CIPD Members Poll August 2010

CIPD Members Poll

CIPD members were polled on an insightful question:

"Do you think it's damaging to HR professionals to describe the profession as caring?"

The CIPD website showed 1,625 responses from members. The results were;

36.86% Yes

58.22% No

  4.92% Don't know

On the basis of this sample, which is substantial enough to be statistically reliable, it seems that around 40% of HR professionals would distance themselves from being perceived as 'caring'. Whatever the reason, this is both surprising and worrying.

It suggests a failure to recognise the proven link between caring about people, giving them a sense of personal value and appreciation, and employee engagement. Could it be that this misconception' is contributing to why so many engagement 'strategies' are failing?

The dichotomy for HR is that, on the one hand, the 2011 HR Directors Key Challenges Survey clearly identified employee engagement as the No. 1 challenge. That was reinforced by the CBI employers' survey in May, which showed that 7 out of 10 employers see engagement as a barrier to recovery.

On the other hand, if 'caring' is not to be seen as a legitimate agenda item for HR, then policy and practice is unlikely to engage the hearts and minds of its people. What is behind the seemingly perverse view held by nearly 40% of the profession?

It may be that some respondents, in the middle of difficult restructuring and/or downsizing processes, are reducing their own cognitive dissonance by disclaiming a caring persona. It may reflect a view that it is somehow 'paternalistic' to be seen as caring. Alternatively, it may imply the belief that HR needs to be seen as 'harder', more 'business aligned' and that this is incompatible with any perception of 'caring' which is taken to mean 'soft and woolly'.

Whatever the reason, a positive response to the question is surely to misunderstand what it means to be caring. Caring is not tree-hugging, neither is it taking responsibility for others. It is an attitude of mind that is needed even when difficult decisions have to be made, caring enough to take those decisions rather than defer them and see things get very much worse.

Conceptually, we want people to care don't we? Care about the organisation? Take care of its assets? Care about the customer? Of course we do. You can hardly pick up a business book published over the last few years that does not have the word 'caring' in it. It seems therefore absurd for anyone in an HR role - representing an organisation's human dimension - to disclaim it for their own profession under some illusion that it is 'too soft'. The soft stuff is the hard stuff...

We recommend everyone in an HR role - especially those with a negative perception of the need for a caring perspective - to read the white paper, The Rules of Engagement. That clearly evidences why caring is actually the key to engagement.