Peter Cheese on HR’s future skills

Written by
Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD

09 Feb 2021

09 Feb 2021 • by Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD

The skills HR professionals need to succeed in the new world of work are constantly changing. So how is the CIPD adapting its learning and resources to meet these demands? CEO Peter Cheese examines HR’s evolving skillset.  

The world of work is changing rapidly, and HR needs to be front and centre of this. Today, a business leader can’t build a viable business strategy without understanding an organisation’s skill needs, the capabilities of its people or articulating the purpose of the business.

The pandemic has been a massive catalyst for change. It hasn’t introduced lots of things we’ve never thought about, but it has acted as an accelerator for these ideas. Leaders are talking so much more about people being at the very core of business agendas.

This means that the skills we need as a profession are constantly evolving. Back in 2018, the CIPD collaborated with more than 19,000 professionals, academics and experts to develop a new Profession Map. Anchored on the idea of core knowledge and behaviours regardless of specialism or level, it is a common foundation that all HR professionals can build on.

Since then, we’ve continued to refine and develop content around the profession map, and we plan to create learning content to help our members apply the core behaviours in their day-to-day work. We’ve aligned our new qualifications to it, which we launched last month (January 2021).

Living up to HR’s strategic ambitions

We’ve worked on ensuring that HR is genuinely aligned to the business. Many of our core competencies are about understanding the basics of businesses and being better at grounding HR on good evidence thorough data and analytics. Those critical, strategic elements of HR around workforce planning, understanding the future of skills and focusing on learning are all about building the impact of HR and cementing what we do as a profession on strategic business thinking.

Secondly, we have seen the emergence of new areas of competence which are really important for the profession. Subjects like wellbeing and diversity and inclusion are elements we wanted to embed much more strongly in the idea of professional development, as they really do weave through everything we do — from how we think about recruitment to performance development and coaching. They’re integral to our thinking.

What is your purpose?

So much of this is about purpose. What are we here to do? What is HR all about? We at the CIPD called this out as ‘championing better working lives’, but I think for all of us in HR, articulating our purpose, principles and impact is what inspires and encourages us to develop through the profession.

Not only will this help us to better align with what we’re here to do, but it also helps to attract and retain people into HR. People are driven by that sense of purpose and this is something HR hasn’t always articulated well.

All this can be summed up by a very simple mantra. We believe that HR should be principles-led, evidence-based and outcomes-driven. For everything we do in HR, let’s understand what we’re trying to do, the evidence that underpins any intervention we want to make and whether we achieve our outcome.

Our new qualifications have a much simpler framework, which shows clearer progression and alignment to our membership grades. We hope that this reinforces the idea that when you are a professional, it’s not just about doing a qualification or training — it’s about continuous learning and development.

This is HR’s time

Finally, I want to recognise how the profession has stepped up during this demanding time. From transitioning to remote working and providing wellbeing support to understanding how businesses are adapting and debates around workforce models, we have been at the very frontline of the pandemic, working closely with business leaders. We have all worked as hard as we ever have and I want to acknowledge and respect what we have achieved as a profession.

However, I also believe this is a real inflection point for HR’s impact on business. Above all, the pandemic is a human crisis and I strongly believe the profession can really help to lead a change in how we work. This could be changing working culture to be more about people, embedding wellbeing principles into management structures or leading on flexible working in all its forms. HR must remain a true business partner as we come through COVID-19 to continue championing these positive outcomes into our working lives.

Find out more about the new CIPD qualifications.