With a mixed picture of economic growth and continued change and uncertainty, organisations everywhere are being challenged to innovate and adapt. Skills shortfalls, people risk, corporate behaviours and culture are all causes of increasing concern, so the need for professional HR and L&D capabilities have never been in greater demand. But we’ll need to look beyond traditional thinking and standardised practice, and start defining ‘professional’ in new terms. That’s what Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, will tell a crowd of more than 1,000 HR and L&D practitioners at the professional body’s Annual Conference and Exhibition this morning.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Future Focused HR’ and the CIPD’s ambitions for the future of the HR and L&D profession will be firmly in the spotlight. Cheese will highlight the huge opportunity for CIPD members to help organisations respond to the changing world of work in ways that create value for businesses, individuals, economies and society. He’ll encourage delegates to shift from searching for best practice or standard approaches, to innovate and to challenge existing orthodoxies driven by a real understanding of context, purpose and outcomes. Business has to become more people centric in every sense, and to make a shift from accounting to more accountability. HR has to be at the forefront, acting with confidence and credibility founded on a strong base of professional knowledge and competence.

“We know that there’s no one size fits all model for great HR, and we need to adapt our HR practices to the context and needs of our workforces and organisations” says Cheese. “But what guides our actions and decisions? Any business is about judgments and priorities that drive decisions and actions, but these need to be framed through principles and values that drive good, ethical and sustainable business more clearly. These principles should provide the framework for HR to support the judgments and often the compromises that we are so often called on to make. Furthermore, we need to challenge ourselves in examining our processes, policies, and practices as the world of work evolves. We must look at the purpose and outcomes of what we do more critically, and understand what fundamental principles and base of knowledge make those practices effective. Ultimately, we need a new definition of what it means to be an HR professional, with a greater focus on clarity of professional capability and purpose, and a strengthened ability to provide trusted and credible advice to businesses, whatever the circumstances.”

The CIPD’s commitment to helping the HR and L&D professionals of the future realise their true potential is encapsulated in its Profession for the Future strategy. It has already conducted extensive research with HR practitioners, business leaders, academics, thought leaders, regulators and line managers to shape its thinking, and is starting a debate about the core principles that should guide the profession going forward as well as what guides good business.

“The first step in our Profession for the Future strategy is to establish a shared understanding of HR’s purpose, who our stakeholders really are, and where our priorities lie – in other words, a set of core principles to guide our decision making. We want the principles to be broad, ambitious and applicable in any context and we’re turning to HR practitioners, academics, thought leaders, policy makers, business leaders and line managers to help us define them. The next phase will be about ensuring we equip the HR professionals of the future with the knowledge, skills and expertise to apply those principles in practice, so that we can secure HR’s role as a trusted and credible profession that helps to create sustainable value for all of a business’ stakeholders.”

These themes will resonate throughout the CIPD’s two-day conference in Manchester, which will comprise seminars, master classes and workshops geared around five key topic streams:

  • Insights into Changing Context – understanding business change, and the external factors that are forcing the need for greater agility and innovation.
  • HR Essentials and Learning Processes – exploring the latest issues which help maximise the capabilities and value of the HR function.
  • Business, Commercial Insight and Analytics – progressing the agenda for people metrics and analytics to better understand business value and outcomes.
  • Science of Human and Organisational Behaviour – getting back to our roots and applying research from psychology, behavioural sciences and neuroscience to rethink people management and development processes.
  • Innovation, Digital and Technology – what’s happening in the continued push towards use of technology and digital in driving more efficient and effective HR and learning practices.

Running alongside the conference is the CIPD exhibition, where more than 200 HR and L&D suppliers will be showcasing their latest innovations and solutions. The exhibition features a free programme of bite-sized learning sessions and insights from suppliers, echoing key themes on the conference agenda. CIPD experts and conference speakers will also be continuing discussion and debate on future challenges and opportunities in a new Future HR Arena on the exhibition floor.

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.