HR: Your community needs you…

Since qualifying 23 years ago, my involvement with the CIPD throughout the duration of my career could be detailed on the back of a postage stamp with room to spare. I was completely indifferent to the Institute, paying my dues (or rather my employer did) and getting on with my career.  A familiar story amongst my professional colleagues too.  This changed in 2005 when I wrote a “Disappointed member from Amersham” letter to People Management over something or other, and Duncan Brown called me out on it.

He asked me to come in, tried to understand my frustrations and talked to me about what the CIPD was trying to do.  We shared a lot of views, and it changed my mind.  Duncan eventually left and it all went quiet until Jackie Orme took the helm.  During a catch up in July last year we discussed challenged business models and the potential future shape of the HR community – the word community being key here.

The CIPD, like most membership organisations faces significant challenges in delivering to the future needs of the profession, notwithstanding the 98-year heritage and the conflicts of a charitable structure. But change takes time and more importantly, input.  Specifically, input from the membership.

For the last few months I have been working with the CIPD on a number of initiatives, membership engagement strategy being a central theme.  Along the way we have facilitated conversations and introductions between my HR peers, in particular my fellow HR bloggers, and the CIPD and I know all individuals involved are better off for it.  Indeed, reflecting back on the last 8 months with some of the digital team including Natalie White, Natalia Thomson and Johanna Ratcliffe last week, attitudes and approaches have changed dramatically.  A good example of this was the participation of a good number of these individuals in the Annual Conference this year.

But not everyone is convinced.  There are many who are indifferent to the institute and its journey.  Worse, there are others who stand on the sidelines throwing rocks, doing little to influence the body that represents the future of the HR community.  Yet this is their membership body, their community and change requires objective input from everyone.

So, here is my challenge to members.  If you are an indifferent member like I was – paying your annual dues but largely indifferent to the institute in general – I would encourage you to get involved.  The CIPD represents a massive network of people who can add a lot of value to each other – including you.

If you are one of those members who spends a lot of time actively complaining about and criticising the CIPD then perhaps it is decision time.  Standing on the side-lines, throwing rocks but not being prepared to get involved changes nothing.  Either cancel your membership and move on, or jump in and get involved.  Speaking from personal experience I can wholeheartedly recommend the latter.

Sure, as a member I can see that there is still a way to go on the journey, but I got involved and shared my views.  And the level of openness and genuine commitment to change has been inspiring.

If membership bodies didn’t exist and were being created today, they would be communities with a purpose.  Conversation, participation and input are central to the success of a community and ultimately a membership body needs involvement from those community members to secure its long term future. 


  1. Hi Gareth – I love a passionate blog! I think it’s a fair point that at some stage people who complain have to take ownership. The trouble is that the decision to put up or shut up is in their hands.

    Your post also struck a chord on a couple of other levels…

    Firstly, I think you probably know that I’m a volunteer with the EMCC, another professional body. What has always struck me is that their focus is not on serving coaches & mentors but in serving coaching & mentoring. The distinction is subtle but for me it is the difference between a membership body and a community with a purpose. Perhaps more importantly, this distinction creates an environment of common interests rather than divergent self-interests. The essence of this community attracts people who believe in this common purpose so every EMCC member you meet has a similar passion & commitment.

    The second thing your blog brings to mind is a talk that John Campbell from Primeast gave on the journey “From Mastery to Competence”. You can read a bit more on my blog here ( John’s talk and paper held a salutary warning in as much as if we create orthodoxy (membership & qualification) then we create “true-believers & heretics”. This either goes through a degenerative cycle and implodes or becomes a “new hegemony” where all other approaches are “mad or bad”!

    I’m not relating this to the CIPD experience but it’s a perspective that I think is useful for both professional bodies and their supporting communities to consider.


    1. Hi David. Thanks for the comment and some very valid points. I think the CIPD recognises the shift and certainly needs to get comfortable with leading it, rather than being led purely by membership. But it does need input from which to derive the confidence for want of a better word.

      Actually, it may have been you who said this but I found a comment from a blog at the beginning of the year – it think it was one of @mjcarty’s posts:

      “I think there is a strong argument for some professional bodies to transform themselves into “organisations with members” rather than “membership organisations”. The key difference being service to the profession and it’s beneficiaries rather than service primarily to its professional membership. The trouble is, many professional bodies mistakenly think they are serving the profession and it’s beneficiaries but actually all they are doing is serving their professional membership or factions therein.”

      I have shortened it but was this you? If so I think you summed it up brilliantly – its a very powerful statement that I have shared internally within the CIPD and one which all membership bodies should consider.


      1. Thanks Gareth – yes mea culpa! Just put the cheque in the post please… Seriously though it’s great if CIPD are taking this on board. The challenge is making it visible in how people experience the organisation. Perhaps part of the input being sought here needs to respond to this world view of serving the profession and it’s beneficiaries?


  2. From my experience folks are all too quick to criticise, and that’s fine. What’s better (at least I think it is) is trying to find out how to make something better. I’m pleased with how the CIPD has responded to me, and how I’ve responded to them. For the most part, you get out of stuff what you put into stuff. Pour scorn onto something and you shouldn’t expect better in return eh?

    Cheers – Doug


    1. You get out what you put in – exactly! Im glad you are pleased with the way your relationship is progressing, especially as your roots lie outside of the profession. Your input carries with it a much needed commercial edge. Thanks for commenting.


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