CIPD – it’s time to get on message


I was having lunch with an employment journalist recently and we were discussing recent press releases put out by the CIPD. She had just received the release outlining the results of the CIPD/KPMG Labour Market Outlook.  The opening lines of the release state that the report – and I quote : “.. indicates that private sector job creation will more than offset public sector job cuts in the final quarter of 2010.”  It also talks about a net positive balance of  +11 (the figure which measures the difference between the proportion of employers intending to increase staffing levels – and those intending to decrease staffing levels) Apparently, this is the third quarter in a row to record a positive balance rising from +2 in the summer survey.  And Dr Philpott, economic guru at the CIPD says that “signs of not only a sustained but also an increasing buoyancy in private sector job prospects is encouraging.”   All good stuff then?

Err apparently not because only two weeks previously there had been a grand old hoo hah about their press release which stated that cuts in public spending would result in the loss of almost £1.6 million jobs across the UK economy with the private sector hit harder than the public sector. These predictions, say the release, are based on ‘soundings from public sector managers  (whatever that means) and the CIPD were forced to swiftly defend their stance in a statement following criticism from the IOD.  The predictions, say the CIPD, were based on the analysis and detailed predictions of our 135,000 members – and on data from  the labour market outlook ( yes that really positive one I mentioned first).  So not public sector managers then?   As I said in my comments to a blog posted by Mervyn Dinnen on this subject, if it is based on 135,000 members then that probably ignores a large proportion of the SME community – who don’t have CIPD members on their staff – mine included. There was also an interesting blog on the subject from Andy Headworth which is worth a read.

But apart from all this, my point here really is about communication.  Going back to the journalist and our lunch, the main point she made was that she felt she had no real understanding of what the actual message was – there were so many conflicting statements, so many ifs  buts and maybes that the message – whatever it was trying to convey – was just lost.

I’ll leave you with their latest snappy headline:

“Private sector in pre-festive season jobs surge but more than 4 in 10 public sector organisations already making redundancies says CIPD/KPMG quarterly jobs survey”…….draws breath!

Come on CIPD – get on message!

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8 thoughts on “CIPD – it’s time to get on message”

  1. Hi Tracey. Thanks for taking an interest. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you. Ifs, buts and maybes? We’re talking about the complexities of the British economy here. There are a few ifs, buts and maybes out there. But if you want someone to help you get your head round the ifs, buts and maybes of the British labour market, you couldn’t want for a better guide than our excellent chief economist, John Philpott.

    Truth be told, none of us can know for sure what the next few years hold for the labour market. But there’s no inconsistency in our releases – which I presume you’ve read in detail? What we’re saying is that the private sector is currently creating jobs at a faster rate than the public sector is shedding them directly, or than the squeeze in public sector spending is forcing the loss of jobs in the private sector. But also that, on the basis of John’s detailed analysis and direct feedback from our members, there are significant doubts over whether the private sector can grow strongly enough to offset the 1.6million jobs we think will go over the next few years. The private sector will create jobs. The debate is just about how many and how fast. But on balance we think that unemployment will rise next year, before steadying with unemployment stubbornly settling at about 2.5million for a prolonged period.

    Your own post is peppered with the odd “probably” and other assumption. But on the strength of my experience of working with John over many years, and my knowledge of the eminence of his labour market pedigree for many years before that, I’d say there is a very good chance he is calling his probablys and assumptions right. I also know two other things. First, he hopes he is wrong, and that the private sector can create more jobs, more quickly than he anticipates, so that more people are spared unemployment more quickly. Second, that he and the rest of the team at the CIPD are motivated by a solid commitment to take the best analysis we can muster, the widest possible data, and the collective knowledge, experience and frontline impact of our members to ensure that policy makers are as fully equipped as possible with the information and insight we can offer to help them come up with the policies to maximise employment and minimise unemployment.

    As Head of External Affairs at the CIPD, I’d also have to express some mystification at your concern about the impact of our PR work in this field. Show me another individual who commands greater coverage and respect than John Philpott in this field, or an organisation that achieves more than the CIPD. Our consistently high profile in this area in the national print and broadcast media is by any measure impressive, and a curious target for a PR critique.

