HR Pros Express Increasing Dissatisfaction Worldwide

Survey says powerlessness, lack of resources contribute to falling job satisfaction

By Dana Wilkie Mar 5, 2015
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Job satisfaction among HR professionals worldwide is falling, in part because they feel they don’t play an important role in their organizations and lack high-level decision-making power, according to a Harvey Nash PLC survey of HR professionals in more than 30 countries, primarily in Europe and Asia.

The survey results, which the London-based recruitment and outsourcing firm released Jan. 14, 2015, canvassed 1,217 HR professionals, the majority of whom had between 20 to 30 years of experience, and more than half of whom are members of their organizations’ operational boards.

The proportion of HR professionals who claim to be “very satisfied” in their jobs dropped from 37 percent in 2014 to less than a third (32 percent) in 2015. There was a 4 percent increase in those “not very” satisfied, and a 1 percent rise in those calling themselves “not at all” satisfied. More than one in four said they planned to change jobs within the next year, up 4 percent from those who said the same in 2014.

"There appears to be disquiet,” the report authors wrote.

“Growing HR job dissatisfaction should act as a warning sign to senior business executives looking to get the best out of their HR leaders,” noted Albert Ellis, chief executive of Harvey Nash, in a preface to the survey.

Of the respondents, 51 percent were based in mainland Europe, 33 percent in the United Kingdom and 9 percent in Asia. Only 15 came from the U.S.

Feeling Powerless

The survey results pointed to some possible reasons for the growing dissatisfaction:

  • 2015 saw a 7 percent drop in those who believe HR plays an important role in their organizations.
  • Just over half of HR professionals (55 percent) are happy with the way their HR team is perceived by the rest of the business—a drop from 58 percent in 2014.

“This can infuriate HR professionals who believe the role of HR is central to the success of the business and a vital department to ensure business success,” the report authors wrote. “HR professionals, especially senior ones, are generally not satisfied unless they are driving change, having an impact and seeing improvements. They are not good at maintaining the status quo and so can be quite restless if HR is seen as not core business and a ‘support’ function.”

HR Concerns

The report highlighted a number of growing concerns for HR professionals worldwide.

The percentage of respondents who ranked the graying of their workforce as a top challenge leapt by 11 percent from 2014 to 2015, putting it second only to labor market challenges.

“With … research suggesting that up to 10,000 workers in the U.S. economy alone turn 65 years old every day, there is understandable thought being given to the changing demographics of the workforce, not least the role talent management will play in replacing a retiring generation,” the authors wrote.

One-third of HR professionals predict they will respond to employee requests for flexible work in the year ahead (up 7 percent from 2014), while 28 percent anticipate their organizations will initiate flexible work (up 2 percent from 2014). Less than 1 in 10 work in organizations that offer no flexible work options.

Rewarding good performance through compensation is a priority for 59 percent of HR professionals—more so than attracting or retaining top talent (47 percent) or ensuring fairness (46 percent).

HR professionals are less satisfied today with the progress of diversity initiatives than they were a year ago. More than half (52 percent) said they were happy with diversity progress at their organizations—down from 59 percent in 2014, a drop the report authors called “significant.”

This could have to do with respondents’ perception of the resources available to them: In 2014, 22 percent said they had all—or almost all—the necessary policies in place for effective diversity initiatives; in 2015, only 19 percent said the same. Those who acknowledged that they had no or very few formal diversity initiatives jumped from 15 percent in 2014 to 20 percent today. Ellis wrote that respondents have grown “frustrated with the lack of progress of diversity initiatives.”

Recruiting and Communication

When it comes to recruiting, LinkedIn appears to be taking on an increasingly important role for HR professionals globally. In 2014, 37 percent of HR professionals rated LinkedIn as “very important” to their recruitment strategy. Today, 44 percent say the same. LinkedIn “is rising in popularity at almost double the rate of any other recruitment tool, including employee referral programs and highly networked external recruiters,” the authors wrote.

Despite the increasing prominence of social media, it ranked only seventh as a tool for HR communication. “Websites, intranets, and ‘good old fashioned’ meetings and presentations still remain key,” the authors noted.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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