Case Study

Supporting the transformation of a membership organisation into a manifesto-led community and social movement


The Future of Work is Human
CIPD and Jericho Chambers

The leading professional body for those who work in HR, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), works to ‘promote better work and working lives’. A lot is changing, very fast, in the world of work – from more outsourcing, casualization, automation, virtual working and new forms of organisation. All this prompted the CIPD, under the leadership of CEO Peter Cheese, to consciously re-think its future role and how it should continue to provide qualifications, training and best-practice to the HR industry, suitable to the fast-moving context in which it operates. CIPD wanted to ensure its thinking would be challenged and improved by working with new stakeholders, thinkers and experts who sit outside its normal networks. New and often dissenting voices would bring a new dynamic to an important debate.

Testing CIPD’s early thinking with a range of stakeholders – some mainstream and obvious, some less so – confirmed the need for new approaches to shaping the world of work. What was clearest of all was that there is no single view of what ‘better working lives’ might mean ahead. The future of work– and particularly the employer/employee relationship – is unpredictable and uncertain in its nature, not least as the hierarchies of old power are eroded and as power continues to shift.

A series of distinctive CIPD events were convened and curated – each building a bigger community of activists and thinkers – to explore the issues. The theme to emerge is The Future of Work is Human – partly as a thought-provoking antidote to all that is being said about the arrival of robots and artificial intelligence into the workplace, and also a reminder that it is the humans at work that the CIPD (and HR professionals) seek to serve.

As the author Margaret Heffernan suggested at one community-building event: “treat people as machines and they will respond as machines”. The community being built around this conversation includes many had not worked with CIPD previously – including business leaders, academics, educators, policy-makers, journalists, students and the third sector/ civil society. The initial themes addressed included Values, Power, Inclusion, Technology and Wellbeing, and they continue to be discussed by groups of people who would never normally sit and work together.

The wider community has been grown organically, as members were encouraged to recommend others, diversify in look, tone and content and to shape its own programme. In under a year, from an initial group of sixteen, the community has grown to involve more than 650 people – convened by Peter Cheese, CIPD CEO.

Activities to date have included research interviews, an extensive series of roundtable discussions, film inputs, an Un-Seminar, a WikiWorkLab, and the Future of Work Big Tent, and all geared towards addressing bigger questions on how to make the world of work a better, and more human place.

The concept underpinning the success of the project has been a new, dynamic and safe space for discussion – with a series of thought-provoking interventions from an unusual range of speakers, many of whom openly disagree with conventional thinking – and in some cases, each other. Trust between these groups has been built through embracing the commitment to adult-to-adult conversation and reciprocal vulnerability and respect.

One measurement of success is the number of spin-off communities and parallel debates that have grown since the project began – with a sparkling array of new voices contributing to the discussion: from radical educators and students, to politicians, policy-makers, campaigners, Gen Z, Think Tanks and other professional bodies. Many of these had never previously touched the CIPD world.

Jericho is working with the CIPD to further develop the community, thinking and ideas, including the creation of a cross-party Commission to address Lifelong Learning and the disconnect between how we educate and train people, and the reality of the future world of work. Early policy ideas are already being discussed/ adopted within government and Whitehall. Additional future focus areas will include social inclusion (and power) and also mechanisms for reward.

With the launch of an online platform in May 2016, the community opened the doors to a wider crowd and is now a discussion forum in its own right. Other organisations are also now using the human element in their own thinking. As a result, the CIPD is developing a richer view of its future, and harnessing thought-provoking ideas for publishing, sharing and creating wider debate. It is doing so in an evolving and responsive way as the world continues to change – with a distinctive point-of-view and a manifesto-led, social movement approach.


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