Rank, certification cause diverse views on who’s in charge of HR (Analysis)

HR professionals with CHRP more likely to balk at having non-HR professional running department

Clearly, non-HR people running HR is a topic on which many HR professionals have strong opinions, judging by the results of the latest Pulse Survey. Interestingly, there is agreement it is generally not a good thing when someone with no specific background is put in charge of the HR function — only four per cent of respondents say that is probably or definitely a good thing. There is, roughly speaking, a 60/40 split between those who say this is a bad thing and those who say it depends.

Notably, opinions on having non-HR professionals in charge of the HR function don’t vary significantly across tenure in HR. Tenure in HR is usually a variable for which there are meaningful differences in opinion.

On the other hand, designation status is an important factor when it comes to opinions about non-HR professionals being in charge of the HR function. Clearly, respondents who have invested the most in obtaining credentials in HR have the most negative opinion, whereas those with backgrounds other than HR have the least negative opinion (indeed, a relatively positive opinion) about non-HR professionals being in charge of the HR function.

Taking a look at the numbers, respondents who have the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation have the most negative opinion at 64.4 per cent. This is followed by those with some other HR designation (61.9 per cent), those with no professional designation (52.5 per cent) and, finally, those with a non-HR designation (36.2 per cent).

Seniority is also an important factor. The lower the rank of respondents, the more likely they are to have a negative opinion about a non-HR professional running the HR department. Respondents in entry-level positions have the most negative opinion (66.3 per cent), followed by those in supervisory positions (60.9 per cent) and senior individual contributors (60 per cent). Respondents in middle management (55.2 per cent) and executive positions (48.4 per cent) have the least negative opinions.

Respondents holding executive positions with a non-HR professional designation are only 19.4 per cent likely to have a negative opinion about non-HR professionals being in charge of the HR function, whereas respondents holding entry-level positions and with a CHRP designation are 84.1 per cent likely to have a negative opinion about non-HR professionals being in charge of the HR function.

These differences in opinion may be explained with a look at the response to the question on HR expertise and strategic skills. About two-thirds (67.8 per cent) feel putting someone with no specific HR background in charge of HR indicates the organization doesn’t think much of the expertise HR professionals bring to the table. About the same proportion (66.3 per cent) feel it indicates the organization doesn’t think much of the strategic skills HR professionals bring to the table.

There is a mixed response to the question as to whether putting someone with no specific HR background in charge of the HR department indicates HR has become a necessary experience among those who aspire to top corporate position. Less than one-half (44.9 per cent) of respondents agree with this statement and 29.1 per cent disagree. On the other hand, there is a broad agreement (76.3 per cent) that professional associations should provide training or development to non-HR individuals who have taken on HR roles.

Survey comments recognize that upward mobility of HR professionals requires exposure to other functions, with the corollary that individuals from other disciplines would also benefit from exposure to HR. Many suggest, however, this does not necessarily require such individuals be put in charge of the HR function — significant exposure to the HR function could be achieved by shadowing senior HR positions rather than being put in charge.

Claude Balthazard is director of HR excellence and acting registrar for the Human Resources Professionals Association in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit www.hrpa.ca for more information.

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