HR not trusted with the bigger picture

Nov 02 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

More than half of senior American managers rarely, if ever, speak to their HR departments about how to tackle their workforce challenges.

A poll by U.S. talent management firm Veritude has found the gulf between HR and the rest of the business community is as wide as ever and shows no sign of narrowing anytime soon.

HR, it is clear, is still not trusted to help with the big, strategic issues facing many organisations or, at best, its potential to help is not fully appreciated.

More than half of the 101 business leaders polled admitted that they did not have an established relationship with HR, or that it would not occur to them to include HR in implementing workforce plans.

And, of 99 HR leaders surveyed, most felt the business leaders in their organisations minimised their role in workforce planning.

They also felt they were viewed as lacking financial acumen or the skills to help with important functions, including talent acquisition.

Yet both sides agreed that talent acquisition and recruitment were top of the list of strategic business issues.

Nearly a quarter of the business leaders and a fifth of the HR leaders agreed HR was not involved in developing strategy, or was only involved in helping to implement strategy.

And only half of the business leaders, against eight out of 10 of the HR leaders, grudgingly admitted that HR was "well versed" in financial acumen.

Both sides were also frustrated with each other when it came to day-to-day operations issues.

A fifth of business leaders perceived HR as not being able to find the right people for the job and lacking responsiveness to the needs of the wider organisation.

On the other hand, the HR leaders believed business leaders too often set unrealistic time frames, lacked an understanding of workforce issues (such as the challenges of finding qualified candidates) and were inconsistent in implementing initiatives.

James McCoy, senior vice president of consulting services for Veritude, said, "Although this study reveals there is room for improvement in the relationship between business and HR leaders, we are reminded that finding and retaining top talent is the number one issue facing corporations today.

"As a result of this research, and the insight into the relationship between these two groups, organisations have an opportunity to make the proper changes necessary to effectively achieve their business goals," he added.

On a more positive note, both sides agreed they wanted HR to be more fully involved in workforce strategy and its implementation.

But it was incumbent on HR to accept business line leaders as their clients and take on the responsibility of improving the working relationships, the research also concluded.

HR leaders, it was clear from the poll, recognised that a part of their charge was to insert themselves more effectively into the business as partners.

When HR leaders were asked what they could do to support the business, four out of 10 said they needed to stay abreast of business issues.

They also felt that to be an effective partner they needed to assert the HR perspective.

"There is reason for optimism in the degree to which both groups want HR to be more involved in implementing strategic initiatives that address these critical issues," said McCoy.

"This consultant/client model means approaching business leaders with 'solutions' to business challenges. HR should take the role of proposing alternative strategies that achieve business goals while ensuring compliance," he added.