The state of the profession

Louis
Wustemann looks at some of the findings of the Personnel Today/XpertHR State of
the Profession survey.

Summary

The
survey drew responses from 3,160 UK personnel managers. Its main findings are:


Two-thirds of managers had been in their current posts less than two years and
one-third expected to move within 12 months. Only three out of 10 could see
themselves staying with their current employers for five years or more.


Four out of five managers expect to stay in the personnel profession for the
whole of their working lives.


The most popular destinations for managers expecting to leave personnel are
general management, teaching and consultancy.

-Three
out of four managers say they are motivated and loyal and enjoy their jobs on
balance. But fewer than two-thirds think their work is recognised or enjoy real
job security.


Managers are mostly confident that their departments are strategically focused,
act as internal enablers, and are growing in importance to their organisations
but are less likely to agree they are well resourced or are appreciated or
listened to at the highest levels.


Recruitment and retention were seen as the most important personnel issues
facing employers followed by motivating employees and workplace communications.
Flexible working and trade union partnership were not perceived as critical by
many managers.           

Salaries
and earnings

Salaries
showed a predictable correlation with age and experience – 54 per cent of those
who had worked in personnel fewer than three years had basic salaries under
£25,000, compared to 31 per cent of those with between four and 10 years and 10
per cent with 11 or more years experience.

Women
were more likely to fall in the lower part of the salary range than men – 29
per cent of female managers were paid under £25,000 against only 13 per cent of
their male counterparts and only 6 per cent of women were paid £50,000 or more,
compared to 18 per cent of men.

The
highest concentrations of those paid £30,000 and over were in the professional
services and consultancy and electronic, IT and communications industries,
while catering and transport and manufacturing and engineering had the lowest
numbers paid above this level.

CIPD
qualified managers were no more common than their unqualified colleagues in the
upper salary categories (£40,000 and over) but better represented in the range
from £25,000 to £34,999 (43 per cent of CIPD qualified individuals against 32
per cent of unqualified managers).

A
second question on total earnings including benefits and discretionary payments
showed the proportion of those earning under £25,000 was 18 per cent compared
to 24 per cent for basic salary and 31 per cent earned £40,000 or more against
24 per cent for basic salary. Two out of five managers (40 per cent) had total
earnings between £25,000 and £35,000.

CIPD
qualification

More
than three-quarters of the managers surveyed had passed or were studying for
qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
(CIPD). Non-board directors showed the highest proportion of qualified
individuals of any management group. There were more qualified female managers
than males (65 per cent as opposed to 60 per cent of men) and twice as many
women studying for CIPD qualifications (18 per cent) as men.

Managers
aim to become qualified early in their careers: 43 per cent of those in their
first three years in HR were studying for the CIPD examinations, compared to 19
per cent of those with four to 10 years’ experience and only 4 per cent of
those who had been longer in the profession. Analysed by sector, the highest
concentrations of qualified managers were in the health, local government and
charity fields and the greatest proportion of respondents without qualification
in manufacturing and engineering and national government.

Time
in current job

Personnel
managers in the UK appear to be highly mobile. Around two-thirds (65 per cent)
said they had been in their current posts for only three years or less and 29
per cent had moved within the past 12 months.

Around
one in five (19 per cent) had more than six years’ service with their current
employer, rising to 29 per cent of those in the education and training
profession. Women were less likely to be long-stayers than men and managers in
the north of England had longer than average service with their present
employer.

Asked
how long they had worked in personnel, almost half those surveyed (46 per cent)
said they had been in the profession 11 years or longer and 25 per cent had
less than five years’ experience. CIPD qualified respondents were more strongly
represented in the range from six to 15 years in personnel, but those with
longer or shorter service were more likely to be unqualified. Women far
outstripped men among those with fewer than 10 years’ experience, but the
position was reversed for longer service.

Job
perception

Respondents
were asked to assess their satisfaction, security, loyalty, enjoyment, and
recognition at work using a scale of one to seven, where one was the highest
score and seven the lowest.

On
the subject of job satisfaction, there were more positive than negative
responses, with 63 per cent of the sample marking themselves in the top half of
the scale, though only 7 per cent chose the top rank of “extremely satisfied”.
Almost one in five managers (19 per cent) declared themselves unsatisfied,
though only 3 per cent deeply so.

