There has been much attention in the HR press recently about the changing role of HR departments within organisations. Has HR really adopted a strategic position within UK organisations? And how does the UK compare to other European countries?
Recent research by the Cranet Survey on International Strategic HR Management has compared the strategic role of HR across a number of countries.
One factor that is often taken as a sign that HR does have a part to play in the development of organisational strategy is whether or not the head of HR is on the board of directors. Just under half of UK organisations surveyed have the head of HR on the board – significantly fewer than in France and Sweden and slightly less than Germany.
The survey also asks whether a company approaches HR itself in a strategic way through the existence of a human resource management (HRM) or personnel strategy. About 60% of UK organisations have a written HRM strategy.
This is comparable to France and higher than Germany where only a third of organisations have a written HRM strategy. However, more than three-quarters of Swedish organisations have a written HRM strategy.
A final indicator of the strategic nature of HR is its involvement in the development of business strategy. Approximately half of UK organisations involve the HR department in the development of strategy from the outset, while another 30% involve it through consultation. French and Swedish organisations more commonly involve the HR department in the development of business strategy from the outset than UK or German companies.
So where does this leave us with regard to the role of HR as a strategic partner? In Sweden, it appears that the HR department does indeed have a strategic role, with the head of HR on the board, a written strategy and the involvement of HR in the development of strategy from the outset.
This role is not so developed in the UK however, with the head of HR less likely to be on the board and only half of organisations involving HR in the development of strategy from the outset.
Whether HR in the UK moves further towards becoming a strategic partner over the next few years remains to be seen, the research concludes.
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