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Quarter of HR directors still excluded from boardroom decisions, says poll

27 Jun 2019 By Jonathan Owen

Figure called ‘appalling’ by experts who say Brexit and skills shortages demonstrate why function is strategically important

Research suggests a significant number of HR directors continue to be excluded from strategic decision-making by their businesses – a situation experts have called “appalling”.

A poll of HR leaders, conducted by Reed HR, found 25 per cent felt they did not have an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to their organisation and its strategic direction.

This is despite experts warning it has never been more important for HR to have a voice in key decisions, with issues such as Brexit, talent shortages and changes to workplace culture set to dramatically alter the way people work.

Of the 169 senior HR professionals who responded to the poll, 78 per cent said changing demand for employee benefits was having an impact on HR departments, and 72 per cent said Brexit was having an effect on the function.



Around a quarter (24 per cent) felt Brexit was the most impactful issue of all for HR, followed by workplace culture (22 per cent) and candidate shortages (20 per cent), while skills gaps and employee benefits were cited by 14 and 11 per cent respectively.

Just 10 per cent of respondents said technology was having the biggest impact on their role.

Chris Adcock, director of Reed HR, said the proportion of HR leaders still not involved strategically was “definitely too high”, and argued that clients who engaged their HR teams tended to enjoy better retention and attract a higher calibre of staff.

Adcock added: “The biggest issue is still Brexit, and we see that it isn't necessarily leaving Europe that’s creating the problem, but the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen and when. We've actually seen job roles being created or removed depending on different Brexit outcomes.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CIPD president, told People Management: “HR should be at the centre of all strategic decisions by an organisation and that a quarter of them are not involved at all and are told ‘implement it’ is appalling in our day and age.” 

Cooper’s concerns were echoed by Sophie Wingfield, head of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), who said: “Workforce planning is crucial to the survival of businesses. Putting the HR function at the heart of boardroom discussions will help companies adapt to changing demands, source the right candidates for the future and build a diverse and inclusive team that will help them succeed.”

And Justine Campbell, managing partner for talent at EY, said: “It has never been more important for HR to have a seat at the table – particularly with the sheer amount of change that is currently happening, whether it be Brexit, changing working patterns or advances in technology. These changes all have an impact on people and so it’s vital that talent leaders and HR leaders are leading on these strategic conversations.”

This results of the poll come just weeks after a report from the CIPD and PA Consulting on AI and automation which warned HR was not sufficiently involved in the decision-making process around its implementation in business.

It found that HR was involved in just 55 per cent of investment decisions around AI, and 45 per cent of implementation processes, with functions such as IT, production or operations more likely to be consulted.

Commenting on the latest Reed poll, Alastair Woods, partner in PwC's HR consulting business, said: “Given the importance of people in wider business transformation as organisations prepare for the future, the survey results are somewhat surprising.”

He added: “A key issue in boardrooms is the availability of skills to support workforce change – our 2019 CEO Survey found that 79 per cent of CEOs are worried about the availability of skills – and HR needs to be at the heart of upskilling, reskilling and equipping the workforce for the rapid acceleration of technology.”

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