Board
directors were most likely to report high satisfaction – 55 per cent put
themselves in the top two scale points, compared with 29 per cent of middle or
junior managers. More male managers appeared to be satisfied with their jobs
than women: 69 per cent of men put themselves in the first three rankings, but
only 61 per cent of women did the same.

Not
surprisingly, the respondents who intended to stay in their current jobs were
most likely to be satisfied (81 per cent) while only two out of five (41 per
cent) of those expecting to move in the next year said the same.

Levels
of job enjoyment outstripped those of satisfaction: 77 per cent of
respondents said they enjoyed their work and 22 per cent placed themselves at
the top of the scale. Board directors were again most likely to enjoy their
jobs, with 90 per cent in the top part of the range and 39 per cent in the
number one rating. Otherwise, enjoyment levels varied little by age, business
sector, gender, region or length of time in the HR profession.

Motivation
levels were similar to enjoyment; 77 per cent of managers reported being
motivated at work and 21 per cent opted for “highly motivated”. This top
ranking was most common among board directors (47 per cent) but dropped to 15
per cent of middle and junior managers. Double the proportion of  the oldest respondents (51 years and over)
reported the highest level of motivation than the youngest age group of 21-30
year-olds.

On
the issue of job security, there were strong sectoral variations.
Overall, 64 per cent of the sample placed themselves in the top three points of
the scale, even though only 16 per cent chose the top ranking indicating they
had a “good sense of job security”. But the overall 64 per cent confidence
level rose to 78 per cent in the education and training sector and national
government (though local government and the health sector were nearer the
national norm at 68 per cent and 69 per cent respectively). The lowest job
security levels were apparent in the electronic, IT and communications
industries (where 47 per cent put themselves in the positive end of the scale),
the energy and water sector (50 per cent) and the media (52 per cent).

Only
61 per cent of managers believed they received proper recognition for
their contribution at work and only 10 per cent said their efforts were “fully
recognised”. Perceived recognition differed little with age or gender but
earnings were a factor: 49 per cent of those with salaries under £20,000 a year
scored themselves in the top three points for recognition, compared with 66 per
cent of those earning between £35,000 and £50,000 and 69 per cent of those on
over £50,000.

Around
three-quarters of the sample (76 per cent) expressed medium to strong loyalty
to their employers and only 2 per cent put themselves at the bottom of the
scale indicating no loyalty at all. Almost half the board directors ranked
themselves as high as possible for this factor, compared to 29 per cent of
other directors and department heads and only 17 per cent of junior and middle
personnel managers. Analysed by region, the findings showed the greatest
proportion of managers in the South West and Wales (84 per cent) expressing
loyalty.

Intention
to stay

The
loyalty to present employers stated by a majority of respondents does not
translate into an intention to stay with them long. As Table 1 shows, 33 per
cent of managers expected to move within 12 months, rising to 54 per cent
within two years, and only 29 per cent could see themselves staying with their
employers more than five years. This underlines the impression of mobility in
the personnel profession given by the earlier finding that a majority of
respondents have been with their current employer for a short time only.

Not
surprisingly, the proportion of the youngest managers aged between 21 and 30,
expecting to move within a year was high (42 per cent), but even 20 per cent of
those aged 51 and over intended to change employers in the same period. More
women expected to move within the year (37 per cent) than men (26 per cent) and
correspondingly, more men could not foresee changing employer (36 per cent)
than women (26 per cent). Managers saw themselves as most mobile in the health
and media sectors and least likely to move in the construction and agriculture
and education and training sectors.

Table
1: expected career moves

Next
job move

 per cent of respondents*

Within
six months

15

Within
a year

18

Within
two years

21

Within
three years

10

Within
five years

6

Not
in foreseeable future

29

*Responses
do not total 100 per cent because of rounding

However
weak their attachment to their existing employers, most respondents saw their
futures as being tied to the HR profession. 80 per cent said they expected to
remain in the profession for the rest of their careers. Even in the youngest
age grouping of 21 to 30 year-olds, 78 per cent saw HR as a career for life.
Managers who were not CIPD qualified and those who had been in the profession
were more likely to expect to change careers than the average, but otherwise
the results varied little by gender or earnings level.

Analysed
by sector, the results showed those in the media were most loyal to the
profession (91 per cent intended to stay) while those in national government
were most likely to change; 30 per cent said they expected to leave personnel.

