The People Profession in 2018

By Louisa Baczor, Research Advisor at the CIPD

The role of people professionals is diversifying and becoming more complex. As organisations become increasingly agile and rely more on contractors and remote workers to meet immediate business needs, there is the question of how employers can foster levels of engagement and commitment, and enable people to reach their potential. There is also a growing recognition of the need to build sustainable organisational cultures and employment relationships based on trust, following ongoing exposure of workplace harassment and business malpractice. These challenges present the people profession with a key opportunity to step up and develop organisational practices which deliver value not only in terms of profit, but for individuals and wider society.

However, when advising organisational leaders on the people implications of business decisions, practitioners often face significant conflicts of interest. Our previous research found that there’s a gap between ambition and actual practice among people professionals when it comes to upholding strong values in decision-making. So, what drives good practice in our profession and enables practitioners to demonstrate standards of integrity and professionalism in their work?

While developing employees and organisational cultures, practitioners also need to focus on developing themselves as professionals, in order to make their best impact. Career paths in HR don’t look the same today as they did 20 years ago, with more people moving into the profession from other business areas, bringing a variety of skills and expertise.

The CIPD’s new survey, The People Profession in 2018, explored how people professionals can demonstrate high standards of professionalism and achieve career success, and how we can support ethical practice at different career levels within the diverse roles that make up the profession. We worked in collaboration with other professional bodies to survey practitioners in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. The key findings in the UK and Ireland are:

  •  More than two-thirds feel that their work makes them happy (70%) and energised (67%) and over three-quarters said the profession offers a meaningful career (78%).

  •  Nearly two in five (38%) believe they have the skills to cope with more demanding duties in their current role, while 16% said they lack the skills required in their role.

  •  More than six in ten (64%) agree that their job gives them the opportunity to fully express themselves as a professional, but nearly three in ten (28%) feel there’s a conflict between their professional judgement and what their organisation expects of them.

  •  Over half (55%) use organisational data in their decision-making, and data-driven practitioners are more likely to feel able to fully express themselves professionally at work.

Overall, we find people professionals in a positive place: they report a very strong sense of meaning and purpose in their work, feel able to express themselves as professionals in the organisation, and recognise the importance of using data to drive decision-making. In order to take the lead in helping organisations to create sustainable cultures and improve their own career prospects, we recommend that practitioners invest in CPD, build confidence to challenge unethical practice, and become more evidence-based.

The CIPD’s new Profession Map supports people professionals – whatever their background - to drive change in their organisation and progress in their career. It provides a clear basis for planning CPD and progression, as well as the tools to demonstrate the value and impact of the people profession to the wider business.

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