by Julie Baker, Managing Director at Capita HR solutions

I was fascinated to read the results of this survey. As consultants we hear so many anecdotal stories from our clients, but to see this wealth of data together with analysis helps to tell the real story about what’s going on in HR – and we intend to use the outputs of this survey to shape plenty of our papers and events for the remainder of the year. So what is keeping our HR leaders awake at night? It’s all about retention and engagement - closely followed by development, talent attraction and a shortage of skills. Whilst the entire list is long, most of the factors named stem from the same root challenges, and benefit from being addressed holistically to make maximum impact. As you will have read, there are a lot of demands on HR, and high expectations from other senior stakeholders.

Given the demands on HR, it’s vital that HR is seen as a credible function. It was interesting to note perceptions of HR from around the business, and to gauge credibility for overseeing large scale change management initiatives, and for sponsoring organisation-wide drives such as diversity and inclusion. It’s vital that HR is seen as credible if it’s to own the strategic projects that naturally centre around people. Most survey respondents feel that HR is viewed as a strategic partner to the business, which is great news. As such, are there functions at either end of the spectrum that could be outsourced to allow HR to focus on core business, build specific capabilities, and therefore bring focus on the areas where it’s needed most? One of these core areas of focus must be the hot topic of the moment, HR analytics.

We are all amassing data. Our respondents tell us they measure performance, engagement, absenteeism, payroll bill, retention and diversity. But, they also tell us they are drowning in data and that there is a shortage of capability to create insight from it. This is certainly an area where there is much work to be done in terms of capability development, and also in designing more models whereby organisations can balance in-house skills with expertise they can tap into when they need it.

In this sense, I think the report certainly raises questions around the ‘build or buy’ debate. We’re increasingly talking about HR as a profit centre and while we know it’s possible to achieve this, it requires a clear strategic plan for HR in terms of where any skills gaps lie and whether they are best filled internally or externally.

What you’ll see in this report is an honest and very open snapshot of how HR is operating within businesses and the wider talent landscape. Behind this data are some fantastic success stories, and some real challenges. What struck me most reading this report is the pure breadth of subject matter. As our clients tell us daily: “We’re being asked to come to the top table with predictive analytics but meanwhile who’s dealing with the front-line?” Indeed, it’s this dichotomy that makes HR such an exciting and diverse place to be.