People Profession Survey 2020 for independent professionals

By Rebecca Peters, Research Adviser at the CIPD.

The self-employment job market is rising in numbers - CIPD’s 2018 megatrends report highlights that self-employment in the UK has been growing faster than general employment rates since 2001. Much of the post-recession growth in the UK is said to have been driven by self-employment. This is hardly surprising given the rise of the gig economy (around 1 in 10 UK adults engaged in gig economy work in 2019), and the availability modern technology, making self-employment an accessible and viable option for much of the UK workforce. But what does this mean for the people profession?

Well we know that the people profession is also evolving at a rapid pace. We know the workforce numbers are growing year on year. In fact, the number of people professionals has grown by over 17% since 2009. Given that self-employment and independent work is growing across the UK labour market, it’s likely that this could be the same across the people profession. With new opportunities there are inevitably going to be new challenges – and people professionals will have to be adaptive to the changing world of work.   

With more people entering the people profession, professionalism and professional courage needs to be high on the agenda. A 2018 CIPD report found nearly three in ten people professionals felt a conflict between their professional beliefs and what was expected of them, highlighting a professional and moral challenge for people professions. To support confidence in professionalism across the profession, CIPD have released  , which aims to bring to life the eight core behaviours within the new Profession Map. These are ethical practice, professional courage and influence, valuing people, working inclusively, commercial drive, passion for learning, insights focused and situational decision making. Exclusively for members, the content has been designed in consultation with thought leaders and experts within the profession. For us to continue providing the right content and support individuals to demonstrate professional courage in their work, we believe it’s crucial to ensure the voice of independent professionals is heard.

Independent workers – make sure your voice is heard

We recognise that self-employment includes a broad range of job identities. For some in the people profession, this may mean you own your own business and employ several staff. For others this might be a consultant or freelancing type role. Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, business owner, contractor or consultant, we recognise the breadth of ways people might be working and how important all of these roles are for the wider people profession.

Independent people professionals have exposure to multiple organisations across different industries, giving them a unique perspective of the profession and a fortunate position to drive change and make a profound impact in the work that they do. For example, in our People Skills pilot programme, people consultants were shown to improve a number of workplace effectiveness measures in small businesses by offering HR support and advice. Independent people consultants were central to the effectiveness of the programme’s outcomes, suggesting that independent professionals add substantial value to organisations’ efficiency and productivity. Other research also validates this finding. Not only has research found a positive association between HR practice and performance within SMEs, but HR practice is also shown to be predictive of future business performance. This reinforces that the knowledge and expertise that independent people professionals offer can be vital to businesses and their success.

As the professional body for HR and people development, we want to support people professionals to embed their knowledge and practice to enable organisations to thrive in a changing world of work – ultimately working towards championing better work and working lives. To give independent workers a platform to have their voice heard, we have launched the People Profession Survey 2020 for independent professionals. It aims to capture a snapshot view of the profession through the eyes of an independent worker. We want to hear your opinion on personal measures (such as your career aspirations and personal growth), as well as your consultancy experience. We also want to hear your views on how the profession is shaping up for the future; what are the current people priorities and drivers of change within the work that you do?

Together with our wider sample, this survey will provide a global perspective of the here and now of the profession, with input from fifteen countries. We’ve worked hard to come together with international partners to build a global picture of the people profession, allowing us to consider global trends and cultural differences across the profession.

Help us to capture insights on the current shape of the people profession and build a picture of the future world of work. Get involved and have your say, take part in the People Profession Survey for independent professional here:

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