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Economic climate creates a 'new breed' of influential HR director, according to Penna research

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HR directors have seen their influence increase over the past 12 months, suggesting that the economic climate has provided fertile ground for a new breed of HRD.

According to research from global HR services group, Penna, based on interviews with UK HR directors - collectively responsible for a workforce of 1.1 million - 83% had seen the focus and functions of their role change in the last 12 months, moving from transactional based support to increased involvement in the development of the organisation's strategic direction and managing essential change management programmes.

The position of the HR director as a key business partner has also become more apparent. Reflecting this shift in influence, 70% of those surveyed felt that HR did have the right level of representation at senior management level.

The study investigated the changes, challenges and influence shifts experienced by senior HR practitioners during the last twelve months.

Two thirds of interviewees have seen a change in the way HR is viewed within their organisation.

The report also revealed the public sector has made "great advances" in gender balance at senior level but the private sector still has to address the issue.

Future challenges for HR include retaining and developing talent, ensuring the workforce has the right skills, restructuring, career development and defining the link between business and society.

Gary Browning, CEO of Penna, said: "This research has provided valuable insight into how the role of HR is changing and how organisations are addressing their current challenges. By engaging with leading HR professionals across a number of different sectors, it is evident that in these challenging times, the role of the HRD goes beyond delivering people strategies. Our study reveals that HR Directors have a much higher profile, an increased level of influence and recognition of a future of further change".

The HR directors interviewed for the research, were Andy Albon, director of HR, Birmingham City Council; Ben Bengougam, HRD, Hilton Group; Ben Browne, director of HR, De Montfort University; David Fairhurst, senior VP & chief people officer, McDonald's Europe; Anne Gibson, director of HR, Norfolk County Council; Gillian Hibberd, director of corporate development & OP, Buckinghamshire County Council; Emma Kelly, HRD, Sony UK; Alison McKenzie-Folan & Sharon Adams - director of policy & customers and head of HR & OD, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council; Steve Munn, head of HR, Oxfordshire County Council; Linda Owen, ex-group HRD, New Look; Theresa Proctor, personnel director retail services & strategy,Tesco; Martin Rayson, divisional director HR and OD - London Borough of Barking and Dagenham; Jabbar Sardar, director of HR and OD - Cafcass; Dean Shoesmith, joint executive head of HR - London Borough of Sutton and London Borough of Merton; Sue Stanhope, director of HR, Sunderland City Council; Sam Thompson, EMEA HRD, Coopervision; Louise Tibbert, head of HR and OD, Hertfordshire County Council; Laura Whyte, personnel director, John Lewis.