The
20 per cent of respondents who did not expect to remain in HR were asked where
they thought they might move to. The most common response, by 14 per cent of
respondents was into general or senior management, followed by teaching or
lecturing (10 per cent) and consultancy (7 per cent). The rest were divided
thinly between disciplines such as accountancy, counselling, operations
management, and training and development. Only 2 per cent expected to become
self-employed.

Returning
to the whole sample, a question on alternatives to working in a corporate HR
department revealed that around half the respondents (47 per cent) had
considered moving to consultancy at some time. This proportion rose to 57 per
cent among directors below board level and 57 per cent again in the energy and
water supply industry and fell to 33 per cent of chemicals sector respondents
(based on a small sample), but was close to the average when analysed by
region, gender and level of qualification.

Critical
employment issues

Respondents
were asked which employment issues were important to their organisations. Their
answers are shown in table 2.

Table
2: Issues facing personnel managers

Factor

Critical

Important

Not
important

Retention

57%

36
%

4
%

Recruitment

56
%

37
%

4
%

Motivating
employees

50
%

44
%

2
%

Workplace
communications

46
%

46
%

3
%

Training
and development

39
%

55
%

2
%

Enhancing
employee performance

35
%

55
%

5
%

Building
a new culture

33
%

39
%

18
%

Technological
change

23
%

51
%

19
%

Employee
health and well being

19
%

65
%

10
%

Equal
opportunities/diversity

16
%

60
%

18
%

Knowledge
management

16
%

57
%

19
%

Work-life
balance

15
%

63
%

16
%

Flexible
working

13
%

54
%

24
%

Trade
union partnership

11
%

35
%

17
%

Despite
the deepening economic slowdown, most of the HR professionals surveyed were
preoccupied by recruitment and retention issues. Both were rated as
critical or important by 93 per cent of respondents. Only 4 per cent of HR
managers were not preoccupied by the need to find or to keep good employees.

NHS
skills shortages were reflected in the fact that 81 per cent of healthcare
sector personnel managers saw retention as critical, followed by those from the
catering, hotels and transport sector (73 per cent).

Concerns
about retention were a little more evenly distributed across the sectors; the
health sector still reported the biggest concerns (with 74 per cent of managers
reporting the issue as critical) followed by the energy and water industry with
63 per cent. In the energy and water industry only 38 per cent surveyed said
retention was a critical priority, but in all other sectors the proportion was
more than 45 per cent.

There
were regional variations in recruitment concerns, but not strong ones. More
respondents in the South West and Wales and London and South East saw the issue
as critical than in the North of England and in Scotland. Retention worries
were highest in London and the South East and lowest in the North.

Motivating
employees ranked marginally higher than recruitment and retention if those
marking it critical or important are combined, though it was rated critical by
a smaller percentage. Broken down by sector, the data showed managers were
least likely to see motivation as critical in the charitable (42 per cent)
local government (43 per cent) and national government (44 per cent) sectors,
where the public service ethos is traditionally strong, but more surprisingly
in the construction and agriculture sectors, where 40 per cent were highly
concerned – perhaps reflecting the inability to motivate employees where many
jobs are short-term and employment insecure.

Workplace
communication
also received one of the highest combined totals of managers
who saw the issue as critical or important (92 per cent). The perception of the
importance of employee communications seemed to diminish with age: 51 per cent
of those aged between 20 and 30 thought the factor critical to their
organisations, declining to 51 per cent of those aged 51 and over. Fewer men
gave communications the highest importance (40 per cent) than women (50 per
cent).

Equal
opportunities and diversity
matters, on the other hand, did not show a
marked divergence between male and female respondents: 14 per cent of men rated
it as critical compared to 18 per cent of women. However, those in the lowest
earnings bracket (under £20,000) were markedly more concerned with equal
opportunities than those at the top of the earnings scale. The impact of the
trade unions’ diversity agenda also showed in the fact that 21 per cent of
managers whose organisations recognised unions saw the issue as critical,
compared to 11 per cent in non-unionised workplaces.

Trade
union partnership
also threw up some varied results in the detailed
analysis. Some 51 per cent of male managers thought partnership was important
or critical, compared to 44 per cent of women respondents. Those closer to line
managers were also more likely rate the issue as important than directors.

