group of people and we will never get a balance that is approved of by everyone, but we do owe it to everyone to be able to ensure that we make decisions informed by the thoughts of our members. 

I will try and reply to responses to this post in a reasonable time - I appreciate I've just written about member voice! - but as I said at the start I'm two weeks into a big role and with a long list of things to do that I hope will improve your experience and our profession. If you could be patient with me I can promise you that I'm either supporting a team member or planning a better future. I'm looking forward to serving. 

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.

  • Thanks for the reply David D'Souza .

    Out of interest (and I have looked at the last annual report and cant seem to find the information there. Could you point me to the break down of current membership by grade. Just an idle interest given your earlier comments. Much appreciated.

  • Hi Elizabeth, we are a professional body - however we also provide a way for people to access content without having professional status conferred. That's not uncommon for other membership bodies - the content access does not offer professional status or allow use of post nominals etc.  I don't think offering content to those beyond those directly involved in the profession automatically rules us out of or is in conflict with us being a professional body. For me improving our membership experience will benefit current members and encourage future members - I think that's a healthy thing to strive for and I don't think that position contains contradictions. I don't know any professional body that wouldn't like to grow and we are in contact with the other professional bodies you mention through a number of channels. I think there is a right way and a wrong way to grow and I'm confident that we are committed to doing it the right way. I'd like us to have more Chartered Members over time - but to Keith's point - through improving accessibility and attractiveness rather than lowering standards. Thanks, David

  • Thank you for those comments, David. I asked about that KPI as I share the concerns cogently set out by Keith above and wanted to find out the thinking behind the KPI on numbers in particular.

    Thank you also for reminding us that it is possible to join the CIPD without aiming at becoming qualified. I had not realised that those of us who have achieved chartered status are in the minority.

    We seem to be on a very different path from other professions. The Law Society is the body for solicitors. The Institute of Chartered Accountants is the body for those aiming at that qualification or who have achieved it. You don't have to be a director to be a member of the IoD, but you do have to have responsibility for the strategic direction of an organisation. The ILM requires varying periods of experience for different grades.  Although RIBA accepts affiliate members, there is more to it than just sending in your subscription money. In contrast, our affiliate grade is "non professional" and "open to all".

    You see a link between growing numbers and growing value and influence. I am not convinced that membership numbers guarantee either when 2/3 of the membership is not qualified . In your response to me you say we are a professional body. If anyone can become an affiliate member by stumping up the membership fee and this grade of membership is explicitly described as "non-professional", how are you defining professional in that statement?

    It seems to me that the CIPD's position is fraught with contradictions and I therefore see a real challenge for you in your new role. I would like to see the CIPD review the stance on membership taken by other professional organisations and a review of your KPIs.

  • Hi Keith. Thanks for the comment and the welcome.  I'd agree that bigger isn't always better - as you say dropping the standards we have would probably increase membership but undermine credibility. I'm not keen to do that. However there are benefits to increasing in size - for instance the reason this community works is because we have enough people interested in sharing their experience and thoughts to make it work.

    In terms of professional standards I think the work being done on those currently is shaping up really positively to address the challenges of a broad profession with a requirement for clear standards. We have a Professional Development area looking specifically at some of the challenges you raise and you'll be hearing more from them as the year goes on, we are currently consulting widely on the new standards to make sure they are inclusive but not diminished. I think it is possible to refresh them to ensure they recognise a breadth of specialisms within HR without undermining the overall standards.

    I think it's possible to keep standards high and increase reach and influence in the community - it can be a trade off, but it shouldn't be if we do things well. It's also worth making the distinction that membership and Chartered Membership are very different things. We have a broad community, but our Chartered Membership (or 'gold standard' as you put it) makes up for less than 1/3 of that total figure.

  • Welcome to the role. Its certainly a huge opportunity and exciting that the CIPD is recognising the importance that a well supported and high quality membership experience will bring. All too often despite everyone's best intentions many (dare I say it most?) members interaction with the CIPD is probably little more than the annual direct debit and flicking through a magazine in a quiet moment.

    I too share Elizabeth's interest in the KPI around more... I am not sure that I have ever necessarily equated more with better. Its relatively easy (for example) to increase membership of any organisation by lowering the barriers to entry. But does that make that organisation - especially an organisation that celebrates its "chartered" status better?

    Where for instance is the drive to ensure that professional members act professionally? That members continue to learn and develop (rather than simply qualify  in 1997 and never move their knowledge and practice forward?) Will part of your remit be helping to push forward rigorous CPD like many other Chartered institutes have? Have can it be right that a Chartered Fellow doesn't have to keep up to date or develop in an institute dedicated to peoples learning and development?

    Is the CIPD more interested (as it may seem to sum) to be able to quote in submissions to Government and the like that they "speak" for 150,000 members or is it interested in ensure that membership offers a real benchmark and gold standard that means something. This may well mean that the CIPD "only" speaks for 140,000 or 130,000 people but it would speak with a far louder and more meaningful voice.  

    At the moment I fear that the CIPD is may be in danger of losing the credibility of the voice you speak of as it forgets that with membership comes responsibility. And sometimes that responsibility needs to be audited and checked - and not just when you sign up and pay the cheque!