Quality of CIPD online discussions

This is my first foray into the mist of CIPD online discussions and I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with the quality of some discussion for debate. 

Not to say that the items listed are not relevant but I think it would be better to have an 'advice section' for those individuals who have simple questions about practice to be answered? 

Then the space for discussions can be recogised and valued more as one where real debate will occur.

  • Steve Bridger

    | 7585 Posts

    Community Manager

    7 Mar, 2010 08:59

    Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for posting and posing the question. Not sure whether you're saying this is your first post, but that you've been a 'reader' for a while... or whether you're relatively new to the Communities, full stop[?]

    I could go on (and on...) about the issue you have raised, but I wanted to say it's is something we have discussed many times within CIPD, and with many of the active contributors to discussions here.

    I wish it were as simple as you suggest; you see, even what may seem a simple "Yes" or "No" response can prove not to be so straightforward, and I think this is why so many peers post questions here when they may have a pretty good idea of the answer themselves. We're looking for a second (or third...) opinion to validate (or otherwise) our own pov.

    Some Q & A-type threads also then have a habit of evolving into debate, which is what make this forum so rich. For example, witness this recent discussion:

    Time off for bereavement of pets?

    That's not to say that I wish quite a few things could be improved. We get a lot of repetition for example... and we have a long list of improvements we would like to make, which has been informed by suggestions from members like yourself.

    Please stick around, Amanda :)


  • Julia Chisholm

    | 2541 Posts

    Chartered Member

    7 Mar, 2010 09:31

    Hi Amanda

    Welcome to the Communities - good to see you starting a discussion that I feel sure will invite lots of interesting and varied responses and invoke real debate.

    My own personal opinion of the discussion forum is as follows (apologies for the length):

    This is an extremely useful tool for members to use their colleagues as a sounding board, to seek clarification from those who are either more experienced / knowledgeable than themselves or who have experienced similar situations.

    Some contributors will readily signpost members to useful information points, such as Clare Anderson.  Others, like Anna Allen, often post discussions that are meant to stimulate thought.  Peter Cunningham has a real breadth of experience in terms of the employment law side of matters.  Emily Wraw draws on her experience within the NHS to help others within the same sector.  Similarly Sherry Preece has contributed greatly to discussions, particularly within the retail sector.  David Boyd can be counted on in terms of industrial relations matters, Peter Greenaway, Keith Luxon and David Perry are excellent sources of knowledge.

    I could go on and I don't want people to think I don't value the contributions of others, but if I named everyone we'd be here for ages!

    I myself have posed several questions and am extremely grateful for the support I've had, both as a professional and as a student (currently struggling through Management Research Report).  I personally try to contribute to other people's discussions wherever I can, giving back to the community that has helped me. 

    It is frustrating to see the same / similar questions posted on a weekly basis.  Part time workers and holiday comes to mind, which I'm guilty of myself!  However, if you look closely at the content of the discussion it's often related to a bespoke situation for which the likes of CIPD and ACAS just can't provide individual information on their websites - again we'd be here all day.

    But there are those who you can't help but feel want something for nothing to make their lives easier.  e.g. Can anyone email me a xxx policy?  Much more inclined to assist these people if they can tell us what research they've done so far / how far they've progressed rather than just attach something that's taken me hours or days to design.

    The more background information people can give in their initial post, the better quality the response we can give.  It's also great when people thank you for your help and even better when they come back at a later date to let us all know how it's panned out.

    The nature of HR is such that no-one can be an expert in all areas.  I wonder whether the majority of the membership classes themselves as generalist?  I've also started to notice that some people who are more qualified than I have only recently started to use the forum and I wonder why that is.

    There's a great variety of topics where discussion can be posted, the Book Club being one of them (can't check out all the others whilst I type, don't want to lose this posting!) but I fear that many of us just don't have the time to juggle contributions with our jobs.

    I've joined many of the groups on Linked In, but get fed up with the number of jobs that are posted.  There does tend to be a certain amount of debate on there, but none of the practical support.

    So yes, there is an area for rich debate on the CIPD forums, but it's the practical support aspect I personally use this forum for most.  Having said that, the further I progress in my studies, the more developed my thirst for knowledge and debate.

    Thanks again for kicking off what I'm sure will be an extremely interesting discussion.

  • David

    | 20964 Posts

    Chartered Member

    7 Mar, 2010 10:08

    Hi Amanda

    Just to suggest that do think the good points about this Forum far, far  outweigh the (inevitable) negatives.

    I do think that most 'HR' problems inevitably are determined and shaped by their unique, particular facts, and I do think that the 'quality' of  contributions and discussions here is invariably very high indeed: if someone gets it wrong, then invariably a colleague will soon be along with corrections - it's dynamic and self-regulating and self-learning, therefore, in a sense.

