Reputation and impact: the rise of the people profession

As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s important that people professionals take a moment to assess the impact they have within their organisation. Has their standing increased? How can the profession add the most value across the business?  How can professionals adapt their practices to align with changing organisational strategies?

This year’s People Profession survey aims to do just this. By asking people professionals their views on topics such as new ways of working, the impact of their teams and their own personal wellbeing, we can take a year-on-year snapshot of the profession, track trends and ensure we provide the resources to support you in your role. Please share your experiences and insight with us here.

Whilst the 2022 survey is in field, we take a moment to share some key insights from our 2021 survey and other CIPD research.

Reputation and collaboration

A quick search of Google Scholar throws up a vast amount of literature on the reputation and  perceptions of HR and the effectiveness of human resource management. HR professionals often comment about feeling the need to constantly prove their credibility as a business partner. However, during the pandemic, many organisations turned to the HR function to support on the people changes and operational transitions that they were suddenly faced with. People teams had the difficult task of serving both operational and employee needs, at a time that was both uncertain and distressing for many. So how did this period influence the perceptions of HR across businesses?

During this time, 43% of people professionals agreed that their reputational standing had increased throughout the business. For those in more strategic roles, this figure increased to 50%, whilst CIPD members were even more likely to say their reputation had improved (53% compared to 32% for non-members). Our cross-functional collaboration research highlighted the importance of partnering across business functions - with seven in ten people professionals saying they worked collaboratively to meet business needs. Despite moving away from in-person working, many of our respondents reported stronger partnerships between the people team, managers and business leaders during the pandemic, with many citing increased communication and knowledge sharing:

‘[Cross-team working] feels like a much slicker track than it used to be. There’s loads of oil on the wheels, and it runs much faster. Yes, we’ve made mistakes along the way, absolutely, but we’ve learned from those really quickly and adapted.’ (Functional manager)

Building people functions for success

In recent years, the workplace has been constantly reacting to external disruptors influencing business operations: Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, the current cost of living crisis and sadly, the ongoing war in Ukraine. Businesses have had to react at a rapid pace, and in some cases, this has led to managing large-scale organisational change and tranformation. Organisational change isn’t a new concept - internal change was one of the five key trends that surfaced in our 2030 report. But change is something that businesses have to cope with consistently and effectively. Organisational models and processes have to be flexible and agile, to meet the needs of consumers, stakeholders and employees. Traditional and fixed models are no longer adaquate, so it is encourgaing to find that half of our people profession sample (53%) say their people team adapt their practice when organisational outcomes are not being met. Fifty-two percent of respondents agreed there are clear links between people practice and business outcomes, suggesting clear alignment between the people strategy and organisational strategy. Worringly though, the findings also highlight that nearly one-fifth of our sample disagree with this statement, suggesting some people teams are operating in a more siloed and disconnected way and fail to contribute to wider business success. Given that people teams support and develop the talent within a business, alignment to the business is imperative. People leaders and teams should be collaborating closely across other business functions, acting as credible business partners and leading on people issues as well as anticipating future trends that will impact the business. This statement from our cross-functional collaboration research demonstrates the positive impact of aligning across different functions and sharing expertise:

‘When we come together, we achieve more. We learn more about what each party can bring to the table and, with the right expertise, we get things done quicker. I think that is what we’ve done over the last 18 months by coming together, learning more about the challenges that we each face, and having a common goal.’ (People professional)

It is clear that recent events have tested and stretched people professionals, but as a result, many practitioners feel more closely aligned with their cross-function peers and that the standing of people professionals is positive. As we move into what many call ‘a new era of working’, how will this change the impact that people professionals can have? Now isn’t the time to snap back to old habits - instead the profession should be bold and lead the way to build a future world of work where people are at the very centre of business.

How do you feel about changing ways of working and the impact of your HR team? Take our survey now.

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