Asked
which issues would be the most important to their organisations in 12 months’
time, respondents’ answers followed broadly the same pattern in the table
above, with retention and recruitment followed by motivating employees.

Asked
what other factors might be facing their organisations, only 2 per cent voiced
their fears of a recession or slowdown, though their replies pre-dated the
terrorist attacks of September 11.

Table
3: Respondents’ perception of the role of their personnel functions

Perception
of personnel function

Agree

Neutral

Disagree*

It
will be more important to future success

86
%

10
%

4
%

It
has a business/strategic focus

77
%

8
%

14
%

It
acts as an internal consultant/enabler

77
%

13
%

8
%

It
has a greater overall role than five years ago

74
%

15
%

10
%

It
devolves operational personnel issues to line managers

67
%

12
%

20
%

It
is effectively led and managed

65
%

13
%

20
%

It
is respected by general managers

64
%

18
%

16
%

It
is seen by top management as having a key role

62
%

13
%

24
%

It
has a full and effective input at board/senior management level

58
%

13
%

28
%

It
has a welfare role

57
%

17
%

26
%

It
has a primarily administrative role

49
%

12
%

39
%

It
gives HR specialists experience outside the personnel function

36
%

21
%

42
%

It
is well resourced

33
%

17
%

48
%

It
outsources routine administration

15
%

15
%

69
%

*Responses
do not always total 100 per cent because of rounding

Perception
of personnel functions

Respondents
were asked to apply a set of statements to their own personnel functions and to
say whether they agreed or disagreed with each one. The highest levels of
agreement were accorded to statements about the growing importance of personnel
to organisations. Respondents were particularly confident about the future,
though this was less so among junior and middle managers and those in the
national and local government sectors.

There
was a little less confidence in the way personnel is perceived and treated by other
parts of the organisation, especially senior management; 25 per cent of
respondents or fewer agreed strongly that personnel is respected by other
managers, is seen as a key function by senior management, or has a strong input
at board level.

Despite
the fact that more than three out of four respondents believed their
departments were strategically focused, acting as an internal consultancy,
almost half also agreed the personnel function they worked in was primarily
concerned with administrative work. Outsourcing of such routine activities
remains rare; only 15 per cent of respondents said their functions subcontract
administrative tasks. This rose to 27 per cent of those in banking and finance
and those agreeing in the Midlands and East Anglia slightly were slightly
higher than the national average.

The
devolution of personnel responsibilities to line management that came into
vogue in the early 1990s seems to be still in favour. Only one in five
respondents said their functions did not devolve such duties, though this
figure was higher in the health and chemicals sectors.

Perception
of the profession

The
pattern of general confidence about the necessity of personnel work to good
business but less surety about how much that work is valued by others was repeated
in responses to another set of statements on the personnel profession in the
UK.

The
great majority (93 per cent) agreed that the profession is “crucial to business
success”, with strong agreement expressed by 71 per cent. A greater proportion
of women agreed strongly than men and those in London and the South East and
the Midlands and East Anglia were more confident than those in the South West
and Wales.

Another
high proportion (89 per cent) agreed that personnel “adds measurable value to
organisations”, and again substantially more women agreed strongly than men.

But
85 per cent also agreed that the profession “struggles to get a voice at the
highest level in organisations” and only 8 per cent disagreed. Almost the same
proportion said personnel “is often overlooked by top executives”. Only 64 per
cent believed it “has a solid professional reputation” and 39 per cent agreed
that it “is a career of choice for new graduates”, though managers under 30
were more likely to agree than their older colleagues. Fewer than one in three
(29 per cent) agreed that personnel was “well represented in national debates”
and only 3 per cent agreed strongly, while 42 per cent disagreed with the
statement.

Considering
the high proportion of respondents who were studying for or have gained CIPD
qualification it seems surprising that only 29 per cent agreed strongly (and
only 57 per cent agreed at all) that UK practitioners needed such qualification
to progress their careers. Less surprising was that the proportion agreeing
fell further to 30 per cent of those who were not qualified. The proportion
believing in the necessity of qualification fell with age and with rising
salary level.

The
state of the profession survey was carried out on behalf of Reed Business
Information by NSM Research. Louis Wustemann is a writer and consultant on
employment issues and general editor of the IRS handbook of flexible working.

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