Some people have all the luck. Take the Scandin-avians, for example. If research is to be believed, they are much more likely to enjoy their work in HR compared with their UK peers.
According to a survey of 14,000 workers throughout Europe by recruitment company Kelly Services, fewer than half (46%) of HR professionals in the UK are happy at work compared with 68% of personnel people from the Nordic countries.
At vehicle manufacturer Volvo, Richard Eyres, European HR director at its truck division, said the egalitarian attitudes running through Swedish society were re-flected in how firms operate.
“Worker/manager relations in Swedish companies are less confrontational,” he said. “Every employee is considered equal and their satisfaction and opinions are taken seriously.”
According to Eyres, Swedish managers spend more time with workers discussing issues and understanding their motivations than their British counterparts.
In addition, employer relationships with trade unions in Sweden are more agreeable. Unions and company representatives in Sweden tend to regard most issues as a mutual problem, he said.
This means HR professionals in Sweden spend less time resolving complaints and more time occupied with constructive development tasks.
The consensus-based culture of Swedish firms also struck chartered occupational psychologist Marc Atherton during an 18-month stint working in the country. He said that in Sweden issues were resolved through co-operation whereas in the UK workplace people tend to approach HR with a “bitchy ‘fix this’ attitude”.
“Working in HR in the UK must seem like working on a complaints desk at times,” he said.
Wage inequality is also less pronounced in Scandinavian companies and with no ‘fat cat’ culture, employees feel more content, he said. “In Sweden everyone drives the same type of Volvo into the company car park.”
Vibeke Frank, HR director at Danish brewing company Carls-berg, agrees that the split between workers and management is less obvious in Scandinavia.
“We’re no good at hierarchy,” she said. “Scandinavian workers are far more empowered than their UK counterparts.”
Carlsberg has a flat management structure made up of self-managing teams. With fewer bodies between the shopfloor and the boardroom, workers’ voices are heard, Frank said.
This structure also makes it easier for HR to get its views across wher