CIPD’s vital role in promoting HR
Sunday Business Post – Recruitment Pages – Nov 4 2007
The Institute of Personnel and Development’s recent award to the Taoiseach has highlighted its important work, writes Dermot Corrigan
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The organisation celebrated with a gala dinner in University College Dublin’s O’Reilly Hall last month, where it presented Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with a gold medal to mark his contribution to personnel management in Ireland during the last 20 years.
The institute’s celebrations coincide with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of social partnership in Ireland. CIPD Ireland director Michael McDonnell said the coincidence led the CIPD to consider Ahern a worthy first recipient of the Charles E Jacob medal, which is named after the Irish co-founder of the institute.
“The signing of the Programme for National Recovery (PNR) between the government, employer bodies and the Irish congress of trades unions in 1987 heralded a new era in industrial relations in Ireland,” McDonnell said.
“Bertie Ahern, as Minister for Labour in the late 1980s, played a lead role in getting the PNR off the ground. In the 1990s, as minister for finance, he saw another two agreements through, and as Taoiseach he has overseen a further seven partnership agreements. Huge economic growth and transformation has taken place during this time.”
McDonnell said the award also recognised Ahern’s work in Northern Ireland and the European Union.
“The peace process helped the image of Ireland and the Taoiseach was very closely involved in that,” he said. “The role he played as president of the European Union in the accession of the ten new states was also very important for the international image of the country.”
The award ceremony took place on October 4.
McDonnell said CIPD Ireland decided to establish the Charles E Jacob medal to ensure the lasting memory of one of Ireland’s great industrial relations pioneers. Jacob was the owner of Jacob’s biscuits, which employed over 3,000 people in Dublin.
Together with English industrialist Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, Jacob established the CIPD’s forerunner – the Central Association of Welfare Workers (Industrial) – in York in 1913.
“They were very both Quakers and they were incredibly enlightened and advanced for that age,” said McDonnell. “They saw a very definite business link between the way you treated employees and the bottom line. If you bear in mind that 1913 saw the ‘lockout’ in Dublin with Jim Larkin, it would not have been a view shared by many industrialists of the day.”
The first Irish branch of what was to become the CIPD was set up in Dublin in 1937.
“The first meeting took place in the Jacobs biscuit factory on Aungier Street, which is now one the sites occupied by DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology). It now has several courses, including masters coursers leading to membership of the CIPD, so it has come the full circle.”
McDonnell said that, historically, the CIPD had set itself three broad objectives.
“One was to be the professional body for those specialising in advancing the management and development of people. The second was to be recognised as the leading authority and influence in the field of people managment and development and the third was to continuously advance the management of people to the benefit of employers and the community at large.”
The CIPD in Ireland today has a membership of over 6,000 human resources professionals, drawn from all areas of the country and sectors of the economy. CIPD Ireland is affiliated with the CIPD in Britain, which has 130,000 members.
McDonnell said the history of human resources and personnel management in Ireland has gone through three phases. Initially, labour relations primarily concerned paternal employers concerned for the welfare of their workers.
“It was the more benevolent employers, mainly Quakers like Jacob’s, Bewley’s and Wills, and also Guinness,” said McDonnell.
The 1950s and 1960s brought more rights and regulation for workers, but also lifted labour relations into a more adversarial phase, said McDonnell.
“Throughout the 1970s and 1980s a lot of HR workers would have been involved in strikes and industrial disputes,” he said.
The stark economic climate of the 1980s led all stakeholders in the personnel management area to realise the advantages to working together, McDonnell said.
“There was a recognition by the government, employers and trade unions that the adversarial industrial relations climate could not continue. Since then, we have seen twenty years of social partnership. One of the real benefits was it created a benign industrial relations climate that made the country attractive to foreign direct investment.”
McDonnell said the arrival in Ireland of multinationals, particularly US companies, resulted in the re-imagining of the relationship between employer and employee.
“The earlier period was a time of personnel managers dealing with trade unions as the spokespeople of the workers. The American multinational model saw the world in a different light. It said the relationship should be between the individual and the employer. That gave a great boost to a professional body like ours.”
“A lot of these companies invested heavily in human resource management techniques in terms of learning and development, communications, employee dispute resolution and other areas. You had very large and sophisticated human resource models emerging. Our growth to over 6,000 members can be accounted for by these developments.”
McDonnell said companies now realised that human resources management was vital to their business.
“There is a philosophy to how you manage people,” he said. “If you apply that properly the individual benefits – and also the organisation benefits – in terms of continued productivity, receptiveness and openness to change.”
McDonnell said the CIPD in Ireland has set out the parameters of the new human resources function.
“CIPD has played the lead role by defining the requirements of the profession,” he said. “It is rare nowadays to see a job ad for HR that does not mention membership of the CIPD.”
The 1990s saw an explosion in the number of human resource and personnel management courses offered by educational institutions in Ireland.
“We sit down with the colleges, and discuss the needs of professionals in the field. We then work very closely with them in the design of their programmes.”
The CIPD also invests substantial resources in research.
“CIPD now ranks as one of the top five European investors in quality research into human resource management.”
However, McDonnell said the CIPD did not get involved directly in social partnership negotiations.
“We are not a lobby group in the sense of representing a sectional interest. We are interested in promoting the effective management of people and demonstrating how that can be done. That applies equally to trade union thinking as it does to employer thinking. We talk to government frequently and make submissions on a wide range of areas. For example we will soon be releasing a green paper on pensions.”
McDonnell said networking and communication between CIPD members was a key function of the organisation.
“The opportunity to network with professional colleagues and peers is critically important, probably more important in HR than a lot of other areas. It is something the CIPD does a lot of.”
CIPD Ireland is divided into five regional groups, each running local events and courses to enable member development. There is also an annual CIPD Ireland conference. The theme of this year’s conference, held in May in Kilkenny, was the New World of Work.
“Joe MacAree from Microsoft spoke about the need to build productivity. It is an issue that HR needs to come up with some strategies for. An awful lot of the current workforce need to acquire higher added value skills if we are to remain competitive.”
The CIPD employs 260 staff in Britain. However, CIPD Ireland employs only three permanent staff at its new office at Clanwilliam Court, Dublin 2.
“The UK resources, systems and research are available to Irish members. We tap in to a lot of the resources that are available through the CIPD in the UK.”
CIPD Ireland also retains a number of professional advisors in key areas.
McDonnell said plans were in place to ramp up the CIPD’s operations in Ireland.
“We plan to develop in two areas,” he said. “One is to beef up our professional development area, and the offering of services to members. The second is adding very significantly to our public policy and research activities. That will require additional resources and will mean employing more staff.”
International links are vital to CIPD Ireland, said McDonnell, who is currently on the board of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations (WFPMA) and also works closely with the European Association of Personnel Managers (EAPM).