HR Management


HR Managers Feel Isolated

August 8 2006 - A survey of HR managers in some of the UK's largest businesses found them craving to be involved but feeling detached from real responsibility for employee motivation. The survey from employment services company Adecco and City law firm Tarlo Lyons concludes that HR managers are cocooned from many of the risks faced by British companies and that those businesses are themselves creating employment and performance risks by distancing HR from people and policies.

The Work IN Progress: PeopleKeepers survey involved 100 HR managers in large UK organisations and explored their roles in today's workplace.

Key findings of the survey

  • Semi-detached decision makers. Fewer than half (46%) of human resource managers consider themselves to be close enough to the core business to help their companies achieve their strategic goals
  • Legal risks. A mere 13 per cent of HR managers are concerned about the Age Discrimination legislation due to come into force in October. Instead, they are most (81%) concerned about the Disability Discrimination Act, followed by the Working Time Directive (62%).
  • HR reports. HR Managers have difficulty providing basic performance metrics. Given a week's notice, just half (49%) could provide a report on staff turnover, 44 per cent could report on HR budgets and a mere 11 per cent could provide information on employee satisfaction.
  • Main responsibilities. HR professionals thought their key responsibilities were:
    • diversity (88%)
    • health and safety (64%)
    • performance and absence management (64%)
  • Only 3 per cent were responsible for 'workplace' churn, motivation and the organisation's employer brand
  • Responsibility for staff motivation. A miniscule 3 per cent of HR managers believe they have the ultimate responsibility for motivating employees. Only a quarter (26%) consider employee motivation to be a risk factor for business.

"Increasing amounts of regulatory compliance, such as CRB checks and anti-discrimination legislation, by their very nature require an element of form-filling and administration," said Steven Kirkpatrick, Managing Director of Adecco UK and Ireland. "But this shouldn't be at the expense of the real reason we need HR professionals and that's to keep workforces motivated, challenged and continually performing in their jobs."

Kirkpatrick considers that, due to the frequent centralisation of the HR function in large organisations, it is not surprising that 54 per cent of managers feel isolated from the workforce. HR may be 'inadvertently cast adrift from corporate strategy'.

"The issue is compounded by the fact that many HR professionals, weighed down by administration and legislation, have no time to flex their strategic muscles," added Kirkpatrick

"It's interesting that HR managers don't seem to view diversity and specifically the Age Discrimination Act as a direct business risk," said Bridget Wood, Employment & Resourcing Partner at Tarlo Lyons. "HR clearly sees responding to legislation as a big part of their role but there seems confusion over the ultimate risk to their organisations."

Fewer than half (46%) of those surveyed saw themselves as close enough to their organisations to achieve strategic goals but there are ways in which HR can engage staff and create value. The survey found that the most commonly used methods of employee engagement were:

  • training and development (69%)
  • internal promotion (59%)
  • above-average pay rates (53%), and
  • flexible benefits (40%)

Steven Kirkpatrick conclusions are that:

"It would be more productive to see the 'PeopleKeepers' spending more time on actually keeping people within the business motivated and developing in their jobs with new ideas instead of battling with regulations and administration - that's the value and insight that human resources can bring to an organisation."

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