Navigating the new learning map

9th Feb 2010

 The CIPD has changed its courses in order to better support modern HR. Trainer Derek Robertson explains what it means for HR.

Over the past decade we've seen a huge amount of changes in the role HR has taken in the business, from an admin and payroll centre in many cases to a decision making, bottom line improving, board influencing department with a bright future. However, training, including that offered by the official body, CIPD, hasn't always moved with the times.  

In response, the CIPD started re-mapping the knowledge required for the modern human resource professional in 2009 and at their annual conference last year announced new qualifications for 2010. Its official recognition of the new roles HR often takes on in business and how HR has grown up in the world of business.

Derek Robertson works with DPG, one of the largest providers of CIPD-standard training. He welcomes the new format of training, which will see the CIPD Certificate in Personnel Practice with the CIPD Certificate in Human Resource Practice. This is more than just a change in title however; it is a whole restructure of the course which sees more practical and change-based modules coming into effect. There are also new areas covered such as understanding the business itself. The qualifications are also designed to be more flexible and accessible - although that won't mean they're easier, just more flexible, to fit around a busy professional life, which is when many people need to study for their CIPD qualifications.

HR has had to deal with more change than ever thought possible, and this is one of the reasons to offer more practical training. The training DPG offers mimics the real workplace, giving something like the best of both worlds, helping students in a practical sense for when they enter the real world of business, but also teaching them the theory and background they need to be strategic in business - set to be an increasingly valuable part of HR post-recession.

There has been some discussion as the whether there is a need for 'official' HR qualifications, with a mix of HR practitioners finding experience as valuable, if not more so, than certificates. Robertson agrees that there is much value in experience, and says: "Wasn't it Benjamin Franklin who said: 'An ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory'?" However, CIPD qualifications and membership is an oft-requested part of a job description today and there may be moves in certain areas to make CIPD membership mandatory for some sectors in future. What it also offers, explains Robertson, is reassurance. If there is that qualification, you know that the person you take on has studied and is also committed to personal development.

Personal development cannot be underestimated as a lifelong opportunity, says Robertson. "Unless you keep your finger on the pulse you'll stand still and that will impact on your performance," he warns.

Despite strong indications of a gradual upturn, there are still issues with budgets being tight or non-existent when it comes to training. If you're faced with that as a HR professional, Robertson says: "Look at ways of making it happen rather than seeing barriers." There are various grants available like Train to Gain, but if those are not open to you there is a strong business case for learning.

Robertson adds: "You need to think: what will happen if we don't develop at this stage, what will it mean for our organisation?" When business is looking to recover it seems obvious to upskill the workforce for straightforward business as well as engagement reasons - engaged workforces don't look around for other opportunities and tend to remain with the organisation for longer. Retention is aided by engagement and learning and development, investment in your people is a key to engagement. It sounds simple, but is also a real chance to re-engage employees while upskilling your workforce - it could prove a win-win situation in your organisation.

With news from, which measures the online recruitment industry, claiming 50% of all employees are actively jobseeking, can you afford not to invest in your employees?

Derek's five tips for modern training

  1. Keep it practical - real-life experiences make it more valuable
  2. Value personal development and support your employees
  3. Make the business case for training
  4. Maximise training's potential by upskilling now
  5. Remember a qualification is for life - you won't regret taking one

Visit DPG to see the new qualifications and find out how they can guide you through the new map of HR skills.

Replies (3)

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By AJ Meller
09th Feb 2010 12:11

Derek mentions the debate around the need for 'official' HR qualifications and quotes Benjamin Franklin's view on experience and theory. I'm sure this is an acceptable outlook for our hobbies and pastimes, although even there, we often want to follow experience with theory. It's not acceptable for a 21st Century profession with a growing body of knowledge around how people perform.

When I first started in HR I came across a number of people in the role simply because they were "good with people". Things have moved on significantly since then. I wouldn't hire an accountant simply because she's good with numbers, or an electrician simply because he's got years of wiring experience. We need to be proud of the theoretical knowledge on which we base our skills, and CIPD is absolutely right in upgrading this. 

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By Charlie Duff
09th Feb 2010 15:32

Thanks for your comment (and your regular comments and insight on other subjects too, it's much appreciated).

We have seen the experience v qualifications arguement on HRzone in the past which is why I thought it was an ideal time to ask someone like Derek about this.

I think everyone really values experience and I would agree that even those who started out in HR 'because they like people' need to consider their own development as well as that of their employees - wouldn't it be dreadful if HR because like the NHS, very good at looking after others but neglecting our own health? (Or has HR already become like that?)

There's clearly value in training and the new qualifications from CIPD, which Derek will be taking his clients through, will beneft from a closer industry experience and encouragement towards a more strategic and more agile way of thinking which is essential to HR today.


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By Dekky
10th Feb 2010 18:42

Thanks AJ for your comments; a timley reminder for me.  And of course you are right.  The "ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory" was a natty sound bite to get over the esesence of practitioner-level qualifications that I am deeply involved with just now.

I love theory and it has its place alongside our experience.  Working all over I see the HR reputation fallout from too much theory being spoken to busy MDs and equally the disasters when frenetic operational delivery occurs in a strategic vacuum.

CIPD, I know from living with the standards, have it right.  There is a mix of relevant content areas, theory, experience and assessments.  I'm looking forward to facilitating the future participants on CIPD qualifications because its been such fun being involved at the start of a new set of standards.

As a final thought on my first ever HR Zone post, here is a model that will not make it onto our programme content.

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