HR been the subject of many myths over the years - some of which have seriously damaged its reputation. We dispel 10 of the most common.
1. Senior HR people have little HR experience and are merely parachuted into their jobs
Around 75% of those recruiting HR professionals choose someone with HR experience, although they will consider alternatives. Previous evidence (from Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research in 2005) points out that the average HR director has 20 years' HR experience, has worked in four different organisations and has taken five major career steps to their present job. Recruitment methods are based around agencies, consultancies and networking.
2. HR people are serial career changers
Of HR professionals who are considering a change in job, around 64% are looking for another job in HR, according to the CIPD, and most spend at least 15 years in the HR profession.
3. It is impossible to join HR from another function
It is always feasible to join from another function. The most common areas to lose junior staff to HR are admin support and customer services. Newcomers at senior level are most likely to come from an operations or consultancy role. All newcomers are likely to find that their business experience or overview of the business will enhance their credibility and prospects. Around 48% of HR professionals have said that they would be willing to recruit people with little HR experience.
4. You have to stay within one organisation to reach a senior level
Varied career paths are common within HR, because they provide exposure to diverse viewpoints and varied business experiences. Make sure, however, that your experiences are reflected in a results-oriented CV, which is clear about your achievements within each new role.
5. You have to specialise to reach a senior level
"As far as HR careers go, there isn't a one-size fits all approach," says Paul Duffield, director of the BetterPlaced HR consultancy. While CIPD figures show that some specialists are in short supply, there is no evidence that a specialism is needed to become a high-flyer. Some specialisms can be seen as niche, or become career limiting unless they can ultimately be practiced in a global organisation.
Duffield says that he has seen candidates move in and out of specialisms and back into generalisms, or take a variety of sideways and vertical moves to get the career they desire.
6. HR is a backroom function
Hardly. According to CIPD figures, around 45% of HR departments were restructured in 2010 in order to become strategic contributors, and 24% were restructured in order to give the department a stronger business focus.
7. HR is seen as reactive, not proactive
This is an old myth about HR which has not been true for at least 20 years. The profession is peopled with HR directors who shape direction, rather than fight fires, such as Jane Roberts, HR director of Domino's Pizza, who recently told PersonnelToday.com: "As a member of the board, I will lead organisational development towards growth targets and further develop the HR function in partnering the business."
8. HR is not the place to get a pay rise
The profession has weathered the storm of recession well, with 53% of respondents to a recent CIPD survey claiming to have received an annual pay rise. Pay prospects are better for qualified professionals, who stand to earn around £81,000 more over their career than their unqualified HR counterparts, according to the CIPD's membership director Sue Upton.
9. HR people are just "yes men"
Curiosity and the courage to challenge are the new watchwords for HR professionals. They are expected to be inquisitive about the impact of an organisation's culture on its people and its business, and prepared to suggest solutions or alternatives to tranform their organisations.
These behaviours are highlighted on the CIPD's HR Profession Map, launched in 2010. Structured around 10 professional areas of HR activity, the map focuses on the knowledge, activities and behaviours required in the profession today and in the future.
Challenging the myth that HR people are "yes men", the CIPD's head of HR practice and development Vanessa Robinson says that the most frequently researched behaviour online is the "curiosity" section of the map. "And HR directors have told us separately that the courage to challenge is the most encouraged behaviour at their organisations," she says.
10. HR is dull, repetitive and bureaucratic
While these were the damning responses of graduates to CIPD research in 2009, there is plenty of evidence to disprove them. Most HR professionals are happy with their jobs, which they see as contributing to the success of their organisations. And for most, the concept of a typical day does not exist.
As Tim Pointer, head of HR at global and management company Pentland Brands, told the " Truth about HR" report: "On any given day I can be running an event, presenting our strategy, analysing an acquisition, coaching my team, or designing communications; the list goes on."