HR’s Biggest Problem May Be Self-Doubt

April 3, 2014

This week I spent time at the Bersin IMPACT conference, a meeting of several hundred HR leaders across the disciplines of Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Technology and Analytics, Learning and Development, and Leadership. (For a taste what you missed, see the hashtag #IMPACTHR)

A few of the sessions led by Bersin by Deloitte’s analyst team offered startling stats on the state of the HR profession and how it regards itself, leading me to ponder whether the industry is in dire straits, or merely wrestling with self-doubt.

Witness David Mallon’s research on HR performance for instance, exploring where HR leaders from 298 organizations currently believe they are ‘good to great’. In only one category – budget management – did the majority of HR leaders claim to be decent, and even then only 55% agreed they were good or better. The stats across the other categories were sobering to say the least:

Berin HR stats

The news wasn’t much better over in the Talent Analytics breakout, where a separate presentation by Karen O’Leonard showed that only 17% of HR departments have strong analytics capabilities (and I wasn’t pleased to see Marketing second from the bottom either, albeit north of 50%).

I don’t mean to be skeptical – and I fully admit I am an industry flag-flier who believes HR and Talent Acquisition, when done right, can be the critical one-two punch in any organization – but can this really be true? Is HR truly as mediocre as it makes itself out to be? Does the function have a self-confidence issue? Or are HR leaders simply more in touch with reality than peers in other functions, since I believe all statistics were self-reported by survey-takers?

Whatever the answer, surely less than half of HR leaders claiming to be good at counseling leadership, meeting goals, or making smart decisions cannot continue. Otherwise the Bersin by Deloitte IMPACT conference may be forced to rebrand or introduce a modifier to their title. And I don’t know about you, but I highly doubt the hashtag #middlingimpactHR will catch on.

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