Which forums might be OPEN to non-members? [old thread]

Steve Bridger

| 7571 Posts

Community Manager

8 Jul, 2015 10:49

As many of you will know, we're in the middle of a major upgrade project, the result of which will (effectively) mean a brand new online community.

I say that, because we'll all have so much more scope to share experience and knowledge, and discover and connect with others in similar roles and stage in their careers. 

While the current community is a member-only service - and will continue to be largely the case, one of our goals is to encourage and engage more people to join the community and deliver greater value back to members and HR and L & D professionals.

The 'sense of community' we have collectively engendered over the years is very special. Consequently, many members feel 'comfortable' to ask sometime quite senstive questions. We are mindful not to mess that up - but do think it would be worthwhile opening up some topics to non-members.

We would like your help (and opinion) on identifying which topics should remain CLOSED to members only - because the nature of the discussions are probbaly too sensitive - e.g. redundancy, discrimination, workplace bullying, etc.

Which topics could be OPEN? Discussions around wellbeing? L & D? Groups for those people looking for mentors? Students (at any stage) looking for feedback and guidance?

What do you think?

  • Hi Steve

    I think we should open up the community to those seeking Mentors and perhaps to those seeking guidance on their studies including assignments etc.  I would not be confident in opening up the community to non-members for a lot of areas.  a lot of us seek feedback/guidance from the community, knowing that others can see via our profile where we work, on matters relating to our direct workplace.  I would not be happy for non-members to see some of the posts I have commented on as it could open up a whole can of worms. 

  • Liz

    | 1256 Posts


    8 Jul, 2015 11:14


    Is it possible to have a members-only section where more sensitive matters can be discussed in private? I know it doesn't fit well with the aim of a community ethos but I feel content/discussions could begin to decline if people did not feel able to post about more sensitive matters here.

    But then, should this forum be the place for such sensitive conversations? I know this community provides bucket loads of support to many people and the hard-core contributors who volunteer their help, knowledge and expertise without reward is extremely generous and I wouldn't want this to stop, but I do wonder if online forums are the right media for such private issues.

    I am unfortunately on the fence, and cannot decide between private and non-private/members only and non-members forums.



  • I tend to agree with Catherine here - I consider this a safe place and I've asked questions here that I wouldn't have on, say, a LinkedIn discussion group. I do feel the sense of community and have felt able to be "professionally vulnerable" more than once which is a credit to the moderation and attitude of the posters.

    However, if the decision is to open the forum to non-members then I would say that I would not wish the historical discussions to be available from that time and they should be deleted.  It would be the loss of a lot of good information but I feel there is much there that is not for public consumption.

    Just my 2 cents! 

  • Judy Williams

    | 552 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Jul, 2015 12:28

    I also consider that this is a safe place to ask and respond to questions that perhaps I would not be comfortable to have available to a wider circle of non-members.  In particular, sometimes members get the 'wrong end of the stick' and have a damascus moment when another member (or ten) gives advice.  The advice is freely and kindly given and gratefully received but I don't think any of us would want that initial confusion to be open for public consumption.  Nor the (very) occasional minor spat over a difference of opinion. 

    I would be happy for David's uplifting and topical literary and poetical interludes to be available to anyone - always much appreciated.

  • Hi Steve

    I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of non-members having access to the community.  For me, having such a forum where I can discuss workplace issues and seek advice from experienced professionals is a real benefit of being a member of CIPD and I would question the benefits of continuing my membership if resources such as the community were to be opened up to all.

    As far as I'm aware, students are asked to become members whilst studying so would have access to the community that way.

    There are other communities available for non-members to be part of via Linked-In etc.  


  • Hi Steve,

    Like Sharon I wouldn't feel comfortable to non members having access to these communities.  Knowing that I can ask a question in a closed environment feels much safer.  Numerous times I have seen questions asked on this forum where the original poster has been very light on details presumably for confidentiality reasons and the responders have requested further details to be able to give better advice whilst assuring the original poster that this is a closed forum.  I fear that questions will become very diluted and lacking in sufficient detail to allow proper advice to be given if there is the chance that the question would be seen outside the member community.

    Additionally, I like it that I know that if I post a question, that the responders are all members of the CIPD and therefore either likely to be working in a HR role or have a very close link to it.  I trust the advice that I am given as I know it has come from other HR professionals.  My concern is that if it were more widely open that I wouldn't necessarily know that the person responding was experienced or knowledgeable of the topic area.  

    I also think that trying to define which discussions could become public will be extremely difficult - some start as a seemingly straightforward and "non-sensitive" topic and then can develop into members sharing their own experiences and stories and it can become much more sensitive.  Where would you draw the line of what is considered to be a member only discussion and what is suitable for all?  For example I remember a while back there was a simple question about whether an employee should be required to take their work phone with them on holiday - the thread turned out to be a member asking the question as it was her husband and as the thread developed it became clear that her husband was suffering greatly in the workplace from bullying.  Peter C stepped in and personally helped her - I wonder if the story would have developed in that way and if that member would have felt comfortable talking openly about her husbands situation which led to her getting help and support if it had been an open discussion. 

    Using the communities site is the main reason that I remain a CIPD member and if the integrity of this "closed" forum is lost I would seriously question whether I would remain a member.

    I guess I am not really sure what the advantages are to opening up the forums - as others have said, I believe that students are required to become members so would have access to these forums to assist their learning anyway. 

  • Aidan Crossey

    | 41 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Jul, 2015 13:29

    Hi Steve...

    I think making any of the discussions here open to the public is a dreadful idea.  Sorry!

    As HR folk, we're all aware that some issues are very clear-cut and there's a right answer. 

