AHRI – to give up on or not give up on?

by 01 Nov 2006

I would like to reply to an item in your last edition (Issue 115, 17 October 2006, p10) by former AHRI Queensland state councillor and Griffiths University HR director, Janine Walker.

Titled “Why I have given up on AHRI”, Ms Walker’s article takes the institute to task for making a condition of her membership the signing up to a professional code of conduct and set of disciplinary procedures, particularly the latter. She then makes the claim that from that requirement flowed her decision to decline to renew her membership and to leave the state council and the Institute.

She adds that she is one of a number of senior members who have taken a similar step in recent years. From the evidence I am seeing, senior people are deciding that AHRI is a professional association that has come through its difficulties of six years ago and is now a more mature and robust organisation capable of acting in their interests.

For example, since AHRI’s involvement in university accreditation of HR courses and the introduction of a professional member recognition framework 18 months ago, the number of members successfully applying to upgrade to AHRI Fellow has increased from 64 in June 2004 to 140 in June 2006. I am taking that as a sign of commitment in AHRI from senior level practitioners and it is a trend on which we are going to build.

Furthermore, 32 of the 39 universities in Australiaseek AHRI accreditation of their HR courses because our brand and accreditation is seen positively in both the community and across the profession.

It needs to be said that the new AHRI code of conduct and the disciplinary procedures follow many calls for their introduction from the membership, and considerable time has been committed by members to their development.

Modern professional associations have such codes and procedures as a means for balanced management, and the establishment of sound professional standards of behaviour and peer review. They are not there to be used for blunt industrial relations purposes.

I exchanged emails with Janine Walker on this subject and invited her to use her position as a councillor to have the initiatives changed or abolished in good time if they were shown not to be appropriate. They will be monitored and if they are not working, AHRI members through the elected councils now have the power to change and improve them.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a public interest expectation that a professional association such as AHRI should have a system in place that offers both protection from and an avenue of redress against its recalcitrant members, within such a framework of self-management.

To conclude, I would invite Janine Walker to return to AHRI and contribute from within to the further strengthening of the profession. If that means over time a change to AHRI’s disciplinary procedures as a collective judgement by the profession itself, so be it.

Peter Wilson, national president, AHRI

Is anyone of any relevance to the HR community a member of AHRI anymore?

I left a couple of years ago after being a member for a number of years and not getting any value out of it. The introduction of the ridiculous hierarchical membership levels only added to my desire to abandon my membership.

The AHRI executive team need to get in touch with what real HR practitioners are doing.

Rebekah Schapel, Coles Myer

It was with great interest and agreement that I read Janine Walker’s article in Human Resources magazine regarding AHRI’s recently introduced Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.

I think it is important that AHRI remembers that its role is about enhancing the professional competence of its members rather than adopting a regulatory role delving into the ins and outs of the HR practices of its members in their HR organisational world. There are enough regulatory bodies already undertaking investigatory activities in organisational life.

For example, if I, as a qualified organisational psychologist, was to conduct my professional practices unethically, or if there was a perception by one of my clients that this had occurred, there are avenues already that can remedy this truth, misunderstanding or perception. An unhappy client can take up their concern with me directly or with the Psychologist Registration of Victoria and go through a somewhat painful scenario. The regulatory approach though is certainly an extreme way to rectify a problem or concern.

The second scenario – one far more simple, palatable, sensible and adult for all concerned – is through the use of the behaviour known as feedback and by the use of language meaning communication directly with me. Such a practice then enables the achievement of a fruitful win-win for both sides bringing understanding and agreement on the appropriate behaviours.

AHRI, in establishing a regulatory body, is about them undertaking a police role with one party in the end being the loser with a lot of anguish and grief for the HR specialist, HR practices and for the organisation. I strongly question what good for anyone is being achieved by such an approach let alone anything leading to HR best practice.

Joanne Fenton, principal, Practical Communication

It was interesting to read Janine Walker’s article, and I couldn’t agree more with her. I have spent more than 40 years in HR, with 25 years in one institution in India (All India Management Association, the equivalent of the Australian Institute of Management), and 20 years here, with more than 18 years in HR at the Australian Tax Office (ATO). I have also had the pleasure of working with chief executives of erstwhile British Institute of Management, World council of Management and a number of statutory bodies in professions like accounting, company secretaryship and more in India.

Since arriving here in the mid 80s, I became a member of AIM and gave up after ten years, as well as AITD (for eight years and gave up) and AHRI associate fellowship (for nine years and gave up). My personal opinion is that, as Janine accurately describes, the role of AHRI is "to establish the ethical and professional conduct expected to lead and elevate the HR profession" and not to impose a "regulatory" burden on the HR profession.

I remember in the early 60s and 70s, a debate arose in the UK as to who is a professional manager. This debate considered whether, like accounting and medicine, one could enforce a stricter code of conduct on professional managers who for one reason or another, are at default in managing an organisation, and the debate went on for more than 10 years before some definition was reached.

Also, fundamentally, for any professional organisation who wants to amend its clauses of membership, my opinion is that AHRI needs to go through a consultation process with its members (as they are primary ones for forming an organisation), and not issue a top down directive to its members from the president. When AHRI was declared bankrupt six odd years ago, I was quite appalled at how a "deemed" professional organisation could fall into such a state without its members or directors at the Board level seeing the writing on the wall, rather than just declaring "it has become bankrupt" at the fall of a hammer.

Bala Balachandran , manager Melbourneregion, graduate program/CPD/ATAX, professional workforce development, ATO