· News

HR viewed as the least productive department by employees

The vast majority (92%) of employees viewed themselves as being productive or very productive

UK employees perceive HR teams as being less productive, compared with other colleagues and departments in their organisations, according to research by HR software provider Ciphr.

The vast majority (92%) of employees viewed themselves as being productive or very productive. 

Just two thirds (67%), however, said the same about their organisation’s leadership team, and even fewer workers (62%) were positive about the productivity of their own HR departments.

HR was labelled the least productive department of all those rated in the survey, with one in seven (14%) surveyed employees saying their firm’s HR team was unproductive or very unproductive. This increased to 19% among mid- and lower-level managers.

Read more: Dear HR haters: A response to the Telegraph

Kate Clay, HR director at eStar, told HR magazine this could be due to HR’s low visibility within a business.

She said: “Inevitably it will be irritating to most HR professionals to see statistics on how the sector is perceived, given how much time and effort HR teams put into their businesses and their people to make the working environment the best it can be.

“A lot of what HR teams do is confidential and therefore can’t be shared, but there are generalised topics and detail that can and should be shared, such as cultural-change work, rewards and benefits, and providing clear processes that are visible.”

Claire Williams, chief people and operations officer at Ciphr, told HR magazine that employees may be more inclined to favour colleagues that they work with most often, and people in job roles they are more familiar with.

Over eight in 10 survey respondents think that their team (84%) and the people they manage (82%) are productive or very productive. 

Employees who work remotely face similar bias.

Half (52%) of in-person workers believe that fully remote workers are productive or very productive, while 18% think they are unproductive or very unproductive. 

She said: “The disparities around perceived productivity highlights the need for organisations to ensure they have robust performance management frameworks in place, which include clear and measurable goals, documented performance reviews, transparent metrics and KPIs, and feedback mechanisms. 

“These need to be well communicated across the business. That way, every employee understands how they can achieve their objectives and track their progress. They can also clearly see how other teams and departments contribute to organisational success.”

Read more: Hot topic: Can HR solve the UK's productivity problem?

Williams added that HR can raise its profile through internal communications and data-led insights to their progress.

She said: “It’s important to raise awareness of HR's crucial role and highlight how productive we are. Regular internal comms from the HR team will increase transparency about your activities and successes, and you can also share case studies or examples of how HR initiatives have positively impacted the business. 

“There’s much that HR teams do that’s not always quantifiable. But there is a huge array of data that HR leaders can use to demonstrate to the business where progress is being made.

"Use the insights from your HR system, dig into historical and current data and look at the trends, it will help you drive more strategic ‘value add’ conversations and enable more educated decision-making about your organisation’s most important asset – their people.”

Ciphr surveyed 1,000 employed UK adults in June 2023.