Are HR professionals doing enough to help each other succeed? (Analysis)

Structured programs not always needed for good mentoring relationships
By Claude Balthazard
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/06/2010

In a way, this latest Pulse Survey follows in the footsteps of the one we did on mandatory supervision requirements (Canadian HR Reporter, Nov. 30, 2009) for the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation.

A significant aspect of professional life is the network of contacts professionals develop with each other. Some mentoring relationships occur spontaneously but, increasingly, professional associations or chapters within these associations have implemented structured mentoring programs. This survey also considered broader mentoring relationships that are not necessarily part of any systematic program.

About 10.5 per cent of respondents think HR professionals are doing enough to help other HR professionals succeed but 50.6 per cent said this is not really the case.

About four in 10 (44.1 per cent) indicate they have been mentored in some way and 52.4 per cent have mentored another HR professional. It is interesting to note these numbers are relatively well-balanced.

There is a tendency for those who have been mentored to mentor others (33.5 per cent) and for those who have not been mentored to not mentor others (28.3 per cent).

But there is also a group who have not been mentored who have, nonetheless, mentored others (19 per cent) and another group of respondents, who have been mentored but have not mentored others (19.2 per cent).

Opinions as to whether HR professionals are doing enough to help others in their field succeed are related to tenure in HR. Those respondents who have less experience in HR are less likely to think mentoring opportunities are sufficient.

Collapsing the “definitely” and “maybe” categories produces the following results, broken down by age: HR professionals are doing enough to help each other succeed, according to 29.4 per cent of those who haven’t yet joined the workforce, 36.1 per cent of those with zero to four years’ experience, 41.4 per cent of those with five to nine years’ experience, 43.1 per cent of those with 10 to 14 years’ experience, 46.1 per cent of those with 15 to 19 years’ experience, 53.4 per cent of those with 20 to 25 years’ experience and 54.5 per cent of those with more than 25 years’ experience.

Many comments from those new to the profession noted difficulties in connecting with an appropriate mentor. HR is not an easy profession to break into, they said, and many HR professionals just don’t seem to have the time to help out. Some respondents commented that HR professionals do not always practise what they preach. On the other hand, there were just as many stories of individuals who established beneficial mentoring relationships in their early career.

A number of respondents see mentoring as a way to ameliorate the catch-22 experience that can be a big issue for entrants into the profession.

Although some did relate bad experiences with mentoring, the vast majority reported positive experiences from both sides of the mentoring relationship. In fact, some respondents went so far as to credit their success to a particularly effective mentoring relationship.

A number of them noted mentoring should not only be considered in the context of entry into the profession but should also be fostered at all career stages.

Taking a broad view of the various ways HR professionals can help each other succeed, the bottom line is 64.5 per cent of those surveyed think we are just not doing enough. As well, 76.2 per cent indicated professional associations in HR should do more to encourage this kind of activity. Professional associations are already active in the area, to various degrees, but clearly HR professionals feel more should be done.

Interestingly, there is a split in opinion here. Some respondents think the best mentoring relationships are the ones that occur spontaneously without the help of formal or structured mentoring programs. On the other hand, others want to see more structured programs offered by their provincial associations.

Claude Balthazard is director of HR excellence and registrar of the Human Resources Professionals Association in Toronto. He can be reached at

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