    Of course, there are a few who are merely seeking straightforward, factual, information that can very readily be evoked from textbooks or from the more authoritative sites on the www.

    It's a shame if the various CIPD learning routes don't impart basic information research skills, utilizing the usual culprits, but suspect there are a few who just can't be bothered to do the work for themselves.

    But others just need a quick signpost to the appropriate URL via a hyperlink.

    As regards 'FAQs' for the simple, straightforward bits, it's a nice idea, but do we really need yet another simply-factual knowledge base for HR ?? And who's going to build and maintain it ?? - these things cost, one way or the other.

    As a professional discussion forum, I do think this one is very fit for purpose, having experienced others that for various reasons are not at all.

    Sometimes, it might be useful to get input from folk other than CIPD colleagues, such as lurking employment lawyers (as sometimes can happen on LinkedIn, even from luminaries such as Daniel Barnett himself!) or from a trade unionist point of view (we had recently an avid contributor from this perspective and I think are all a bit poorer for his not being around any more).

    So a few 'honorary' or guest contributors from chosen sectors just might be worth thinking about ??

    Just a few random musings, from basking contendly at the minute in a fluffy bathrobe in rather splendid opulence on the  19th floor of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham, so feeling quite mellow and reflective, for once ! 

  • Julia Chisholm

    | 2541 Posts

    Chartered Member

    7 Mar, 2010 10:18

    Extremely jealous, David, as I'm basking in my fluffy bathrobe whilst trying to change a washer for the first time!

    David raises an important point and one that I tried to allude to - I'm sure that many of us learn just by reading the questions posed by others and their various responses.  One (fairly recent) contributor to the communities said that to aid her own development, she reads the question, thinks about how she'd respond for 3 minutes, then looks at the actual responses given.  An excellent methodology, I think, and one that I could learn from myself!

  • Peter

    | 7587 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    7 Mar, 2010 11:09

    Hi Amanda, please add my welcome to the others above.

    As one of the "great diversifiers" (or should that be "wafflers") on these threads I think that it is important to recognise that for those of us who contribute regularly "Communities" is something more than an "advice line" provided to other members: It is a two-way street from which I (and I believe others) gain also.

    In my case the benefits are (basically) three-fold. In no particular order: One is widening my own knowledge both from practitioners experienced in fields of HR or sectors I business I am unfamiliar with and from people new to the profession but bringing fresh ideas or the most recent academic thinking as their contribution to discussions. The second is the opportunity to debate, sometimes robustly, assumptions made both by myself and others about our practice, our profession and our professional organisation; hopefully contributing to the development and progress of all three in a "safe" forum where even the most controversial professional issues may be approached, challenged and confronted freely and outside the contexts of either our obligations to our respective employers (or clients) or public scrutiny of our debate (and sometimes dissent). 

    The third benefit is that "Communities", almost as defined by its name, adds more personal contact between members (of all levels) putting a human "face" on names which would otherwise be simple signatures on a document, letter or contribution to "People Management".

    So I do not feel I am just here to answer questions (particularly those which, as Julia intimates, have been answered in detail twenty times before!). I certainly feel it to be both a professional obligation and a personal pleasure to assist other members in any way I can, but providing answers to problems on demand is what I get paid to do as a consultant, it is not what motivates me to open up my e-mail at 10.15 on a Sunday morning!

    Sometimes questions asked have simple direct answers but open up much greater depths regarding practice, professionalism or our organisational (i.e. CIPD) structures (particularly professional support and membership issues) and, given these "openings" I for one feel we should explore them, for several reasons but not least because challenging the status-quo is the only way to understand and develop ideas and ideals.

    Many of these debates might go beyond the understanding (or interest) of those who visit the site only for a "straightforward" answer, but I feel we need make make no apology for that: In what other forum can the opinions of practising members of all levels meet and challenge each other?

    ...And yes: Some of the threads disintegrate into discussions of past-positions, careers, hobbies, music etc. But are these things not what make us the people we are and thus flavour our professional responses to the many personal issues we have to resolve and evaluate within our practice?

    Or are we to take the "mechanistic" approach to HR management as being a numbers game of employees as "worker units" rather than responding to them as people also?

    Sometimes contributors are also approached "off site" to provide advice and I suspect that in some instances is it the knowledge that there is a "person" behind the written answers we provide that encourages these contacts. Given some of the issues that I have been asked to provide advice on in this way, my personal opinion is that, if so, that encouragement has provided an essential lifeline to a number of members in extremely difficult and distressing circumstances.

