If you should ever have cause to visit the CIPD’s office in Wimbledon don’t be fooled by the modern façade: inside is a perfect replica of how dismal life must have been in the first half of the 19th Century. They may talk about their ‘Next Generation HR’ but their methods and level of professionalism are exactly where the medical profession was back in 1858: -
“The ‘professionalization’ of medicine in the nineteenth century has long been a subject of interest for medical historians. They have shown how this period saw the creation of new institutions and formal mechanisms for regulating medical practice, and for distinguishing the ‘qualified’ practitioner from the ‘quack’. In Britain, a key development was the Medical Act of 1858 which established the General Medical Council and the Medical Register, a public list of all recognised medical practitioners.” (University of Manchester, ‘Making of the Medical Profession’)
The lack of a General HR Council, one that would actually enable HR practitioners to stand as tall as the medical profession, has been my biggest bugbear since joining the world of HR in 1978. So, when I was invited by Xpert HR to write a guest blog (February 2011) I chose to aim my ire at the CIPD’s dismal performance as the upholder of professional standards. Realising this might depress many readers I decided to sweeten the pill with liberal dollops of humour. Unfortunately I overdid it as some of those commenting on the piece thought I was joking so, for the record, I wasn’t!
Fast forward a year and the CIPD still shows no sign of taking itself or its 19th Century members seriously. Its new petticoat, laughably referred to as a code of conduct, will not hide its shame or spare its blushes with no General HR Council in sight, no definition of what ‘professional’ means and no attempt to move the profession onto an evidence-base.
Meanwhile, proper questions about what it might mean to be a professional manager are being posed by the most prominent protagonist in the evidence-based management movement – Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer – who concludes in his HBR column (September 2011) entitled “Management a profession? Where’s the proof?” –
“Before management can be considered a profession, its practitioners will have to see themselves as part of a larger purpose. But it took more than higher aims to move medicine beyond quackery. It took science and its application to practice. In a world afflicted by complex problems we should have more assurance that managers will also draw on knowledge greater than their own.”
When set against Pfeffer’s tough, evidence-based criteria, having the letters FCIPD after your name confers about as much professional credibility as the 19th Century doctor in the picture above. In case you might be wondering what he is up to it comes with the helpful caption -
“Classic illustration of a woman’s medical exam by her doctor. Many 19th century medical textbooks used this illustration to show the proper manner to examine a female patient. The physician’s eyes are diverted so he will not violate the woman’s “modesty.”