Another HR-is-crap survey. Enough, already!

Hard on the heels of Luke Johnson’s comments in the FT last week, another HR-is-crap study has been published.

Ceridian, the outsourced HR service provider, surveyed employee engagement. There is no full copy of the survey on the company’s website (you probably have to pay for it) but the press release gives some of the details. At first sight, it looks bad for HR and that’s certainly the way the headline reads. I’m not so sure though.

Let’s look at what it says.

[H]alf of office workers feel HR teams make no difference to their jobs.

Rrrright. Should the HR team make a difference to everyone’s job? Isn’t HR’s function to support line managers? If managers manage their people well and HR give them the support to do so, unless there is something serious like a formal disciplinary, most people should not have much contact with their HR function. If HR makes a difference to people’s jobs it should be through the line managers. If people don’t see that directly, so much the better.

22 per cent, actually consider their HR function makes them less than satisfied by getting things wrong.

Well that’s not good. If one-in-five people have experienced an HR cock-up that is a cause for concern.

Ceridian’s MD went on to say:

With only four per cent of respondents lacking an HR department, this makes grim reading for the HR function.

Now that’s interesting in itself. By far the majority of companies have HR departments. I go back to my challenge from last week. If HR really is useless, how come almost all commercial organisations have HR functions? If they didn’t do anything, wouldn’t they have disappeared by now? And if they are that crap, why haven’t their CEOs fired them?

Mr Sawers continues:  

Just three per cent of employees surveyed considered the function as important as their manager….

But HR shouldn’t be as important as a person’s manager. If it is, there is something wrong. Managers engage with their people and manage them, HR supports. It’s those companies where the three per cent work that concern me, not the other ninety-seven.

No, there is some bad news for HR in this survey but if the main findings are as covered in this press release, it’s nowhere near as bad as the tone of the article makes out, or as Jim Stroud, Management Today and the folks at Personnel Today seem to think.

But many HR people will not see it that way. They just love to beat themselves up and will, no doubt, see these findings as further proof that the HR function is in crisis. And the more they do that, the less confidence they will have, the less power they will gain and the more they will screw up, thus fulfilling the prophecy. HR people so often think themselves into being crap and being seen as crap.

Sure, this Ceridian survey has some bad news for HR but most of it is about general employee disengagement, and that’s the fault of all managers, not just those in HR.

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5 Responses to Another HR-is-crap survey. Enough, already!

  1. John Hunter says:

    You are right that much of the fault would lie with managers for some of the items in the survey but HR also has to realize few see any benefit from their efforts. HR needs to find ways to provide value to workers and to managers to earn their gratitude and appreciation. I think many times people don’t see HR offering great value.

  2. HR Wench says:

    Of course “Ceridian, the outsourced HR service provider” is going to say internal HR departments are crap. This is how they drum up more business.

    I would love to see a survey of employee satisfaction with their HR “department” that work at companies that utilize outsourced HR service providers for the bulk of HR functions.

  3. Jon Ingham says:

    Rick, I agree, this is more about the managers than HR.

    Also interesting to see this post, suggesting that blame for poor performance management falls on managers, not on HR:

  4. Rick says:

    John, I’m still not convinced that HR should earn gratitude and appreciation from everyone in the company. HR should certainly be appreciated by those within the company who manage people, for providing them with the support they need. However, if HR is touching the lives of everyone in the company they are, in my view, doing something wrog.

  5. Neil says:

    “If HR is touching the lives of everyone in the company they are, in my view, doing something wrong.”

    There’s probably some balance required here, though. In my view, HR have to be *perceived* to be accessible and *capable of making a difference* to everyone’s job, otherwise staff are unlikely to have enough trust in the system to escalate any issues.

    If you’re in a HR department that only ever communicates with/through managers, how do explain to departing staff why HR suddenly feel entitled to request an exit interview?

    HR: “We’d like to hold an exit interview with you on the 27th.”
    Staff: “Oh, I already talked to my line manager when I handed in my notice”
    HR: “Well, sometimes people have issues with their managers or the company, or…”
    Staff: “Oh, well none of that matters now, it’s all fine. Did I mention I have a new job? I’m really looking forward to it.”

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