CIPD chief urges HR to engage with key national and international issues

The CIPD’s annual conference and exhibition got underway today with its chief executive, Peter Cheese, urging HR professionals to “step up” and face the past 12 months’ turbulence head on.

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Speaking just hours after president-elect Donald Trump claimed victory in the US presidential elections, Mr Cheese welcomed the 1,500 delegates to the professional body for HR and people development's annual gathering on what he said he “sensed as a bit of a strange day.”Global political developments aside, he sought to rally the audience of HR and learning and development professionals from the UK and 40 countries, outlining the challenges, opportunities and direction of travel for the profession, both on offer at the conference and in the months to come.Mr Cheese began by explaining his belief that recent events – the economic challenges associated with Brexit, the growing social divides and loss of faith in the “establishment” – has created key moment for HR professionals to step up to challenge of modern workplaces.

Turbulent times an opportunity for HR?

The significant change and uncertainty that has developed over the last 12 months "calls out strongly the need and opportunity for the HR profession," Mr Cheese said.“The last 12 months have undermined many people’s trust in business, with too many scandals such as those at Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, BHS and Sports Direct demonstrating the need for business to properly value all their workers and employees and to take their wider accountabilities to all their stakeholders more seriously."

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For the CIPD, the issues of rebuilding trust and positive corporate cultures, the challenges of growing productivity, of engagement and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, and in understanding new organisational models are ultimately all about people and need the expertise and engagement of the profession at the highest levels and throughout organisations.

Rebuilding trust in business

"This is a time also for greater transparency, more consistent reporting of how organisations are managing and developing their workforces, building positive cultures, driving value, but also better managing risk," Mr Cheese explained."These scandals are, at their hearts, examples of misaligned and misdirected human behaviours, and as HR professionals we have a fantastic opportunity to better understand the psychology of that behaviour so that we can help develop businesses and organisational cultures that are a force for good. Better behaviours cannot be driven simply by writing more rules.“The challenges we face in the world of work are not new, but they are now more important to tackle than ever before, in light of events such as Brexit,” said Mr Cheese. “We cannot freeze in the headlights of uncertainty, but instead must embrace the opportunities that these challenges bring to drive real and lasting change.“Only by engaging with these issues head on, in a local, national as well as international context, can we build resilient and flexible workforces and organisations that will define what the future of work looks like."

Leadership across borders in times of change

The CIPD's chief executive concluded by urging HR professionals to lead and be the change we need to see, a theme esteemed entrepreneur, CEO and author Margaret Heffernan took up in her keynote speech, saying organisations only grow when people grow. She encouraged HR to continue to work collegiately, connect and break down barriers by building social capital and adaptive businesses.Tomorrow, associate professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD, Gianpiero Petriglieri, will tie up the key themes from the two-day conference to close proceedings with a look at mobility, success and the role of HR in creating trustworthy leadership. With faith in business and leaders at critical levels – and the impact this has socially and across national borders – Professor Petriglieri’s summation promises to inspire the profession to take up the challenges and opportunities to redress the imbalance.

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