Branch volunteers — our HR heroes! #HRtogether

Alexandra Carr is Community Lead for CIPD Branches

Branch volunteers have demonstrated passion and commitment to the profession during the crisis —  without doubt they've been HR heroes. We’ve seen their commitment and donation of time, effort, energy and passion shine through regardless of the challenges they face in their professional lives.

It’s important to recognise our volunteers are all HR, L&D and OD professionals and many are going through the most testing time in their careers. You’d expect many to pull back from volunteering for us, and some understandably have. But for those that continue to volunteer during this time, their contribution and commitment is relentless and inspiring.

An extension of the CIPD workforce

Branch volunteers collectively make up almost three times the number of CIPD employees; they are an extension of our workforce and a force for good. Across 52 branches they act as a channel for member engagement, delivering more than 1,000 events and network engagement activity a year across the country. And now they're reaching beyond geographical boundaries though a digital transformation like we have never seen. A pandemic won’t stop our branch volunteers serving our members.

Since the beginning of the crisis they have delivered more than 250 online events for our members with more than 20,000 bookings. They were on standby at digital platforms within hours of our announcement of cancelling CIPD physical events. Our branch volunteers bridged the gap between the CIPD’s formal response to the crisis and connected immediately with our members. They mobilised themselves to support the HR community — they just wanted to help!

We’ve had some great examples of digital delivery from our branches that we'd like to share:

Within days of the announcement of lockdown, Julie Temple, Co-Chair from the Essex and Ipswich branch, presented an online legal update to CIPD members providing invaluable guidance and support for members. The branch has since hosted six online events with more than 1,200 bookings.  The group of nine committee members has also delivered online ‘Air and Share’ sessions to create a safe space for members to gather virtually to ask questions and compare experiences during the crisis.

Photo: Julie Temple

Jenn Hulme, Membership Engagement Lead for Manchester branch, was recently invited to deliver an online session for HR students at Manchester Metropolitan University called 'Working as a HR practitioner in challenging times'. The Level 7 students loved the session which touched on topics of the unique challenges HR professionals face during times of crisis, what we need to do to manage our wellbeing and the behaviors we must display to ensure that the businesses we are part of remain calm and in control.  It also touched on how HR leaders are guiding their business out of crisis and into a new normal. 

Photo:  Jenn Hulme. 

Jenn commented: ‘This session was aimed at supporting the next generation of HR leaders, who may be nervous about what their future career in the People profession may hold. I highlighted occasions in my career where crises have occurred and emphasised self-care and how vital HR teams are’.

Garry Dickson, Co-Chair, Mid Scotland Branch shared his story with us:

‘I was really proud of how the branch pivoted to delivering all events via Zoom and how we identified a real need to support members through the first couple of weeks of the Coronavirus crisis. We partnered with a local employment law firm and two senior people professionals from our committee to deliver a series of twice weekly Zoom events looking at specific areas where our members needed clarity on evolving government guidance and also they wanted to hear what others were doing, to share good practice. Our Zoom sessions used breakout rooms to focus on the specific member issues/questions and we developed and updated a rolling list of FAQs that we shared with members. As soon as CIPD HQ had set up the amazing COVID-19 Hub and started running their own valuable virtual events, we then directed members to these resources for help and stopped running our own. Our members in Mid Scotland predominantly work for SMEs and are often in smaller HR teams, so being able to provide this support so quickly and effectively via the branch to them was invaluable. The feedback we've received via social media has been fantastic and at our virtual AGM we even had one member thank us again for all the support we gave members in those initial weeks.’

Feedback from our members who’ve attended branch events:

  • ‘As a CIPD member for 30 years I’ve always been ‘too busy’ to attend physical meet ups. Well done to the CIPD for responding to the current crisis so effectively on access and also keeping our heads future focused. I’m now more engaged than ever with my professional body’
  • ‘CIPD London’s webinars offer a great opportunity for all participants; everyone is happy to share and it’s a brilliant opportunity to connect with others to possess the same level of curiosity and willingness to learn.’

Our volunteers impact our members' professional and personal lives adding value and creating connection and community. Our volunteers have chosen to donate their gifts of energy, time and passion to the CIPD and the profession. Even though they are stretched in their professional lives, they are HR heroes and they continue to give! 

A huge thank you from the CIPD to all our branch volunteers and for the difference that you make for our members, to the profession and the world of work.

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