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.