HR skills gap bred by shared services puts future of profession in doubt


Shared service centres are causing a shortage of HR professionals with the rounded skillset needed to reach director level, according to research seen by Personnel Today.

Two-thirds of HR professionals and chief executives surveyed by employee relations consultancy Marshall-James thought shared services reduced the skills of HR staff. More than half (56%) of the 200 respondents were concerned there would be a severe lack of talented professionals ready to feed the next generation of HR chiefs.

Marshall-James’s managing director, and author of the report, Andy Cook told Personnel Today that shared services only primed HR people to learn about business partnering or transactional skills. He challenged the function to “throw out” the strict business partnering and shared-services model proposed by HR guru Dave Ulrich in 1997, and replace it with a more flexible version that allowed professionals to build a variety of skills.

“HR directors are in a position to influence careers and development they need to be braver and throw out the [strict] shared-services model and look at the other issues. Sometimes they can be guilty of following the latest fad,” Cook said.

He said that an increasing number of job adverts for senior HR roles asked for a range of skills, but added: “Where does someone who has only done business partnering point to to say they have that experience?”

HR director viewpoint

Lesley Cotton, group HR director at restaurant chain Paramount Restaurants, has gained HR experience across the retail, fitness and hospitality sectors. She told Personnel Today: “The HR skillset for the future is definitely about a breadth of experience. You’ve got to understand the commercial drivers of business and the levers you can pull through the business to drive profits.”

Paramount had recently outsourced recruitment, she said. “Historically, HR people felt more comfortable keeping hold of more traditional HR areas,” she said, “but HR needs to become equipped with organisational design or workforce planning skills to become successful.”

Listen to the full Lesley Cotton interview on HR skills


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