Two decades of activity demonstrates the value of the CIPD Community to members

As the community turns 20, we asked Steve Bridger, Community Manager, and David D'Souza, Membership Director of the CIPD, about the significance of the discussion forum and what it means to those who’ve used it.

The CIPD Community is celebrating its 20-year milestone in January 2024, having supported around 20,500 people in the last year alone.  

David D’Souza: The CIPD Community predates Facebook – by a month. Both its longevity and the scale of support it has given people should be celebrated.

What is the secret to its ability to support members so effectively? 

DDS: For me it's two things. The first is its scale – it is one of the biggest communities of its kind worldwide and that critical mass makes an enormous difference in providing support fast. The second is our volunteers. The Community Champions supply this incredible support, and so we owe them 20 years of thanks (yes, some have been helping for all that time). 

Over the years you must have seen some fascinating discussions, does anything stand out? 

Steve Bridger: Where to start? Over two decades everything has been discussed and debated, at least once.  

There are the one-offs, like the policy query on Nerf guns use at work, and the heart-warmers such as when a member asked about appropriate leave for a colleague donating a kidney. The collective agreement was ‘as much time as they need’, recognising that a blanket policy doesn’t always fit.

A key topic can become a record of a moment in time. Memorably, in 2010, members flocked to the Community after employees were left stranded all over Europe when the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano eruption caused flights to be grounded. Staff absence is always a challenge – members want to be fair and consistent, whether employees are ‘snowed in’ or ‘snowed under’, watching world cups or a royal wedding or grieving the loss of a pet. We’ve discussed it all. 

In 2016, members mused on what the EU referendum result would mean for HR, and then Brexit. And the Community came into its own during COVID-19. Few of us had even heard of ‘furlough’ before March 2020. It was a steep learning curve for the profession and visits to the forums tripled almost overnight. The Community became ‘the place’ to discuss and learn together – and it has always been particularly highly valued by those in standalone HR roles. 

Some topics are cyclical, some show evolving perspectives. Fifteen years ago, employers sought to constrain staff use of social media during work time. Ten years ago, someone asked whether employees can be forced to take their Blackberrys on holiday. Now employers ask “should HR ‘friend’ employees on Facebook” or look at social media profiles during recruitment. 

In 2018 an anonymous posting feature was added for sensitive topics. 

SB: We’ve seen consistent use of this group since launch, often to discuss scenarios around ethics, tough decisions or sensitive matters. Members really value the anonymity, to be able to discuss issues whilst protecting themselves or their employer. 

How do the Community Champions help members? 

SB: They answer questions, are confident, measured, knowledgeable, and happy to help others. They visit the Community most days, responding to questions where they can offer value. They have experience in a range of sectors and backgrounds, helping set the welcoming, friendly and professional learning environment on the CIPD Community. And they tell us they learn a lot themselves. It’s great for members’ continuing professional development to be active on a forum like this. We’re lucky they want to perform this voluntary role, and we hope they continue to enjoy it. 

How do members get value out of the Community?  

DDS: Some members visit regularly, others pop in for specific support. I know from experience how tough the job can be at times – whether working independently, in a small organisation or a larger one – generating unique challenges. Having a supportive group to seek reassurance, sense checking, ideas and peer-review is invaluable. 

Can students get involved in the CIPD Community? 

DDS: Last year we launched a student area to discuss studies and their specific needs and challenges. But the general forums are also great for keeping up to date with what people are thinking or even worrying about. We’d encourage all students to check out the CIPD Community; it’s a great resource and source of support.  

What are people talking about now - any key topics for 2024? 

SB: Hybrid working is a continuing challenge – striking the balance between employee and employer expectations and really understanding how to make flexibility work effectively for everyone. Performance management also comes up frequently; how to set up a worthwhile system amid resistance or no experience of conversation about performance – and deal with the consequences. Handling tricky situations and characters is another age-old challenge that really shows that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Many members talk about their own career aspirations and how to get there, and work difficulties that are affecting their wellbeing.

Visit the CIPD Community here. CIPD members can access the member-only groups through the website login. If you need any help or have any questions, please email:   

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