    So I would not presume to define what "Communities" is, but while many of us have already voiced the opinion that some index of advice on specific subjects would be desirable (if not essential) ....although this might not (and in my opinion should not) exclude more developed and complex answers..., what I would suggest "Communities" is not, and must not become, is a one-stop-shop for those too lazy to do their own research (either for exams or in their practice), those looking for a free "off the shelf" answer to corporate issues they should be examining more closely for themselves, or those seeking a no-fee stationery office providing generic documents for situations where they should be providing bespoke letters or agreements (all of which, as Julia mentions, have been asked for, obviously if not always openly, in the past).

    In my perception: As an encyclopedia of instant answers we are thus neither perfect nor are we trying to be so; but we are a far richer mix of people and opinions bounded only by a genuine interests in what we do; a wish to help others succeed in their practice and our profession, and providing a welcoming and (usually) tolerant and supportive forum for the expression of ideas, opinions and disquiet for any member, be they affiliate, student or "Chartered F".

    Or, if you prefer: Welcome to the bear-pit! :-) 


  • Mike Morrison

    | 4176 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    7 Mar, 2010 12:50

    Any community can only ever reflect the attitude, thoughts and actions of its constituants... in the past the vast majority of people asking questions have either been new to HR or their course of study, the more established and experienced professionals are only here and active in relativly small numbers.

    If more of us that have been around the block a few times were to be active on a more regular basis it would kickstart more debates that the forum may appear to be at first sight.

    The majority of us that are active both give and take from our experiences here - i for one learn something every day that I "lurk around".

    As for contributions, in any interactive web 2.0 environment you are likely to have participation along the lines of 900-90-9-1

    where for every 900 members you will have 90 lurkers, 9 occasional contributers and 1 highly active contributer.... see the article on this at: http://rapidbi.com/management/90-9-1-rule-theory-marketing-communication-social-media/

    or http://www.90-9-1.com/ or http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/90-9-1+Theory


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 416 Posts

    7 Mar, 2010 13:13

    Any community can only ever reflect the attitude, thoughts and actions of its constituants...


    I think your own statement contradicts this. Your own statement says that 

    Any community can only ever reflect the attitude, thoughts and actions of 10 contributors (9 occasional contributors and 1 highly active contributor). You can't express any attitude thought or action if you aren't contributing.


    As there are  99,770 community members that makes this community reflective of the attitude of 1100 members, if you trust the theory.

  • Sorry to disagree with you Mark, but in my opinion you can express an attitude if you're not contributing. The problem is the rest of us can't "read" the attitude. Are you too busy? Not interested? Can't be bothered? etc.


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 416 Posts

    7 Mar, 2010 14:10


    There's my attitude.

  • Gosh, didn't realise there would be so many canny people willing to consider the thought on a Sunday. 

    I get the point and can see that for many users this is a tool to aid assistance and accept this is part of the offer, BUT raising the bar on the quality of some of the discussions should in itself create more interest and debate and attract others to the site.  The question for me really is what differentiates the various on line HR chat tools... Linkedin, Times on Line, CIPD, and which are the ones that I want to spend time on because they provide valuable perspective worthy of consideration... It's going to be challenging to surf all of them, to spend time contributing and thoughtfully considering others input.  Its early days for me but some way of separating the thoughtful from the transactional will always get a vote from me....

  • Hi Amanda

    I am interested that you have twice mentioned 'discussions'.  Must admit I've invariably seen the Communities as mostly information and opinion-seeking, rather than what I consider to be discussions as such.

    Sometimes it is obvious that a debate is sought, and these can take the form of questions from the CIPD, such as the recent Next Generation HR thread here:-http://www.cipd.co.uk/community/subjects/subject/discussion.aspx?PostID=128062 or ones such as this.

    And, as others have said above, a debate can ensue on quite arcane and subtle aspects.  A personal favourite from a while back was this one:- http://www.cipd.co.uk/community/subjects/subject/discussion.aspx?PostID=117351

    So if you are looking for high intellect and leading-edge debate, there may be better places.  If so, please pop back and tell us about them.

    But if you want to find out how to tackle a tricky - or apparently easy - workplace or study issue, then this is a pretty good place I'd say.  In that regard it is also similar to some other 'special interest' forums that I know and contribute to, in my case on motoring topics.  There are plenty of questions here that are the equivalent of: "Help - engine warning light on!" or "Terrible screeching noise from brakes", as well as more considered and reflective posts.

    I am sure that you will soon find out how to sort the wheat from your own ideas of the chaff if you stick around for a while.  And if you don't, then it looks as though you already have some alternatives lined up!  Happy surfing...


  • Julia Chisholm

    | 2541 Posts

    Chartered Member

    8 Mar, 2010 07:00

    Hmmm... Mark's 2nd contribution... not sure how to read that!  But Anna is right.  I sometimes contribute with a general 1 line answer, usually because I'm too busy.  The problem is that 1 liners, if not justified, can just cause confusion.

