Great strides for HR, but still some way to go (Analysis)

Credibility often an individual issue, not a profession-wide issue
By Claude Balthazard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/20/2009

The HR profession has two big items on its wish list: To be seen as true professionals and to be accepted as business partners. Last month’s Pulse Survey was a quick checkup on the profession’s progress with the latter objective.

So how are we doing? According to the survey, about one-third of respondents (34.2 per cent) say they are definitely seen as business partners, with almost the same amount (29.3 per cent) saying they are probably seen as business partners.

Perhaps the statement that best captures where things are at is: “We have made great strides, but we still have some way to go.”

Being consulted on important business decisions seems to be a good indicator of a person’s status as a business partner. The majority — 72.1 per cent — of those who say they are “definitely” or “probably” seen as business partners say HR is mostly or always consulted before important decisions are made but only 18.3 per cent of those who say they are not seen as business partners say HR is mostly or always consulted.

The proportion of HR professionals who think they are seen as business partners increases with tenure in HR — 44.3 per cent of HR professionals with less than four years’ experience versus 72.5 per cent of HR professionals with 20 or more years’ experience.

This makes a lot of sense and suggests experience has a significant role to play in being, or being seen as, a business partner.

CHRP makes a difference

Interesting comments were made about the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. Some respondents say that since the CHRP does not have a significant experience requirement or business knowledge requirement, it is not related to a person’s ability to be or become a business partner.

Nonetheless, HR professionals who hold the CHRP designation are most likely to think they are viewed as business partners — combining again those respondents who say they are “definitely” seen as business partners with those who are “probably” seen as business partners, more than two-thirds (69.3 per cent) with a CHRP think they are seen as business partners.

That number falls to 58.6 per cent of respondents who have a non-HR professional designation, 53.9 per cent of those without a professional designation and 48.1 per cent of those who hold an HR designation other than the CHRP.

Of course, there are alternative explanations for such differences. And it is true that, in our sample of respondents, those who had the CHRP also had longer tenure in HR on average, but that does not explain the difference between those who hold the CHRP and those who hold some HR designation other than the CHRP.

A number of respondents commented that establishing credibility as a business partner is something you earn on an individual basis and not just because you are in HR or you have a designation.

In this respect, it is interesting to note the survey finds more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents feel it is either somewhat more difficult or much more difficult for HR professionals to establish credibility than other professionals from other disciplines.

There was a mix of comments on this issue: Some feel HR has a poor reputation that is somewhat deserved, in some cases. Other respondents see this outlook as “baggage” we simply have to overcome to move forward.

With respect to moving forward, no single answer seemed to emerge.

But there were a number of suggestions: more business content in HR education, a more robust experience requirement for the CHRP, more mentoring programs, greater emphasis on and training in HR metrics, and training programs focusing specifically on partnering skills.

Claude Balthazard is director of HR excellence and acting registrar for the Human Resources Professionals Association in


. He can be reached at or visit for more information.

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