PM survey results in the spotlight as CIPD Ayrshire Geographical Branch debates HR’s future

When January’s issue of People Management landed on my doormat, I was taken aback by the shocking statistic that 48 per cent of workers surveyed by YouGov hadn’t spoken to an HR representative in the past 12 months.

Two thoughts raced through my head: what a terrible finding to kick off 2016 with, and what on earth can we do about it?

This clearly wasn’t a problem to tackle on my own, so I enlisted the support of the CIPD Ayrshire Geographical Branch to debate the report’s findings at a discussion event last month.

Inspired by the World Café methodology, we invited four speakers from local businesses and split into four groups to discuss the future of HR in the changing world of work. Here are our findings, but how would you address the challenges facing the profession today? I look forward to hearing your views in the comments section.

Q1. How can HR practitioners meet the CIPD’s aim of ‘championing better work and working lives’?

There was much discussion around what the CIPD aim actually means. Many HR practitioners felt the term ‘better work and working lives’ was mainly focused on achieving a healthy work-life balance, and implementing flexible working practices. All agreed that understanding business needs and predicting threats and opportunities was a key way to achieving the aim of supporting better work. Participants also found that building effective relationships within and outside the HR function, empowering managers and employees, and promoting employee wellbeing would help reach this goal.

Q2. How should the HR team be structured to support managers and staff effectively as the world of work evolves?

The group unanimously agreed that the structure of the HR team should be flexible and closely aligned to the business area. Members also felt that the HR team should reflect the size and sector of the organisation, and should be able to change quickly to respond to business developments: “A very tall order when change is the only constant,” one member commented.

Q3. What aspects of people management should the HR team focus on for maximum impact on organisational success?

This question generated much debate on what provides maximum impact when delivered. But participants defined five key elements, with ensuring compliance voted the most popular, followed closely by effective recruitment. Developing the workforce, securing partnerships with operational managers and developing T&Cs and policies that allow for flexibility to respond to business needs were also deemed to be important.

Q4. What is the future for HR? Where will HR ‘sit’ in the organisation in 10 years time?

The discussion around our last question was extremely interesting. While during the course of the event we had all agreed on the importance of knowing the business and developing strong relationships with operational managers, almost half of the participants felt that the future of the HR department was a more centralised or outsourced structure, such as the shared services model. But others highlighted a greater need for a matrix structure with multi-skilled practitioners working in business areas, similar to the Ulrich model.

Laura Rennie MCIPD is director of Arena HR, and chair of the CIPD Ayrshire Geographical Branch