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HR underrepresented in FTSE 100 boardrooms

Just three of the FTSE 100 companies in the UK have HR professionals on their main board.

Of the 80 FTSE 100 companies that publish their leadership team on their corporate website, less than half (40) have a HR director at all, and just 31 had a chief people officer or equivalent, research from employee wellbeing firm GoodShape found. 

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Dorothy Day, chief people officer at GoodShape, said the lack of board level representation for HR professionals leads to businesses forgetting the personal side of managing employees.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Boards often view employees as ‘cost and capital’, not as people. This profit over people sentiment is hard to change. Especially, when there are few people leaders on boards."

GoodShape's survey of 750 managers, HR professionals and C-suite executives found only 7% believed the responsibility for implementing wellbeing programmes sat at board level.

Day added that companies need to work towards change because it is the right thing to do, rather than doing so for appearances.

"UK businesses need to move away from token wellbeing gestures," she added. "They need to drive tangible change and improve corporate culture. To do that, the people function needs to be given proper representation on the board.”

Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder of HR consultancy 10eighty, said that HR professionals looking for a board level position need to be better at selling their department to other board members.

She told HR magazine: "An experienced, senior HR professional looking to achieve a seat on the board must demonstrate and articulate how their department adds real, identifiable and quantifiable value to the bottom line.

"It is not that HR don’t have the commercial credibility but, too often, they don’t appreciate the importance of sharp end commercial experience and so sell themselves short.

"There is an immense amount of talent in the HR profession and HR directors who could make a real impact in the boardroom by ensuring that the organisation’s key asset, their employees, are taken into account in board level decision-making. HR would bring a much-needed perspective in the current environment when we are trying to achieve the new normal."

GoodShape's CEO Alun Baker suggested that businesses often take people for granted.

He said: “For too long, employees have lacked the same attention that businesses give to their equipment, vehicles, or buildings. It’s time to level up, and authenticity is key. Wellbeing washing will only jeopardise an organisation’s talent pool and future performance.

“Organisations need to shift away from prioritising financial leadership over people leadership. It’s an antiquated view that focusing on profit rather than people will lead to a healthier company."