Real World Stats - Cover Letters and Thank You Notes...
HR Words That Mean Absoutely Nothing....

When People Say HR Stinks, It's Simple...Don't Stink...

If you're a HR blogger, you probably got the news early today from a PR type -the HR haters are out again, via a whitepaper called The Role of HR in the Age of Talent (based on research by Vurv and Human Capital Institute). 

More news that says HR isn't cutting it in the business world.  What else is new?  For a summary of what itHate_hr_2 says, I roll with Ann Bares of Compensation Force:

"This is a report that every one of us in the profession should read.  The news is not necessarily good.  It tells us that while talent management has become a top level concern for organizational leaders and boards, the HR profession has not yet made the necessary strides - in business acumen, prestige and influence - to earn the right to own this concern.  In the words of the study: "... its almost as if corporate leaders have made a collective, unconscious decision that talent management is too important to be left to HR."

I'm sure the study contains all the normal hand-wringing buzzwords, including Strategy, a Seat at the Table and not to be forgotten, Change Management.  The study probably says HR's not meeting the expectations in any of them.  Got it...

The answer?  Don't be angry - be different.  Be remarkable.  Every time you hear a study like this one, start a value added project and deliver the goods.  Make people say, "you're different from other HR people I've met"...

Let's stop wringing our hands and start acting like we belong.  Please.  Every time you comment on a story like this one, you guarantee five similar studies/articles will come along in the next year.

So, be different - don't comment, don't lash out.   Put your energy into cramming the stereotype down the world's throat by being a different type of HR pro.


Ed Ross

I agree. It seems that every HR survey reports nothing but bad news about what HR is not doing and how unqualified its executives are. Most are done by consulting firms who are more than willing to lend a hand to fix the problems. It gets old after a while, and I agree with you, we need to avoid commenting on them for it perpetuates a negativity and hand wringing that detracts from the many accomplishments of HR professionals.

Wally Bock

A fine post, Kris, with good advice.

Part of this issue is that there are HR folks who can keep on delivering great stuff, but unless the culture at the phone-answering level changes, there will be more and more "why we hate HR" pieces. If things don't change so that the average ground level person in HR provides a reasonable level of customer service to his or her customers inside the company, no fancy initiatives will make a difference.


I've seen a few of these articles over the years. I have 8 HR managers in facilities reporting to me, the objective is "support the business, solve problems, prevent problems and get the job done." The unit managers respect their HR managers, I know because I ask them how they are doing and what could be better.

Richard Parker

Any organization that describes itself as a "think tank", like The Human Capital Institute does, should not be taken too seriously. Remember, they're trying to sell something.


Yes, of course, be remarkable and provide value-added services is always good advice for everybody, in any field. I still don't hear corporate leaders saying that financial legal complaince and paying the bills is too important of a job to be left to finance professionals, so the question remains ... why does HR get the bum rap?!?

Allan Schweyer

As a co-researcher and author of the report referred to in this string, I hope I can offer some background that might be helpful. For this research project, we surveyed the Human Capital Institute's (HCI) membership - a group of almost 115,000 mostly senior business and HR leaders. This research is based (like all HCI research) on scientifically valid sampling techniques. In this case, an unusually high reliability was achieved owing to the large number and very high quality of respondents. At the HR leadership levels we obtained a reliability rating of over 98%, meaning that if all US-Based HR managers, directors, VPs and above were given the same survey, the results would be near perfectly identical to the results in our survey.

So, if you are an HR leader, the findings reflect your thoughts, concerns and assessments - not ours.

Many of the results are discouraging. However, they also reveal a significant improvement in HR's focus since 2005 and corroborate other research since then that has shown an increase in the time HR leaders are spending on "strategic" activities such as workforce & succession planning and developing closer ties with business units. Where HR leaders are weakest - by their own assessment - are in finance, metrics & measurement, building a compelling business case for HR, assessing and leveraging HR technology and in most anything related to globalization.

The purpose of our research it is not to bash HR. We believe, as do many HR and business leaders, that our economy has undergone a profound shift in the past ten or fifteen years. Today, the single most important factor in an organization’s success is talent management, not traditional HR (which can be replaced by technology or an outsourced solution) but talent management. HCI’s mission is to help individuals and organizations build talent management capabilities. To that end, throughout the report, ideas and actionable advice are provided based on some of the exceptional work being done by those we surveyed and spoke with.

Thank you for your comments, thoughts and criticisms.

