Let’s forget the HR rule book, CIPD leader tells GCC professionals

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 18 Nov 2015

Peter Cheese uses HR Summit and Expo address to suggest a strategic business focus is more important than regulations

HR is traditionally seen as a function that “loves to say no” – but it must ditch that reputation and focus more on driving business strategy, CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese told an audience of HR professionals in Dubai.
During a keynote address at the HR Summit and Expo, Cheese said: “HR as part of our legacy has been very good at writing rules. We’ve got to move away from that mindset. Real innovation in HR isn’t about getting slicker technology. It’s about going back to the fundamentals of business and challenging ourselves to do things differently if they’re not working. In the GCC, you have that opportunity – in Europe and the US, there is a long legacy of management doing things a certain way. You don’t have that legacy.”
There was a rich opportunity, said Cheese, for HR leaders to devise genuinely profound people strategies. Where businesses are located and what skills mix they need for the future are fundamental people issues that get to the heart of business.
Yet too often, the idea of an HR strategy is restricted to the technical aspects of the function itself: “You need to understand the contexts, and the skills and capabilities you’ll need in the future. Is HR engaged enough with the design of organisations and of jobs? With all the obsession with talent, maybe we’ve missed out on that. HR has a fundamental role to play in designing the right jobs for the future. I’ve yet to meet a business leader who doesn’t want to talk about that. We should have that conversation and bring our professional knowledge to the table.”
In a wide-ranging keynote – on a day that also saw sessions from business author Ram Charan and Penguin Random House HR director Neil Morrison – Cheese discussed the vital strategic value of L&D (“In a world that’s changing this fast, you have to upskill and reskill employees”) and the danger of best practice (“We’re not all Google. Google is Google. We all have individual contexts and challenges and it’s important we consider them”).
He also challenged the audience on diversity, noting that the mix of national and expat employees in GCC businesses was still far from ideal and that age deference was still an issue. Many business disasters globally would have been avoided, he added, if more women were in senior leadership positions: “Here, and in lots of parts of the world, there’s a lot of debate about gender diversity. In the UK, this is a problem we still haven’t solved… if everyone comes from the same background and has the same experiences, they all tend to think the same way.”
People, Cheese concluded, are the biggest risk takers and the biggest creators of value in organisations: “There are only two things that matter in business – money and people. We haven’t always done the best job of managing money, but at least we understand it. Do we really understand people?
“If you look at the value of enterprises today, 70-80 per cent is so-called intangibles. The accountants haven’t worked out how to measure it. And the biggest part of that is people. The profit and loss statements and balance sheets are only reporting the minority of an enterprise’s value – and they are all backward-looking. We need to understand more about true value.”