HR has self-esteem problem, global study

HR professionals think they have a lot to offer, but business execs don’t always want to hear it

Less than one-half of HR professionals around the world feel they are getting the respect their knowledge and skills deserve, according to a global survey of more than 4,300 HR practitioners by the Society for Human Resource Management.

More than 90 per cent of respondents to the survey, entitled The Maturing Profession of Human Resources: Worldwide and Regional View, agree or strongly agree that HR represents a body of skills and knowledge, and most (57 per cent) said non-HR executives believe that HR has skills and knowledge that add value to the organization. But only 43 per cent think senior executives view HR as a business partner.

This is just one of three “especially low and troublesome” indicators of poor professional self-esteem, according to the SHRM report.

Another indicator is that, despite agreeing that HR credentials and a university education are needed to work and advance in HR, practitioners give professional certification little credibility.

Most countries represented in the survey do not have national professional certification programs, but even among HR practitioners from those that do, certification is considered necessary only for advancement.

“That HR has a low barrier to entry may very well be related to the perception of low recognition by the society and business partners,” the report suggested.

SHRM called on HR professionals to place more importance on competencies and credentialing for entering the profession by hiring people with formal training and attaching greater importance on HR certification.

By allowing anyone to enter HR, and by allowing only those with credentials to advance, the profession “creates a hybrid external view of its work (occupational vs. professional and administrative vs. strategic),” states the report.

A third indicator of low esteem is that HR practitioners think that their work is largely controlled and influenced by management. Having professional autonomy and discretion are essential characteristics of professional work, the report pointed out, but those elements were found to be common only in the Asia Pacific region.

“If HR practitioners do not perceive that they have a seat at the table, they are very unlikely to legitimately occupy or demand one,” the report concluded.

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