According to the CIPD, employee relations is the most prized specialist skill in HR in 2022 (The UK people profession in numbers | CIPD). It’s great to see this acknowledged by our professional body. Now it would be good to see an investment in developing employee relations and industrial relations skills.
Our community of ER professionals, made up of two networks, is now into its second year. Many of these organisations face difficulties in recruiting to ER and IR roles. They find that ER is not a specialist area as popular as talent or OD, for example, and are facing a shortage of people who have skills and expertise in working with unions and employee representatives to bring about effective change in organisations.
It would be great to now see a UK-wide investment in ER skills. Our ER and Engagement programme, supported by our network organisations, is trying to do this. Our second cohort starts in January 2023 with 8 organisations putting forward delegates, doubling in size from this year. It’s a brilliant programme, even if I do say so myself, but further investment is needed to build confidence and competence in this most prized specialist skill.
I am not the only one who has found, over the years, that ER teams have shrunk, while other HR specialisms have grown or ER is subsumed into generalist teams. The skills of great ER people have been undervalued so less people want to focus on it. It’s a vital skill for organisations, - now more than ever - helping to build inclusive cultures, listening to and utilising employee voice and experience, managing conflict constructively, challenging leaders to think differently, building agreements and trust between leaders and their employees.
I am looking forward to seeing what happens next with the professional body and its approach to ER. In the meantime, we will continue to work with forward looking organisations to develop the skills and confidence of our ER community and building talent for the future.