How the CIPD could double its membership

Let’s face it; the recruitment industry doesn’t have the best of reputations. Over a coffee recently a long standing acquaintance of mine posed a group of us a question: “what is the job you’d least like to own up to down the pub?”

The reason she was asking was linked to employer brand. Her business has been through some difficult times and she was concerned that owning up to working there was becoming a social no-no. But the answers that came back then set me thinking about what I am now dubbing “career brand”.

“Estate agent” was probably the predictable first answer followed closely by “traffic warden”. When the classic stereotype villains were out of the way the next one on the list was “recruitment consultant” which rather took me aback. There then followed a whole series of war stories about awful experiences that was as shocking as it was hilarious. Worryingly this was from a group of Chief Executives and Managing Directors.

Later that day I sat down and asked myself: why does the recruitment industry get such bad press? Well, I have always believed that what matters in recruitment is the name on the business card not the sign over the door. In other words it’s primarily about the consultant not the company they work for.

The logical extension of that is that hiring and retaining good people must be the top priority of any recruitment business. Who we hire defines what we are. So, if there are problems it must in a significant part be in the way agencies recruit and who they recruit – resulting in poor consultants who deliver poor service.

So why do these quality issues persist. I was drawn like a magnet to a statement on the CIPD website about its purpose: “shaping thinking, leading practice and building HR capability and setting the global benchmark for HR excellence…”. If CIPD is the flagship of HR, and recruitment is a primary HR function, why are so very few CIPD members employed in the recruitment industry? And why doesn’t the recruitment industry demand or more actively encourage CIPD membership amongst consultants?

It has been a bugbear of mine for two decades that somehow the recruitment industry seems to exist beyond the CIPD. For me the CIPD should be the body that sets the standards for the recruitment industry. Actively seeking to embrace the people that work in the industry and at the same time potentially reaching out to 100,000 new members. That would nearly double what the membership is today.

Of course that means making studying affordable and accessible and the content as much about being commercially aware as knowing best practice. Oh, and that might also fix the constant CEO grump that HR isn’t commercial… Good recruitment consultants are often some of the most commercial HR people around. They understand sales, marketing and the importance of making a profit!

So come on CIPD let’s get the debate going. You can contact me at Oh and yes, I’ve been a CIPD member for nearly 30 years and our CEO is a member too. And yes we practice what we preach. Two of the team here are currently studying for CIPD qualifications.