    Incidentally, it is interesting that the IoD, having launched their thin attack on us last week, published their own annual economic analysis this week. And it, err, pretty much entirely agreed with John’s assessment of the downside risks the economy faces over the coming years. So much so, that their chief economist, when appearing head to head with John on a series of major BBC outlets on Weds morning, clearly adopted an “I agree with John” approach. If you want inconsistency, take a look at the IoD commentary on us last week against their own independent commentary this week.

    If you’re interested in chatting about this further, you can give me a call in the office next week. And if it helps, I’m sure I can get John to talk to you – as he does to all the major national economic and labour market journalists on a regular basis.

    Thanks again for your interest. Have a good weekend.

    1. Robert,

      You are missing my point. I am certainly not casting aspersions on Dr Philpott’s knowledge, experience or economic expertise (unlike Michael Fallon who, according to reports in the Daily Telegraph described the predictions as less reliable than a dead octopus). My issue is with the messaging. To take your points in order:

      – Yes I have read the releases in detail – I wouldn’t have blogged about them otherwise. You say in your reply that ‘there are significant doubts over whether the private sector can grow strongly enough to offset the 1.6 million jobs you think will go in the next year. The release dated 01 November states: “The CIPD considers the private sector perfectly capable of adding more than 300,000 net new jobs per year by 2015-16 if the economy grows faster than 2.5% per year on average.” And in your release dated 15 November the release opening paragraph states: “that private sector job creation will more than offset public sector job cuts in the final quarter of 2010” Now both you and I know that the press will not regurgitate press releases in their entirety and so if the whole message isn’t clear in the first paragraph then it can get lost.
      – I don’t believe my post is ‘peppered’ with assumptions but it is a blog post – and therefore an opinion – not an economic analysis sent to the press.
      -I don’t doubt for one minute your best intentions – or your commitment. But if you are going to say that you are taking the ‘best analysis that you can muster, from the widest possible data and the collective knowledge, experience and frontline impact of your members’ then why say in a release that your estimates are based on ‘soundings from public sector managers’ – surely you have to agree that it just doesn’t sound very robust.
      You do get lots of coverage – and so you should do as an institute dealing with labour market and employment issues. However, a quick google news search will confirm the points about messaging. Your summing up in your reply of what the message is, isn’t really borne out by the headlines. The large percentage pick up on the fact that the private sector WILL offset public sector jobs cuts – which isn’t in fact what you are really saying is it?

      So that’s’ my point, I am not trying to disagree with John’s findings and estimates – just the way they are portrayed – but it is just an opinion – and I am surprised you seem to be taking it so personally. I certainly don’t see the CIPD or anyone else for that matter as a ‘target’ – but, as a PR professional in the recruitment and HR arena, I do fiercely defend my right to debate on issues as I see them.
      A great debate and thanks for commenting!

  2. Go Tracey!!

    Totally agree, and until the ‘wonderful’ CIPD actually understand what they are doing and the audience they are writing for they will never ‘get-it’!!

    They have obviously employed a plank with a pen (keyboard didn’t ryme so well!) who is trying to write the longest, most boring and ultimately unreadable headlines to justify their own existence!

    Will they ever change?

    (Thanks to the link to my own rant on the same subject!)

  3. … Hmmm … I’d say a score draw with Will at best. Think he’s a little more “marmite” than John personally. But I am biased. And while it isn’t a competition, I also know that we get more coverage than the Work Foundation. But nice try 🙂 Any other nominations?


  4. I too remember the hoo-hah about the first CIPD press release referred to. In fact, I felt a degree of sympathy at the time with John Philpott as he was was just calling it as he, and I suspect many others, saw it at the beginning of November and seemed to get attacked, if not from all, then certainly from a few sides. Fast forward a couple of weeks however and, as Tracey and her journalist friend point out, there does seem to be a bit of a U-turn, or at the very least, a dampening down of the message being put out. Quite why this would be the case in just a fortnight I am not sure. I don’t think most mere mortals are either, which is presumably why Tracey flagged it up in a blog. Agreed it’s all speculation, but the swift change of mind/message does beg the question why, not least with the ‘Irish’ situation now coming to a head. Personally I doubt that the private sector can create anything like the number of jobs to compensate for the losses in the public sector. Even if they got near, are these jobs all ones that unemployed public sector workers can just walk into in terms of experience and skill sets? It would be a minor miracle in my opinion!

  5. It’s generally bad practice to release contradictory messages when you’re relied upon as a primary source of industry knowledge!

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