Allan Schweyer
Executive Director & SVP Research
The Human Capital Institute


Allan -

Thanks for stopping by, and you and your team are welcome here anytime. I read the report front to back, and found a lot of good info that reinforces my own beliefs.

My biggest concern with this is the overall self esteem of HR pros, often below the executive level. As studies continue to come out and point to gaps in what HR is providing and is expected to provide, I see a lot of hand-wringing in the field.

With that in mind, I'm going to remind everyone each time a report like this comes out to stop the paralysis and get busy doing something to add value - hopefully something that matches up with one of the gaps...

Your stuff is good, I'm just serving a different role - to remind people not to be victims to the press...

Thanks - KD


Below is the research group, as stated in the report, and I am having trouble logically understanding the statement in the report which says that the findings on the sample of 662 HR professionals apply to the 1 million HR professionals in North America. Don't you have to know who the 1 million are before you can say the responses of 600 are representative of them? Does anyone have a grip as to who the 1 million are? It would surprise me if they did.

Any help would be appreciated.

Between July-August, 2007, The Human Capital Institute (HCI) and Vurv Technologies surveyed 662 HR practitioners, managers and executives and 117 non-HR
practitioners, managers and executives from North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific
about their attitudes and experiences related to the role of HR in their organizations.

The typical respondent was an American (84%) HR executive (50.5%) from a large
organization of more than 20,000 employees (25%). Survey takers represented a wide
range of industries and were asked a total of 62 questions.

HCI’s Research Group conducted the survey and interviews (12) and wrote the paper.
HCI and Vurv Technologies thank the survey respondents and interviewees for their
time and insights.

Statistical Validity
The sample size of HR professionals achieved for this study provides a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of +/- 4. This means that the answers provided in this report are representative of the approximately 1,000,000 HR professionals in
North America, 95% of the time, +/- 4% points. In other words, if 65% of respondents answered “Yes” to a question on our survey, there is a 95% chance that if all HR professionals in North America were asked the same question, between 61%-69%
would answer “Yes”.


We would probably find it true that the current HR bashers are the ones who, over the years, have kept HR at the bottom of the corporate resources chain, not allocating money or importance to it. And now, wonder why HR isn't up to speed with technology and processes and actually have the nerve to blame HR.

Dan McCarthy

Kris -
Right – don’t stink. Works for me.

Allan Schweyer

In response to KD, this is a calculation used to determine the statistical validity of any sample size. Estimates put the number of HR professionals in the US at somewhere around 1,000,000 but in a population size this large, it doesn't matter even if there are twice as many.

Polls that attempt to represent populations of very large sizes can never get responses from the entire group (think political polling).

Because everyone can't be polled, scientifically valid samples are needed. The broader and more representative your sample, the better (we acheived wide geographical, industry, level and company size distribution). The bigger your sample, the better also - to a point. For a population of 1,000,000 of more, to achieve validity of 95% +/- 4 points, you need 600 responses. More responses won't make any difference unless you're looking to cut and compare the data by various demographics, etc. but that's a blog for another day.

Demonstrating scientific validity in surveys may be another useful standard for HR professionals to understand and use in their own internal employee surveys. There are quite a few simple tools to use, I found this one in a quick Google search: . I hope this is helpful.



Allan -

Thanks for dropping by again - just to be clear, you are addressing "Harold's" concerns with the stats, not mine, right?

I don't have issues with the stats. I just think that everytime HR pros here about a study like this, they should create a value added project rather than wringing their hands....

Thanks - KD

Prem Rao

I am sure a fair amount of soul searching is called for. The best way to react is to be different and show that the HR function does add value to business operations.

However, what's new about this one? We have been hearing about the emerging role of HR for years now.

I venture to say that the negative image that HR often acquires is due to the following reasons:

* HR continues to be the implementor. This translates to being "the bringer of bad news"- be it a lay off, a lower % increase in compensation or whatever. Unpopular management decisions are often therefore ascribed to HR though they are decided by someone else.
* As a consequence of rapid growth, many in the profession do not have adequate professional qualifications and are learning the hard way - on the job. Many of them may not be suited to some elements of the job but are there and are required to get things done- any which way.
* Success stories in HR are not given as much publicity as the negative stories. There have been -and I am sure there are -many HR professionals who are making a significant difference to their organisations.Like in other walks of life, what gets more noticed are mistakes, not achievements.


I had a dream to begin my firm, however I didn't have enough amount of money to do it. Thank God my close colleague suggested to utilize the loan. Thus I used the secured loan and made real my desire.

The comments to this entry are closed.