Pride in the profession: new CIPD survey finds people professionals happy and energised in meaningful careers

The majority of people professionals say their work makes them happy, energised and offers them a meaningful career.

That’s according to the CIPD’s The people profession in 2018: UK and Ireland report, published today. Working in collaboration with other professional bodies, the CIPD surveyed almost 1,000 HR, L&D and OD professionals across the UK and Ireland to assess the current state of the profession. 

Overall, people professionals said they enjoy their job with more than two-thirds of respondents saying their work makes them happy (70%) and energised (67%). The report also finds that most of those working in the sector are confident exercising their judgement, with six in ten (64%) agreeing their job gives them the opportunity to fully express themselves as a professional.

But more than just providing stimulating work, the survey shows the profession enables individuals to contribute to the ‘greater good’ and gives them a sense of purpose. Over three-quarters said the profession offers them a meaningful career (78%), while nearly two-thirds (64%) said the work they do is connected to what they think is important in life. A further 60% said they see a connection between their work and the larger social good of their community. 

Encouragingly, the research shows people professionals aren’t afraid to question current ways of working in their organisation, further highlighting the value they add. Over two-fifths (44%) said they had regularly challenged the purpose of tasks they were asked to carry out in the last year, and proposed alternatives. Practitioners are also basing their decisions on a range of factors, with the top three being personal experience (76%), organisational data (55%) and intuition (49%).

However, the research highlights there’s still room for development so practitioners are fully confident in demonstrating professional courage at work and challenging unethical practice. Nearly three in ten (28%) feel there’s a conflict between their professional judgement and what their organisation expects of them, and the same proportion feel that it’s often necessary to compromise ethical values to succeed in their organisation. A third of respondents (31%) also said that managers in their organisation often engage in behaviours they consider to be unethical.

The report also reveals how HR sees itself as a function within organisations, showing more needs to be done to raise the understanding and profile of the profession in helping businesses to thrive. Just over half of respondents agreed that the people team in their organisation is taken seriously (57%), respected (54%) and given the opportunity to add value (58%). 

The importance of having the right skills, and being able to use them effectively, is another finding to come out of the report. Many practitioners feel their current skillset doesn’t necessarily match the demands of their role with nearly two in five (38%) saying they have the skills to cope with more challenging duties. Yet on the other hand, 16% said they lack the skills required for their current role, rising to 22% among practitioners with less than six years of experience.

Louisa Baczor, Research Adviser at the CIPD, comments: “A career in the people profession is about working with people, bringing them into the right jobs and helping them reach their potential at work. But it’s also about applying expertise in people, work and change to ensure that work is a force for good for everyone. It’s great to see so many people professionals experiencing meaning in their work and feeling confident to stand up for what they believe in.

“The future of the profession is exciting and will require capabilities in managing new organisational models, the supply of skills, the shaping of jobs and improving people management and organisational cultures. But the skills mismatches and ethical conflicts highlighted by the survey show that there’s no room for complacency. Continuing professional development is key to keeping our own skills current, so we can innovate and adapt as professionals, and champion better work and working lives in all that we do.”

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at the CIPD, comments: “The role of HR is becoming increasingly vital as the world of work evolves and organisations and people need to adapt. People professionals have the opportunity to shape these developments by bringing their unique insight, skills and practice to create a future of work where organisations, their people, and the communities they’re part of can all thrive.

“Having confidence in our own professional judgement is crucial to making better decisions in the workplace. Even though it might challenge some of the norms or expectations, having the self-assurance with knowledge, insights and evidence, to make good and fair judgements is key to helping our profession build trust and credibility, and help us stay at the fore of business development and change.”

The CIPD recognises the challenges that people professionals face, but also the opportunity they have to play a key role in championing better work and working lives. The professional body’s ambition is to build a profession for the future that can actively drive positive change in the world of work and have a greater impact on all working lives. A significant step on that journey will be the launch of the new Profession Map this November. The Map is designed to support people professionals globally to make sound decisions and embrace change in the modern world of work, providing guidance for evidence and values-based decision-making, preparing people professionals to face change and new opportunities, and steering their judgement even where no obvious solutions, rules or precedents exist. 

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