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HR's role in business

We asked 200 HR industry professionals for their thoughts on HR's role in business and on the board. Chris Adcock, Director of Reed HR, gives his view on the results and what the landscape looks like for HR in the future...

1. Why do you think 75% of professionals are feeling more included?

I think it's key how the board of a company sees HR. Many business leaders see HR as a transactional support function and this is when we tend to see professionals in the sector feeling excluded in the business and its strategy.

The results from this survey suggest that HR is being taken more seriously, times are changing and HR is a hot topic on business agendas. When HR is included at board level, a genuinely positive impact on the direction of the business can shine through, as HR have a unique view of the company and its people.

2. Is one in four not feeling included too high for the industry? 

The fact that one in four still don’t feel included is definitely too high a number, but unfortunately I think it's inevitable at the moment. The industry is currently going through a transition, and although the vast majority of businesses have recognised the value HR can have at board level, there are many that haven’t. With any change you get early adopters, followers, and then those that fight the change. The last 25% are always going to be the hardest to get on board and it may even take a change of leadership to get them there. There is certainly a positive trend for HR being included but for now they're not always seen as a key player. The test is whether there is a HR representative on the board, if there isn’t, then the business isn't valuing what they can add.  

3. Should HR be involved in business strategically?

Absolutely, HR is human focused, a company would be nothing without its staff, bridging the gap between the staff and the organisation, with a distinctive view of the company and the people who are working as part of the team. Utilising this, they can guide key decisions and avoid large issues. 

From a recruitment perspective, where we see clients that do  involve their HR teams strategically, there is a tendency to have increased retention and attract better staff and so the benefits are plain to see.

4. Almost 80% of respondents say that employee benefits are impacting responsibilities of professionals. What are your thoughts on this? 

A happy workplace is a productive workplace, we all know that. With a big focus within the industry at the moment on employee benefits and workplace well-being, these assets to a role, could make or break whether an employee decides to work for you or look elsewhere.

As companies focus more on this area of human resources, inevitability it will take up a substantial part of any role, but the fact that respondents have said their roles are being further impacted by it is surprising. Yes, there is more benefit demand, but really so much so that it is impacting other HR duties? This would certainly be something worth investigating further at Reed HR - our industry is continually evolving and we must embrace this.

5. Looking at the list of impacts on the industry, why do you think the top three are causing the most concern? 

Firstly, Brexit is always going have an impact, especially while it's so uncertain. The issue isn't necessarily about leaving Europe, but the unknown of what is going to happen and when. HR departments are having to prepare for multiple potential outcomes and we have actually seen job roles being created or removed, depending on different Brexit outcomes.

Workplace culture is an interesting topic as a lot of companies get it the wrong way around. They think that adding a table tennis table and a few bean bags to sit on will create a ‘good’ culture, but in reality, the culture starts at the top. We once had a client roll out a very forward-thinking, generous parental scheme enabling people to take time off for key events. The response was great, until the first person tried to use it and was met with stern looks, and a sharp intake of breath from the senior management team. It doesn’t matter what you put in place unless you manage it well, and make sure senior management give it their full backing.

Last, but by no means least, a lot of companies are struggling with candidate shortages in specialist or hard-to-recruit roles. Brexit has made the problem worse with many skilled Europeans leaving the UK. HR professionals are often tasked with filling these roles, or at least attracting a candidate base and so in a candidate short market, companies have to think outside the box and come up with new ways to bring in the people they need. This could be where employee benefits come in.

6. How can HR professionals prepare for Brexit? Is there anything they can do when nothing is certain?

It's very hard to prepare for the unknown, the only thing businesses can do right now is to make sure they have the best people in their teams and run potential scenarios to plan for different outcomes. Most businesses will be largely unaffected, but those with interests in Europe may need think about how they manage their workforce through these uncertain times. 

7. Can you comment on the current state of the industry and why Reed HR has conducted the research?

HR is at a really exciting point, a mixture of technology and a focus on people is making the roles of HR professionals more important than ever. People are the largest cost of almost all companies, and as such, they need to make sure they are attracting the best talent, keeping them, and getting the most out of them.   The purspose of conducting the research, was to see how close HR professionals are to the business they're in, and if they feel they are truly having an impact.

Further reading - 'One in four HR professionals left out of the boardroom'