Happiness stats prove that HR needs to look after itself

We clearly touched a nerve with our news story on HR being the unhappiest profession in the UK (Personnel Today, 14 June) and, judging by your responses, the profession is split between those who are ecstatically happy in their roles and those who are weighed down by the stress of it all.

What this boils down to is the fact that HR is adept at sorting out everyone else’s problems, but isn’t quite so good at looking after itself. News from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) that sales colleagues are paid 50% more than HR managers is a case in point (page 1).

Become a specialist, or do a more strategic role, and you’ll manage to bump up your salary. But too often, generalist HR in the UK is  viewed as an overhead rather than a function that adds value.

Not so in Scandinavia, where HR people are reportedly the happiest. Our news analysis (page 8) suggests that the UK could learn a great deal from its Nordic counterparts. In Denmark, for example, HR is regarded as a business partner whose views are highly valued.

And in Sweden, all employees feel equal: there is no ‘them and us’ culture between boss and employee, and issues are resolved through co-operation rather than confrontation. HR spends less time resolving complaints and more time involved in constructive development activities.

What makes HR so miserable in the UK is all that worrying about compliance and admin. Yet a company’s success depends on much more than managing risk, and HR has a vital role to play in encouraging innovation and creating value.

As the CMI suggests, it will therefore be interesting to see whether the inclusion of staff factors in the Operating and Financial Review regulations will help companies wake up to the value HR can add – and reward it with plumper pay packets.

 

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