Hands up if you hate HR

Apparently three quarters of us now think HR is either a complete waste of space, or positively harmful...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

An employee satisfaction survey by HR services group Ceridian found that satisfaction with the HR department is plumbing new depths. Half of those surveyed said HR made no difference whatsoever to their jobs, while another 22% went as far as to say that it actually had a negative impact.

And it’s not as though these employees are lacking HR support – 96% said their company had a fully-fledged team. It’s just that most of them don’t think the department is making any kind of useful contribution. As Ceridian’s UK MD Doug Sawers says, the report ‘makes grim reading for the HR function’. 

Dissatisfaction was particularly common among male office workers, and also among older employees – apparently, those aged under 24 were more likely to appreciate their HR team (if you’re the ‘glass-half-full’ type, we suppose you could interpret this as a sign of the changing times…)

HR departments seem to be getting a lot of stick lately; in his FT column last week, some-time MT contributor Luke Johnson said HR was ‘a management term that should strike fear into the heart of every self-respecting entrepreneur’ and suggested most companies would be better off if they ‘radically downsized’ their HR teams.

One issue is that much of HR’s best work is likely to go unseen. For instance, 97% said that their manager was more important than their HR function, which demonstrates that HR’s main job should be to support and train managers – even though they’re unlikely to get much credit for this.

Of course, there are bound to be some bad HR professionals out there, who focus on box-ticking and procedure rather than helping the business. But that’s true of every department – and there are just as many that play a vital role in recruiting their company’s top people and keeping them happy. And in the modern business world, there’s arguably no job more important than that.

Still, it’s clear from these results that company bosses and HR managers need to think carefully about how much value the function is adding, and how to convey this to the rest of the team. Because at the moment, they seem to be about as popular as police surveillance teams at the House of Commons...

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