October 28 2005 - A new CIPD survey finds
most HR professionals are happy with their career choice and
81% would make the same choice if they started
all over again.
The CIPD report looks at the career experiences of over 1,800 HR
professionals and challenges many of the negative myths about human resource specialists.
According to Jessica Jarvis, CIPD Learning, Training and Development
Adviser and author of the report:
"It sometimes seems that it is fashionable for the HR profession
to indulge in doom, gloom and self-loathing. But this survey
turns some of the myths on their heads. A profession where
the vast majority would pick the same career path if they could
start over again is a confident one that is happy with itself."
- Contrary to the common belief that
the most senior people in HR have little background in human resources
and are parachuted into their jobs, the average HR Director has 20 years
HR experience, has worked in four different organisations, and
taken five major career steps to their present jobs.
- Human resource professionals are (mostly) not serial career
changers. They average 15 years service within the HR
- HR professionals do not
lack experience elsewhere in the world of work. Just 26% of those surveyed
began their careers in human resources. 83% of respondents had worked outside HR at some
point in their careers - typically, sales/marketing/retail, or possibly general
business/management and finance.
- Survey respondents rated the most important factors in a HR career
as personal drive, business/industry awareness and generalist experience.
- Moving between organisations is seen as important to career
progression. On average, respondents had taken four major
career steps and worked for an average of three organisations.
one organisation, over specialising and call centres/shared
service centres were highlighted as ignificant barriers to career progression.
40% of respondents felt outsourcing was having
a negative impact on HR careers.
Apart from age, there were few reliable
indicators of the chances of reaching senior levels in HR. These were: being
a generalist rather than a specialist; having a degree; having
worked for a number of different organisations and having had
a number of significant career steps. But many other factors -
including qualifications, experience and competencies - had an influential role in reaching senior ranks.
Jessica Jarvis commented:
"It seems that this voicing of more positive beliefs about HR
from those we surveyed signals a change in attitude within
the profession, with people gaining more belief in the function's
ability to become a more credible and respected business
player. Certainly it seems that the time is now ripe for this to
happen. Several factors are coming together to improve the
standing of HR in the business community - the rise of business
partnering is making HR more integral to the business and
prominent issues such as human capital reporting and corporate
social responsibility are carrying HR up the corporate ladder.
HR must step up to the challenge and demonstrate how their
strategic activities can impact in business terms.
The CIPD report also highlighted some other myths and realities:
- "Nobody applies for top jobs any more - it's all done by head
hunting" - Not true according to the survey. Job applications
were the most likely way to senior HR positions. Only 26% of
Directors and 17% of Senior/Group Executives.
- "Consultants are too young to know much about HR" - Not
according to the survey, the Independent Consultant group
had an average age of 51. They
had also, on average, been in HR for 22 years - longer than the
average HR Director.
- "People in HR don't understand the business" - A mere
17% of respondents had no experience of working
outside the HR function. 'Business
awareness/sense' was the second most important factor in
getting to the top in HR, and three-quarters agreed that
'Experience in another function (outside HR) furthers HR