CIPD hosts event in House of Commons to emphasise role HR has to play in supporting SMEs

Last week the CIPD hosted an event in the House of Commons in which we showcased the findings of our ‘People Skills’ report into raising people management capability in SMEs

Guest speakers at the event

On Wednesday 11 October, the CIPD and J.P. Morgan hosted an event in the House of Commons to showcase last month’s publication of the CIPD’s report People Skills: Building ambition and HR capability in small UK firms. The report calls on the Government to invest £13 million a year to provide HR support to small businesses.

Hosted by CIPD’s Chief Executive Peter Cheese, the breakfast event saw four expert speakers address a room of sixty delegates to discuss the need to provide people management support to SMEs in order to help them grow. Delegates on the day included representatives from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, London Chambers of Commerce, Oxford University, HM Treasury, Glasgow City Council, the Mayor of London’s office and HR professionals.

The People Skills programme was developed by the CIPD with support from J.P. Morgan through the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. It provided up to two days’ worth of free HR support to small firms, including face-to-face advice, a telephone helpline, online information and templates, as well as group training events. The pilot schemes were trialled in Stoke-on-Trent, Glasgow, and Hackney, and the service helped more than 400 small businesses employing between 5 and 50 employees in the three areas. Indeed, the scheme was regarded as so successful in Glasgow that the city council continued to fund the programme once the research grant ran out.

The evaluation conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), as Professor Carol Atkinson explained, found that while much of the support provided by the People Skills initiative was fairly basic, such as establishing workers’ terms and conditions or job descriptions, there was evidence that this provided a foundation for boosting workplace productivity.

Jo Swinson MP, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and former Small Business Minister, emphasised the role that effective HR training and support for SMEs can have a tangible effect on productivity and the wider UK economy, and expressed her support for the HR profession as essential to tackling these problems. Indeed, the findings from MMU showed that owner managers were more likely to report their organisation was better or much better than similar firms in their sector on measures of workplace relations, labour productivity, and financial performance after using the People Skills service than they were prior to using it.

Further contributions on the day came from David Frost, Chair of the Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, who outlined the benefit of support being delivered to businesses through existing local networks. He was followed by Hang Ho, EMEA Head of Europe, Middle East & Africa for the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, who outlined the wider work the foundation does in helping SMEs develop their capability and achieve growth. This was followed by a brief Q&A session with attendees before Peter brought the event to a close.

The People Skills project, and findings from the report, formed the CIPD’s submission to HM Treasury for the forthcoming Budget on 22 November and ongoing engagement with government.