Just 5% of employees recognise HR as being fundamental to business survival, a survey has revealed.
Research conducted by the European Leadership Programme (ELP) also found more than a quarter of employees felt HR expertise was the least important skill for their CEO to possess when leading their organisation through the tough economic climate.
But the survey of 1,000 UK-based executives also showed 42% believed their CEOs needed more HR support.
Ashley Ward, founder of ELP, said: "The core elements for business survival - people, strategy and financials - must all be equally represented. When one starts to lag behind, an organisation can enter dangerous territory.
"Organisations need to keep investing in HR. Your team may not recognise the role that HR plays within the company every day but they do realise when it's lacking and their motivation wanes."
Rebecca Clake, advisor on organisation and resourcing at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, told Personnel Today that HR professionals must focus on how they are perceived within their business to ensure employees were aware of their initiatives and the contribution they made.
She said: "It's important that HR demonstrates the contribution it can make to the business. The fact that times are difficult at the moment is an opportunity to rise to the challenge.
"HR needs to think about the way they are perceived in their business. They need to have an ongoing relationship and dialogue with their people to get feedback, and think who their stakeholders are and the impression they need to portray. You can't just do a PR campaign saying this is what we are doing.
"HR is essential, not just for surviving but thriving in the long term."