    Nick raises an excellent point and it would be useful to us all if you could report back on the sites you consider to stimulate debate, Amanda.  Of course, it would be great if you could contribute to more discussions on this forum too.  After all, it's the thoughts and comments of those who contribute that enrich the knowledge of this community.

    Excellent posting, Amanda.

  • Mike Morrison

    | 4176 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Mar, 2010 08:23

    Mark... exactly... - apathy and the inability or "cannot be bothered" attitude is expressed in a non post!


    On the CIPDmembers group in LinkedIn we are planning a monthly debate - statement - proposer - oposer and open debate format... - will let you know how it goes

  • Peter

    | 7587 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    8 Mar, 2010 12:05

    Once again it appears we prove the maxim that statistics can be interpreted to say almost anything one wants them too! (....And perhaps also further defer to Amanda's suggestion that our debates, once initiated, tend to stray from the original topic, as I am about to)!

    Does an "involvement" level of only c10%  and an active response level of c0.01%of that 10% suggest apathy? Or does it suggest active disinterest? Or is it passive agreement?

    ....Because all three positions can be (and have been) argued on similar statistics in other contexts.

    Personally I take the "Schroedinger's Cat" approach: If the cat's in the box you don't know if it's alive or dead, and if you open the box then your opening it may itself have created the result you observe, then is the cat alive or dead?  (If you don't know about Schroedinger's Cat look it up on Wikipedia... there isn't space here!), but bear with me....

    There can be a dozen (or many more) reasons why a member does not even read "Communities", these having nothing whatever to do with their qualities as an HR Professional, or indeed their opinions on the subjects under discussion.

    Equally there can be many reasons why those who do read some of the contributions do not read them all (specific areas of interest and time being just two blatantly obvious ones) and yet more why someone reading a specific debate/comment/monologue... call them what you will... do not themselves comment; although I have to suggest that apathy or disagreement are less likely than agreement (since if we read something thoroughly we are not likely to be apathetic to it's subject and if we disagree with something we are more likely to challenge it if empowered to do so than remain silent).

    So the great "silent majority" are just that: We have no idea why they are silent, nor are we thus justified in making assumptions about what their thoughts are unless (like Amanda) they have been prepared to comment and say (loosely): "I'd be more likely to contribute to this if the debates were better."

    That is an opinion. We may disagree; we may recognise it's validity but (as I did) challenge that validity in context; equally we may long to see the end of frivolous comments, comparisons of the virtues of various guitars, memoirs of snowy days in Yorkshire, curt "one liners" or even ............................ (for our own imaginations to fill in!)  

    But look at the House of Commons TV sometimes: three or four members picking their fingernails (or noses if they think they're not being watched) while one other chunters on about the importance of amending paragraph 16(a)(1)(iv) of the "Washing Lines; Tensioning and Flexibility Regulations (1996)"; or some other high-profile issue. Do they all stop at the end and say "There are only five of us here, guys, so that bit of law we just passed is less valid than any other"? Or do they whip out calculators and work out what percentage of the population they collectively represent and fractionalise the significance of the legislation on that basis? 

    No: because the debate was worth having, and is equally valid, however many were present of contributed to it.

    It is only when they are trying to convince the public that 95% of 6% of 13% of 3% of the population (and his/her dog) agree with and are excited by their/the other lot's election promises that they start "spinning" numbers from being "unknown, unknowable and irrelevant" to being "agreement"; "disagreement"; or "apathy".

    For me: If there's one person out there who wants to exchange ideas, explore possibilities or seek support then I'm around to participate in that discussion and I don't care how many % of x% of 0 we are.

    ....Even if the debate is about the validity of counting beans. :-)

    Surely "Communities" is here for those who want it, and if they want it to change then they are free to say so and expect it to change?

    We who are already here are certainly free to challenge that, but not on any "territorial" basis or from "right of ownership".  

    ....and if it changes in ways we do not appreciate, then maybe we will become the "silent majority" not expressing our opinions but with an equal right not to have them presumed by those who chose to express theirs.



  • Some interesting comments, Peter, and I have two observations:

    Firstly, perhaps it's time for an online poll (we seem to get these with the e-newsletters?) which asks "Do you participate in the online communities?" and where the answer is other than yes there are various options: Can't be bothered, topics of no interest etc.

    Secondly, much of my life has been spent working for big accounting firms. When they conduct audits they merely sample a small percentage of activities and then extrapolate (at a given "confidence level") that 100% of transactions are sound. Given that statistical theory assumes a default bell shaped distribution unless otherwise proven, we would not be wrong in assuming the vociferous ones among us represent a fair cross section of the whole!


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