Why is HR going ‘under the radar’?

‘Why is HR going ‘under the radar’ with employees?’ – ‘To continue their employment’, many may say – Juliette Rowsell, writing in ‘People Management‘, suggests a lack of understanding of the function’s role is leading to such negative perceptions – some indeed consider HR to be either a dumping ground for failed executives and/ or an academic irrelevance for front-line operators – read on for her views
  • HR is perceived as the least productive department within organisations, with one in seven  employees labelling their firm’s people team as ‘unproductive’ or ‘very unproductive’, according to a recent survey, but commentators argue the value of the function is ‘often unclear’ to wider workforces.
  • This figure increased to 19 per cent among middle and lower-level managers.
  • Ciphr’s poll of 1,000 UK employees asked people to rate their own productivity, as well as the productivity levels of other people and teams at their organisations.
  • Employees tended to rate themselves as more productive than their colleagues and were more likely to believe those they worked with most often, or those in roles they were more familiar with, were more productive over those in roles that might be less visible within the organisation.
  • Jane Chilman, human resources and workplace mediation consultant, told People Management: “I don’t think many HR professionals will be surprised – but may be a little disappointed – by the outcome of this survey.
  • “As HR professionals, we work in the background supporting employees and managers in their roles. Much of what HR does and achieves goes under the employees’ radar with them often being unaware of the HR involvement, which in my opinion is the way it should be. (why?)
  • “HR professionals from my experience don’t go out to look for recognition or appreciation for their work and are not surprised or disappointed when we don’t get any.
  • “It’s enough to know what we are doing in supporting our employees’ managers and the business is contributing to everyone’s success.” (is it enough for others too?)

    It was a different picture, however, among senior leadership. Three quarters of leaders and senior managers rated their HR department as productive or very productive. (how measured?)

  • “At a generic level the research findings don’t surprise us – the role and the value of the HR function is often unclear to a broad employee audience and the value it brings is often undefined,” said Debbie Mitchell, HR transformation senior manager at Lace Partners.
  • “HR activity can be widely misunderstood as employees might rightly focus on tactical, individual issues like performance, pay and general policies and queries.”
  • However, she said: “At a manager level it’s a little more disappointing, given that many of our interactions are about helping that group of leaders to be great people managers and deliver a strong and impactful people experience, and enabling business success.”
  • HR must work harder to demonstrate its value throughout the organisation, through clear measurement and KPIs as well as engagement across the business, Mitchell said. “Typical productivity measures aren’t relatable in the HR world – so we need to be clear about how we measure our success and impact and then shout about it.” (how, and when?)
  • Jane Bradshaw-Jones, HR technical consultant at AdviserPlus, told People Management: “Some line managers may hide behind HR and put them as the decision makers rather than owning the outcomes themselves, which can contribute to a poor perception of HR if any outcome the employee desired hasn’t gone their way. For example, if a grievance hasn’t been upheld in their favour or if they haven’t received a salary increase [owing] to their end of year performance rating.
  • “In order to change this perception and drive success that meets both business and workforce needs, HR has to be as business driven and strategic as possible. (reflected in their KPIs?)
  • “To achieve this, HR teams need more time to spend on strategic priorities, so it’s imperative that HR leaders prioritise transformation initiatives that empower line managers to deal with more people matters without HR’s involvement.
  • “This will give HR more time to focus on creating more business-driven HR functions and being more visible in driving positive cultural change and demonstrate the huge value HR delivers to the business.”
  • Claire Williams, chief people and operations officer at Ciphr, added: “Productivity in HR is also not always quantifiable in the same way as it might be for other roles or other departments, such as sales or manufacturing.
  • “HR’s impact is often seen in long-term outcomes, like employee retention and satisfaction, which are harder to measure and appreciate in the short term.” (not so)
  • Consequently, it is important to issue regular internal communications from the HR team to increase transparency and share studies or examples of how HR initiatives have impacted the business, she said.


CONCLUSION – I have long believed that it’s people, especially managers, that drive most productivity improvement in any organisation – and managers need good HR support with recruitment, training, development, promotion, succession planning and motivation of their staff – sadly, many HR departments still do not offer managers that help yet they are one of the most important departments bigger organisations employ – the above article covering latest thinking from leading HR professionals suggests, at least to me, that things aren’t about to change anytime soon


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