Help make strategic vision a reality for HR

In the wake of the 2003 CIPD conference Duncan Brown, assistant
director-general, looks at HR’s new-found confidence

"HR is providing specialist consultancy, increasing input to the

"HR is delivering effective solutions to maximise business

"HR is taking on new importance as companies realise shareholder
value is not what gets people out of bed".

Do my eyes deceive me? Can this really be senior people management
professionals, who seem to have spent the last 50 years trying to shake off
Drucker’s allegations of lack of purpose, sounding so positive?

The CIPD’s new survey of 1,200 HR functional heads, Where We Are, Where
We’re Heading, reveals a confident profession that knows where it is going and
is making progress. The purpose is clear across all sectors: add value by
delivering tailored solutions to business issues.

Half describe their primary role as a business partner and change agent, and
this is the aspiration for virtually all. Seventy-two per cent claim more
influence with senior and board colleagues, and 90 per cent measure their

Doom-mongers will respond: "they would say that wouldn’t they?"
But, this is no whitewash. Respondents recognise that the function remains
enmeshed in operational tasks and inefficient bureaucracy, and has to work
harder with the line to deliver their HR strategies in practice.

But driven by a broadening business agenda and employment legislation, the
HR function has grown in 43 per cent of these organisations, employing more
specialists and people with broader business experience. Outsourcing’s been
over-hyped, with modest increases concentrated in traditional areas such as

The responsibilities of the function are similarly expanding. Only 15 per
cent still lead on facilities management, but 29 per cent manage organisation
design, a third on internal communications and 19 per cent on corporate social

The CIPD is following up these findings, analysing what is needed to address
the problems of front-line delivery and administration, and the implications
for skillsets and career paths in HR.

The picture is not perfect, but a self-confident profession that knows where
it is heading is a lot stronger than one clinging to its historic territory.

Let’s all get behind addressing the issues and making the strategic vision a

The HR survey
Key findings

1,188 people from public, private and voluntary organisations,
took part in the survey – 21 per cent were board members and 53 per cent were
functional heads

70 per cent have a defined HR strategy, and 90 per cent measure
their impact on the business

43 per cent employ more people in the HR function than three
years ago, with 32 per cent employing less, and 25 per cent employing more
people with experience outside of the function.

37 per cent have centralised aspects of HR activity in the last
three years

34 per cent have increased their use of external recruitment

Two-thirds believe more HR administration will be outsourced in
the future, but half report systems/technical difficulties with their HR
information systems.

The survey report can be down-loaded from

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