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Falling into an HR hole? What potential pitfalls are ahead for HR.

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30th May 2017
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The latest CIPD HR Outlook [PDF] has found that the top three current and future priorities for the profession are cost management, talent management, and the increasing agility or flexibility of their organisation. These top three priorities should come as no surprise – they are perennial to the HR Industry. In fact, talent management is taking such prominence for HR departments nationwide that our own research has found it could be threatening these business’ abilities to succeed in future.

The Curve Group recently conducted our own survey of HR Director priorities, comparing what 50 leading HRDs from seven different industries told us were their ideal priorities when they took their current role, with the real life day to day experience of fulfilling that position.

We found that there was a vast disconnect – many took the senior HR role with a vision to make a difference, expecting to drive strategy and advise the boardroom; in reality, their roles are being spent predominantly managing talent management and staffing issues, including recruiting and interviewing.

Nearly half of respondents said this was not the ideal use of their time – they wanted to be developing longer term business strategies in order to prepare their organisation for the challenges lying ahead. Instead, the demands created by shorter term business priorities meant that they were unable to dedicate the time and effort to drive their businesses forward.

Short term imperatives will always seem much more pressing than the longer term business direction and strategy – however if left untended, a lack of HR strategy and vision can have a detrimental impact on the day to day running of a business or concern. We have learnt that many HR Directors in the UK are working on a reactive basis to recruitment and admin tasks, instead of proactively driving their HR department towards becoming more efficient and effective.

The problems this lack of strategic vision can cause – from lacking a plan to upskill existing staff or a training framework to support a company’s expansion plans as it diversifies into new areas – will over time only serve to exacerbate the issues currently dominating an HR Director’s time. Looking after existing staff, and ensuring any departures are swiftly replaced with the right kind of recruits is an issue we are seeing snowball.

In fact, The Curve Group calls it the Talent Tightrope: the combined effects of an ageing workforce, a dramatic skills shortage in certain sectors, low birth rates and a multitude of other factors mean that over one third of businesses in Britain are unable to fill their skilled vacancies, right now.

Furthermore, skilled staff currently employed are in such high demand by outside, competing businesses that turnover will increase once they receive the right offer – unless their organisation demonstrates to them their individual value and worth.

If senior talent professionals are unable to strategise, plan, and implement tactics so that their businesses can become true magnets for talent, they risk becoming stuck in an endless cycle of recruitment and talent management.

So, how to avoid simply using a sticking plaster on the problems of today and plan effectively for tomorrow? Encouragingly, three quarters of the HR professionals in our survey had been able to take steps to free themselves from the daily demands of recruitment and people management.

Over half of the organisations we spoke to were either keeping levels of outsourcing the same in 2017, while a further quarter were increasing their budgets, allowing experienced external HR support to take the strain thereby liberating the HR Director’s office hours to focus on the issues ahead.

More than gifting their businesses with time and strategy though, outsourcing also reduces acquisition outlay by up to a quarter – so these businesses are often saving money while addressing many of their HR operational issues. This makes these businesses leaner, more prepared for any further volatility ahead – not to mention making HR Directors themselves happy as they are moving forward with the actions they took that role on to tackle.

As 2017 unfolds, the skills and staffing issues facing Britain’s businesses are unlikely to vanish with the waving of a wand. What smart businesses can do is prepare themselves and their teams to be able to deal with those issues when they do arise.

Having an HR Director who is unable to act because they are constantly firefighting or caught in a cycle of interviews and exit interviews is unlikely to empower these companies to face the future. It may be time for some businesses to take a good look at themselves, as it is possible their competitors are already taking steps to ensure their HR Department’s focus is precisely where it needs to be to succeed.

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