HR seen as a necessary evil

May 09 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

HR leaders may wring their hands over the profession's lack of progress in making it to the boardroom, but for CEOs the question is, when just a fifth are considered to be any good at tackling the key talent management issues facing global organisations today, why would you want them wasting space around the table?

A survey of more than 600 HR professionals and more than 100 non-HR managers by the U.S think-tank the Human Capital Institute and software firm Vurv Technology has concluded that HR leaders simply are not up to scratch when it comes to talent management and business acumen.

Just 22 per cent of HR leaders polled were considered experts at key talent management issues such as globalisation, outsourcing, workforce integration and financial acumen.

For extended periods of time HR has been viewed as a "necessary evil" in corporations, it argued.

But now, with the transition from industrial to information economies, the need for great talent management had given HR the opportunity to shake off its dire reputation and become a critical resource for senior organisational executives.

Except it has singularly failed to do so, failing miserably to rise to the challenge of evolving into what the poll called "talent management facilitators".

"The good news is HR comprehends the need to adopt the talent management concept into the larger lexicon," said Alan Schweyer, executive director of the Human Capital Institute and author of the report.

"But the gap between understanding and effectiveness remains significant, and now executives and HR professionals alike must focus on how to fix it," he added.

The poll also identified a range of other serious failing by HR, including that seven out of 10 HR departments spent their time focusing on risk avoidance rather than risk taking.

More positively, two thirds did say that HR was important, respected or consulted on corporate strategy and almost six out of 10 of HR heads reported directly to their chief executive.

Worryingly, while across the poll as a whole a fifth was judged as expert, this dropped to just 15 per cent among the non-HR respondents.

"Certainly there has been progress. But now HR needs to address the inability to meet top challenges in talent management over the next three years," said Kevin Marasco, senior vice-president of marketing at Vurv.

"Professionals can expect issues like knowledge worker attraction and leadership succession to only get worse as the movement towards global information economies continue," he added.