Peter Cheese uses first address to Annual Conference to set out ambitious new “broader purpose for HR” as he hails “most interesting time to be in HR”

An ambitious articulation of a new, ‘broader purpose for HR’ forms the centre piece of Peter Cheese’s first address to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Annual Conference, since taking on the role as Chief Executive earlier this year.

Marking the end of his first 100 days in the role, his speech to the conference sets out the framework for the strategic direction he is shaping for the Institute and the profession. The approach is rooted in a rearticulation of the CIPD’s core purpose as an organisation:

‘The CIPD’s purpose is to champion better work and working lives, through improving people management and development practices to build greater value for organisations, for the benefit of economies and society’.

Peter Cheese, CEO at CIPD, said: “There has never been a more interesting time to be in HR. Changes in the nature of work, the diversity of the workforce, and even changes in the workplace, all within the context of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment, create a greater need than ever for our profession to step up.

“There are now so many critical business, economic and social issues that are genuinely strategic and that we, as a profession, have to engage with and have the confidence to talk to.

“Issues such as rebuilding purpose and aligning to values that create the right sort of organisational culture – not only to engage with employees, but to engage with the communities and societies we work in and impact more positively. Rebuilding trust in leadership is a vital part of this process, and has been significantly damaged through one crisis after another. Our Employee Outlook survey, released today, shows 40% do not believe corporate values are worth the paper they are written on and only just over 50% believe the stated values have any positive influence on behaviour.

“But to be effective as a profession, we also have to look beyond the boundaries of our organisations at the bigger workforce issues we face. Work is changing, as is the workplace. Our workforce is more diverse than it has ever been, and we need to get better at maximising the benefits for our organisation, while also meeting the challenges. How do we attract, retain and engage younger workers, but also retain the valuable contribution of older workers as they transition out of work? These are systemic changes, and we have to think more strategically about how we respond as we build the workforce of tomorrow – what skills and capabilities will we need and how do we best develop them?

“HR occupies a powerful space at the intersection of the business and the people dynamics on which future success relies. On everything from productivity to technology and social media, it is HR that has the opportunity and the capability to create more agile businesses, capable of continuous innovation and always geared to the needs of customers and the societies in which we operate.

Peter Cheese also used his speech to set out the key strategic priorities for the CIPD as a membership body serving the HR profession, adding: “We must remain relevant – building up our focused research and thought leadership on behalf of the profession. We need to extend our outreach and collaboration, getting better at partnering to maximise the depth and impact of our insight. We’ll continue Jackie Orme’s vision of better top level connections to HR, but also to business leaders and policy makers.

“But there are areas where I also know we need to do more. We need to be more inclusive – supporting SMEs, engaging with consultants who are a critical driver of change, ensuring we support the L&D community, for example. I also want to build a stronger regional structure to better support the branches to support their local HR membership. All alongside a firm commitment to strengthening our core business of HR practices, qualifications and accreditation, learning and CPD, and membership – helping to more clearly support different groups and communities, building HR careers, and aligning membership offers.

“Finally, I’m announcing our intention to turn 2013 into a year of celebration of the CIPD’s Centenary year. We’ll be drawing on our 100 years of history and our renewed purpose to generate a high profile celebration of the contribution of HR to the world of work. But then turning our eyes to the future, we’ll be using our celebration of the last 100 years to set a clear sense of a broader purpose, confidence and ambition for what HR can deliver in the next 100 years.”