A recent survey by the CIPD in the UK pondered on the results of a survey (of its own membership) that revealed HR wasn’t very “sexy”. The majority of CIPD members hadn’t thought of a career in HR when they were young.
Instead, they were thinking of more glamorous careers, such as being pop stars or train drivers. Why, oh why, are the kids of today not clamouring for a career in Human Resources? Where’s HR’s Lady Gaga when you need her?
Of course, the serious question underlying this report is: “how can HR attract young graduates into the profession”, and it’s a question worth asking. The current entry point into the profession appears to be through service centres, and it’s doubtful whether this is the best apprenticeship for a career in strategic HR.
The main problem HR faces is exemplified by the CIPD itself. It’s a chartered institute, and the image it presents is fusty, old-fashioned, and internal, with debates about maternity pay, TUPE transfer, and the maximum number of hours’ work in a day front and centre of its website. If HR is trying to destroy its image as the department with a rulebook, then this is no way to go about it.
The CIPD “champions better work and working lives”, which is great. Someone has to do it, and it’s a very noble thing to do. But it’s not going to get graduates very excited, is it?
If anything, the CIPD is a reflection of the HR community – as talented and as earnest a bunch of people as you could ever wish to meet. However, these are internal discussions. This is the minutia of day-to-day work in HR. When you find other departments discussing the minutia of what they do, it’s aligned to business goals.
If marketers are discussing how to improve clickthrough rates of e-mails (yawn), they’re actually discussing how to grow the business. If salespeople are discussing how a CRM can improve their productivity (yawn), they’re actually discussing how to grow the business.
HR needs to do more of the same. Instead of talking about how to handle internal disputes which only serve to emphasise the rulebook image, HR needs to talk about the bigger issues in the world of work, and demonstrate how it affects them. WE know that HR can add to the bottom line. WE know that our engagement strategies and our talent management programmes add to productivity, and WE know that our data can provide invaluable insight into how the business is faring.
So if we’re going to make HR a more attractive career proposition to talented graduates, these are the things we should be talking about. You can make a difference in HR, and while you might have a rulebook, you’ll also be a business leader.
The CIPD isn’t saying this. Instead, it’s down to the outsourcers like Ceridian, ADP et al to talk about the value HR adds.
The CIPD isn’t providing the voice that HR requires. We need a new institution that isn’t afraid to tackle the big subjects, and speak its mind.
The alternative is that HR continues to retreat into a world of internal debates and minutiae, and we leave the big stuff to everyone else.