The HR profession has spent the past two decades clawing its way into the boardroom, fighting to convince the likes of marketing and finance that HR can be strategic, while still making a difference to the bottom line.
So what happens when recession looms? HR retreats back into its shell, and begins to look like its old reactive self. The old-school HR managers who dealt with the last recession 15 years ago are long gone, while those who replaced them find themselves in a quandary - at risk of undoing their predecessors' good work and being seen simply as the people who do the firing.
Faced with just such an economic crisis, what is HR doing? The answer, as TV magician Paul Daniels used to say, is "not a lot". According to research from employee engagement consultancy TalentDrain, seen exclusively by Personnel Today, only 30% of organisations (16% in the public sector) have adapted their HR strategy in line with today's economic context.
Anthony Miles, TalentDrain's director of research and development, says: "What really struck me is that only one in three organisations has changed its HR strategy. In fact, 61% said they haven't changed it. Without being pessimistic, I hope this doesn't mean that HR departments are being too reactive."
Miles adds that his core message to HR practitioners today is: "If you're not changing your HR strategy, why not?"
But what of those who have moved with the times? According to the survey, their priorities lie very much with keeping existing staff. Rather than spending on recruitment, 72% of them are prioritising performance management, 67% organisational communications, and 54% employee engagement and retention.
Miles says: "The nature of the HR market is changing. It has become much less candidate-driven, and more about redundancies versus recruitment. The onus is on HR professionals to manage their existing employee base as effectively as possible, to get the best return on them. And that means paying attention to talent groups and high performers".
As he points out, there's even more pressure now to ensure that people who are brought on board engage properly with the organisation, and don't leave before they begin contributing to the bottom line.
One survey respondent told TalentDrain their organisation was "focusing on alternative career paths and development opportunities r