HR needs to address its underperformance

This week, Personnel Today unashamedly takes a hard look at the
underperformance of UK managers and HR.

If there were such a thing as an end-of- year assessment of HR, it would
score a depressing five out of 10. The kindest auditors would use remarks such
as ‘HR is not yet realising its full potential’, ‘lacks drive’ and ‘fails to

The DTI has nothing positive to say about UK managers either. It is so
concerned about poor management and processes that an American has been drafted
in to rescue the situation and £17m invested in raising management standards.
As the custodians of people development within UK plc, HR must be held
partially accountable for this sorry state of affairs.

We identify the key areas where HR fails to make a difference. The facts
speak volumes: UK workers are still some of the most insecure in the world;
productivity per hour is lagging behind the US, France and Germany; there is an
alarming climate of distrust between employers and employees; and 30 years
after equal pay legislation, women still earn less than men.

It would be easy to blame it all on legislation, but countless other
professions have to overcome legal obstacles and that has not stifled
innovation and a proactive approach towards improving output.

HR need not be the only whipping boy for these problems. The CIPD is guilty
of inertia, having done little despite its own research linking increased
productivity with management practices. By the CIPD’s own admission, only one
in five companies use effective methods such as job design, ongoing learning
and autonomous team working. Everyone agrees that UK industry pays lip service
to training and developing its managers.

The DTI initiative brings a new urgency and hope to the problem. Employers
need solutions and HR, working with business leaders, has the skills to make it

There can be few passengers in today’s leaner organisations, which is why HR
must be the driving force behind the productivity debate.

Personnel Today genuinely believes the profession is capable of so much
more. Let’s see that vision realised.

Jane King is editorial director of Personnel Today

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