    However the vast majority of issues that we deal with day to day are not so clear-cut and there may be a range of "right answers", depending on a host of factors such as organisational culture, personal style, timescales, degree of imperative, etc.

    In other instances, based on the information to hand, we may believe that we have a right answer in plain view.  However, as further information emerges, the "right answer" may not seem to be quite so applicable any more.  As even further information emerges, that "right answer" may even prove to have been downright wrong.

    This community of HR people who regularly post here understand the scenarios above and get the fact that there is lots of room for debate, interpretation and difference of approach in what we do.  And so I've witnessed many very interesting debates in these pages and learned some invaluable lessons during these.  This debate and this sharing of information is surely made possible by the fact that we are a professional community, that these pages are available only to members and that those reading them do so as fellow professionals who understand the subtleties and fine judgments which are often required when dealing with HR issues and who understand that we may often disagree (politely) with colleagues about how to approach them.

    My fear is that with a host of "non-initiates" peering over our shoulders, we may feel a lot less free to debate issues and to offer advice to colleagues because we fear that such advice may be misinterpreted by "bystanders".  May, perhaps, be quoted out of context to make us appear foolish, indecisive, hectoring, abrasive or worse!  And so the value of these pages could well diminish until they no longer offer anything of real worth to HR professionals at any stage of their career.  And that would be a real shame!


  • I think perhaps what might be more welcomed would be to create a new public forum, rather than try to chop up the existing community.

    The most obvious one that I can think of is a current events board and the impact on HR. CIPD articles already have a comment function but from what I have read, it is poorly used. There were some surprisingly interested threads within the community about contracts for footballers, the 'what-ifs' of obesity as a disability and so many useful pointers about holiday pay changes. All of these were lively conversations that were general rather than dealing with specific issues or queries that could be too personal for public consumption.

    Plus surely you will gain traffic as people search about current events. From there some may be converted into using the full community.

  • Steve Bridger

    | 7571 Posts

    Community Manager

    8 Jul, 2015 14:10

    Hi Folks!

    I think you've taken me too literally - probably because I wasn't clear in my intro.

    Most of the community would remain member-only. There is no question about that.

    What topics might you be more keen to see OPEN to those in the profession who are non-members? 


  • Fiona

    | 236 Posts


    8 Jul, 2015 15:05

    Not all people who have responsibility for people matters in a workplace will be personnel qualified in HR or who have membership of CIPD so I think a degree of public forums would be very advantageous; think line managers in smaller organisations with no HR support who would like to check if they are doing something correctly or ask advice on how to handle a particular situation they find themselves in.

    I would suggest having a look at the IOSH website under Discussion Forums as they have three forums which are accesible to people who are not members of the institution; they can be viewed by anyone but only posted to by people who have registered with IOSH as a user (not necessarily taken membership which is a different ball game).   IOSH have three forums which non-members can view/post to to ask question: one for general OSH discussion, one for careers and one for study support.

    I feel the ones regarding to careers and study support are particular pertinant to those thinking of embarking on a safety related career.

  • Robey

    | 1583 Posts

    Chartered Member

    8 Jul, 2015 16:24

    I've noticed a few examples down the years of "Student Members" asking just one very specific, operational question and I've always suspected that these are business owners or beleaguered employees acquiring membership in order to gain access to a cheap and responsive pool of expert HR advice...

    Rather than open up any of our existing topics to the general public, what about a (carefully moderated) open "Ask the Community" board on which non-members can post and comment?

    Having said that, after reading the miserable attitude so many have to our profession in the comments on that Guardian article this week, I'm wary that any public board could open the doors to some fairly nasty elements.  We are identified quite publicly on these boards and it would be unpleasant for any of our members to become victims to a campaign of cyberbullying as a result of opinions expressed on a public advice board.

  • Keith

    | 10639 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Jul, 2015 16:24

    I think there are three potential uses for a forum open to non members

    1) Advertising (either jobs or other services)

    2) Advice

    3) Debates

    I have no real issue with 1 & 3 being open - maybe harder to moderate and I think the subjects of the debates would have to be almost set centrally (which may limit traffic and use by non members) Jobs/Services would be an interesting area and the jobs part might supplement / challenge People Management so would have to be managed carefully.

    The issue really is around (2) Advice (and recognising that its hard sometimes to draw a line between a debate and advice).

    I remain to be convinced that the CIPD should have an open advice service for a number of reasons. In no particular order

    (a) Most of the questions would probably come from employees not employers - nothing wrong with righting wrongs but should we be setting up a service whose main use would be advising employees against their employers?

    (b) Some contributors offer a service to small employers on general HR advise. We would have to be sure that we were not cutting across these services with a free "advice line"

    (c) I wonder how the depth or nature of the advice would have to change if it were being given to non specialists? Would we be going back to a very Employment Law 101 and is this what members want to spend their time doing?

    (d) Would the regular contributors and the ad hoc ones be happy providing this "valued add" service to non CIPD members as a feature of the CIPD website?

    So I think potentially debates Yes (subject to control and moderation) Adverts and Jobs maybe (subject to People Management and control) but I struggle to see if an advice section would work.

    Hope this helps 

  • James

    | 26 Posts


    8 Jul, 2015 18:40

    I get the impression that this actually means open up for people to see, to view, not for random people to post to? I would think providing its tailored and moderators tag or flag threads and individual posts then i see no reason why the debate or advice couldnt be included on the main site to entice more professionals to share in this community.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 7571 Posts

    Community Manager

    8 Jul, 2015 18:44

    Yup. That's right, James.

    People would still need to register.

    The new community is very likely to have a 'report to moderator' flag as well - pretty standard these days.

  • Keith

    | 10639 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Jul, 2015 19:20

    And out of interest how would registering be controlled if at all? Couldn't anyone with an email address register?
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