The Professionalisation of HRM – Conference Reflections

Coventry University London Campus Human Resource Management team recently attended the Middlesex University conference – The Professionalisation of HRM. The purpose of the conference was to share a first look at the findings from a two year research project which explored the perceived status of the role of HRM in the UK and Hong Kong. The conference was well attended with a mix of academics and practitioners many of whom had taken part in the research.

From this conference, I took away three important themes. The first theme looks at how we might go about defining what professionalisation means for HRM professionals and their stakeholders. It was suggested by Peter Cheese (CIPD Chief Executive) that professionalisation was in part defined by membership to a professional body that reflects both the achievement and application of knowledge. Membership to a professional body also reflects the importance of investing in Continuing Professional Development as a requirement of being a ‘professional’. A further feature of membership is also a symbol of being signed up to a code of conduct that links practice with ethics.

The second theme centres around the impact when professionalization is missing. From the research project, it was suggested that professionalism was demonstrated confidently as behaviours represented in the CIPD Profession Map such as ‘Courage to Challenge’. Confidence however was suggested to be missing in the knowledge of how to act in the tasks of the role such as designing and implementing performance management systems. Roger Kline suggested that the extremes of missing professionalism have been seen in the recent NHS scandals where ‘HR’ was not included in strategic and operational decisions leading to toxic organisational cultures and poor performance standards.

The third theme focuses on the skill sets missing from HRM professionals to be better able to act as strategic business partners. Findings from the research suggest that core business skills are missing from the skill set of HRM professionals. The ability to gather, analyse and use financial data was cited as one example of a skill set missing that negatively affects a HRM Professional’s ability to talk the language of business and influence strategically. For our MBA International HRM students at Coventry University London Campus, this is good news to help them stand out – this is one of the few HRM Masters programmes in London that levels the playing field of finance knowledge across all MBA students (M004 Finance, Funding & Legislative Frameworks).

So what does this first look at the research really tell us about a more global view of Professionalisation of HRM? Well there is some good news that we know that the HR Profession Map gives a broad picture of how we act in business. New skill sets and an awareness of the impact of ‘unprofessionalism’ are being raised. The research however focuses only on responses from members of the CIPD and its equivalent in Hong Kong. The research does not tell us about the thousands of HRM practitioners who are not members of a professional body and yet perform this key role in organisations. We equally don’t yet know how careers paths are developed and how successfully knowledge gaps are closed by experience or by formal education. Perhaps further routes for research?


John Watkins

Head of subject