Why is HR still not getting the respect it deserves?

Although HR practitioners believe their role is becoming
more important and they want to stay in the department, many feel the function
does not get enough respect. Phil Boucher reports on a survey that details the
state of the HR profession

The profession is confident that HR will have an important role to play in
the future, but there are still concerns over the lack of respect it receives
from other parts of the business.

Over 85 per cent of HR managers believe that HR will be vital to the
continued success of their organisation.

This vote of confidence in HR comes from one of the largest surveys of the
profession’s characteristics and opinions ever.

The State of the Profession Survey carried out by Personnel Today and the
new web-based information service XpertHR canvassed the views of 3,160 HR
managers throughout the UK.

The research has unearthed the real issues and standards in HR and predicts
where it will be in the future.

The message is positive. Over three-quarters of respondents believe HR
already has a strategic business focus and acts as an internal consultant and
enabler, and a similar proportion maintain that HR has a greater overall role
than in did five years ago.

But just a quarter agree that HR is respected by other managers, is seen as
a key function by senior management, or has strong input at board level.

Most respondents felt the profession has a long way to go before it can
claim to be an equal business partner.

Eighty-five per cent agree the profession "struggles to get a voice at
the highest level in organisations". A similar number admit that it is
"often overlooked by executives".

Discrepancy

Commenting on the findings, David Shepherd, editor of XpertHR, said,
"There is a huge discrepancy between what HR professionals think of their
role and how other managers in the organisation see it.

"HR is increasingly becoming strategic and capable, but it has so far
failed to convince general managers of the value it can contribute."

Many people in business have an outdated view of HR, Shepherd explained. As
the business environment has changed, HR has become more important.

He said, "HR has become more significant over the years – partly
because of the huge amount of employment legislation that’s come into place.

"Often HR people have to say, ‘You can’t do that’ to someone because it
would be breaking the law. In a sense, HR is now the internal policeman within
an organisation and is often seen as slowing people down rather than adding
value."

Qualifications and pay

More than three-quarters of the managers who took part in The State of the
Profession Survey had passed or were studying for CIPD qualifications – most of
them within the early stages of their careers.

Of those currently studying for CIPD qualifications, 43 per cent were in the
first three years of their HR career. Just 19 per cent had been in the
profession for four years or longer.

Female HR managers are also far more likely to be involved in studying,
recorded as being more than double the number of men currently studying.

Overall, there were far more female CIPD-qualified managers than men.
Despite this, female respondents were more likely to fall into the lower part
of the salary range. Almost a third of female managers surveyed were paid under
£25,000 compared to just 13 per cent of men.

And just 6 per cent of women were in the £50,000 or more pay bracket,
compared to 18 per cent of their male counterparts.

This is partly explained by the demographic split within the survey. While
women comprised 63 per cent of respondents, they were far more likely to be
younger and in less senior positions.

Women also filled the vast majority of jobs attracting a salary of £20,000
and under and almost half of the total female response was concentrated in the
£20,000 to £35,000 wage bracket.

In contrast, men accounted for 60 per cent of both board and non-board
directors, while only filling less than a third of management positions below
the level of department head.

This suggests that women are still unable to force their way into the upper
echelons of the profession.

XpertHR’s Shepherd said, "This is not specific to HR – I think it’s
probably the same across all different divisions.

"But for HR managers, the difficulty lies with finding ways to get
recognition for the role they are already playing inside an organisation.

"It’s not just the case that HR is adding value, but that it is seen to
be doing it. HR managers have to blow their own trumpets to get noticed."

Happiness

But, regardless of pay, the vast majority of HR managers are happy to stay
in the profession until retirement and over 80 per cent of respondents expect
to remain in HR 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 and claimed they were happy to stay.

Those that did think they would leave were likely to have worked in other
professions and not be CIPD qualified. Otherwise, the results varied little by
gender or earnings levels.

Of the 20 per cent of respondents who did expect to leave HR, the most
common destination is general or senior management, closely followed by
teaching, lecturing and consultancy work.

Despite this, one-third of respondents still expect to change jobs within
the next 12 months. Less than a third can see themselves staying with their
current employer for more than five years.

Recognition

The level of recognition that HR professionals receive for their efforts is
an important determining factor in whether they stay with a firm, according to
the research.

The level of support an employer gives to the HR team on a day-to-day basis
is also influential. While over three-quarters of respondents say that they are
loyal to their organisations, only 10 per cent feel that their efforts are
fully recognised by senior management.

Mike Emmott, adviser on employee relations at the CIPD, commented, "The
figures suggest the personnel profession is relatively content and has a higher
than average sense of loyalty to employers.

"But HR is a mobile occupation and personnel folk change and expect to
change jobs more regularly than their workers."

Only one in five people in HR have more than six years’ experience with
their current empl-oyer, rising to 29 per cent for those in education and
training. Women are less likely to have long service than men.

Ratings

When asked to rate which employment issues were most important to their
organisation, respondents stated that recruitment, retention and staff
motivation provided the greatest day-to-day challenges.

Despite the economic slowdown, staff motivation is vital to 94 per cent of
respondents, and a similar number say recruitment and retention are important
or critical.

Crucially, over 45 per cent of those surveyed claim that workplace
communication is a critical employment issue for HR.

But the research shows that HR often struggles to have a say among senior
management and its ability to communicate its own importance can adversely
affect HR’s influence.

Shepherd said, "The results show just how far HR still has to go to
prove itself and convince the board of its worth within the wider business
context.

"While recruitment and retention are important aspects and provide a
constant challenge for any business, it shows the magnitude of the task facing
the HR profession to get HR treated as an equal business partner."

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