Case studies

Developing HR capability: CIPD and Wm Morrisons Supermarkets plc drive HR capability forward

"It’s a great opportunity for people genuinely experienced in HR to get that professional recognition. I am banging the drum for Experience Assessment very hard indeed."

Morrisons is the fourth largest supermarket in the UK, with 120,000 employees. In recent years, Morrisons has transformed itself from being a retailer predominantly based in the north of the UK into a FTSE 30 business. In order to maintain and build on these successes, the business felt it needed to invest in developing its strategic HR capability.

As part of her role as Head of HR Retail Development, Mickey Greenhalgh had responsibility for developing Morrisons' ‘Building HR capability’ project. This initially involved working with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to provide training for around 500 HR managers across 473 Morrisons stores.

However, Morrisons felt this wasn’t enough and wanted to do more, and so its attention then turned to the CIPD’s Experience Assessment. The business decided it needed to put together a capability framework to map itself against professional HR standards. It based its assessment on the CIPD’s HR Profession Map, which sets the global standards for excellence in HR. Greenhalgh was struck by what she found: ‘We immediately saw a clear synergy between the core values of Morrisons and those laid out in the Profession Map’. The early analysis, she says, suggested that there were two behaviours in particular – curiosity and decisive thinking – where her colleagues required development.

Experience Assessment involves an in-depth and rigorous assessment of HR expertise at work and provides a direct route to CIPD professional membership. It caters specifically for experienced HR professionals who do not hold a relevant CIPD qualification and who may have come into HR through other business disciplines. This was one of the most appealing features for Greenhalgh: ‘What I liked about Experience Assessment was that it seemed to have a clear link to “real life” business. We say here that 90% of the strategy is in the execution – the key for us was the practicality of the approach’.

Experience Assessment opens the door to many more people who value CIPD professional membership yet previously, would simply not have had time to pursue it. This was a really important consideration for Greenhalgh and her colleagues: ‘It is so important for us to have professional standards that we all work towards while being able to keep the day job going. The Profession Map, the behaviour criteria and competency framework make Experience Assessment a great fit with our business’.

Morrisons put through 40 of its employees through Experience Assessment in two batches and is planning to do more. Thus far, one employee has qualified as a Chartered Fellow, 36 as Chartered Members and three as Associate members of the CIPD. Participants are able to work at their own pace around their busy schedule. Greenhalgh’s own personal experience is that this flexibility is vital: she had tried previously to become accredited through CIPD prior to Experience Assessment but because of her workload, had to delay the completion of her studies. She says: ‘I became part-qualified, with a view to going back to it “at some stage”. Experience Assessment gave me a new chance to balance professional development and work’.

Those who went through the process, however, unanimously found it rigorous. Greenhalgh points out that ‘to maintain the credibility of professional membership it has to be that way. It has to be a stretch – and it was – but it was also a massive development opportunity: a chance to give people a sense of what they needed to be working on; and for us to understand what support we need to give them’.

Has Experience Assessment made a difference to the Morrisons’ business? Greenhalgh says that a big change has come over those who have taken part: ‘Confidence levels are much higher in the team. We’ve really noticed a change in the whole way they analyse business issues and the curiosity levels from what they can learn from other things. The thinking has shifted from a fixed to a growth mindset’.

Finally, what advice would Greenhalgh give other organisations thinking about Experience Assessment: ‘It’s a great opportunity for people genuinely experienced in HR to get the professional recognition they deserve. If anyone asked me, I would bang the drum for Experience Assessment very hard indeed’.

’What I liked about Experience Assessment was that it seemed to have a clear link to “real life” business. We say here that 90% of the strategy is in the execution – the key for us was the practicality of the approach.’