Do people outside HR know what we mean by the 'People Profession'?


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CIPD Staff

17 Jun, 2020 18:24

My wife, a teacher, has quizzed me on the phrase 'the people profession'. It's a term we use a lot at the CIPD, to include HR, L&D and OD professionals. Her comment was that as a teacher, she's a people professional too - and I see her point. Indeed, any one of a number of professions could be described as 'people professions'. Is it a term you use, as an HR, L&D or OD professional? And is it a term that your colleagues outside of HR tend to understand & recognise? 

  • To be honest it’s not a term I have ever used. I can see it’s merit as shorthand for related groups but does risk the issues your wife raises.
  • Nope a spade is a spade in both my roles - HR.
  • Most people I deal with outside HR don't understand what we're for to start with. There is a running issue of people in the industry trying to get away from talking about humans as "resources" and flailing around for some alternative expression and I think this is one of them and I think it works about as well as "talent" (which sounds like you're a theatrical agent).
  • In reply to Robey:

    But....as our job is not to manage colleagues directly (apart from like many other managers) but to create the architecture and the environment where the organisation can manage its human resources then for me that term works quite well - no trying to get away with anything - its what we do and I am perfectly happy with it personally. The challenge with people professionals is as originally highlighted so many other people could be deemed to be in that category
  • I remember one of the lecturers at Teesside telling one of the students that if you want a job where you mix with lots of people then don't choose HR

    There are far more jobs which involve working with people than 'HR'

    My HR experience included being the only HR person, to working with 4 or 5 others. But we often spent a lot of time doing stuff on our own.

    My roles sometimes meant I spent long hours going over regulations and translating legislation into practical instructions. At other times I'd be running training sessions for all staff, including managers.

    Shop floor workers in many factories for example are within chatting distance of their mates, and when I was a scaffolder you always worked with two others or more and often with other teams. And of course supeervisors, line-managers and so on have to work their teams all the time.

    But probably even more relevant is, or was, the content of the (CIPD) curriculum I was taught. (DPM). Anything touching on psychology, or human relations was a tiny part of of the course. It certainly did not impart any degree of expertise in 'people.'

    Anyone who thinks being in HR makes them an authority on people or human relations is probably deluded and very mistaken.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    19 Jun, 2020 18:11

    Good question, Jonny ;)
  • I just realised I didn't answer the question directly - so -to answer the question directly, then the answer is "NO".

    And the reason is quite simple. When I asked my wife who was for many years a sought after management trainer./consultant and later on a Relate trainer, she couldn't think of any profession which could be considered "a people profession,"  she couldn't come up with anything until with some prompting she came up with, psychotherapist, counsellor, trainer, social worker, teacher (if you are good). When I suggested "Personnel?", she replied;- "What? - HR? Its all about policies, procedures, & employment law....... and most HR people only line manage a handful  of staff."

    Where and how did this profession start referring to itself as 'the people profession'.

    What evidence is there that we are experts in people above any other profession?

  • Jonny

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    CIPD Staff

    24 Jun, 2020 09:34

    Thanks all for your comments. There is a more favourable view on using the term – my colleague Rebecca wrote a blog on this recently – but your views give food for thought. Perhaps something we should continue to reflect on.

  • In reply to Jonny:

    Jonny I dont think anyone was being negative, just saying it wasnt used at all. Seems odd if CIPD are starting to push this when so much other things are on agenda.
  • I don't think non-HR people understand what HR really involves (and even less so OD) and I am pretty sure they don't understand what we mean by the term "people profession". Some HR departments are renaming themselves as the "people" department, but I'm still not sure it actually registers with staff what that means.

    The blog that @Johnny highlights from Rebecca is interesting. There's another word in there that I think actually better reflects what we do.. "workforce" - as a collective, we do everything we can to develop, improve and support that workforce - we're not necessarily supporting all people, but only those who work for us or potentially want to work for us. Maybe the next iteration will see us reframing ourselves as "Workforce Development Professionals"? Or maybe not. What is in a name?
  • Jonny

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    CIPD Staff

    24 Jun, 2020 10:03

    In reply to Keith:

    For sure, it's not our most pressing issue. I didn't think you were being negative!
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    24 Jun, 2020 10:04

    In reply to Jonny:

    I'd missed Rebecca's blog post. Thanks,