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HR Least Productive Department?

Research from Ciphr finds that employees perceive themselves as more productive than colleagues in HR.

By Maggie Mancini

Newly released survey research from HR and payroll provider Ciphr finds that U.K. employees perceive HR teams as being less productive compared to other colleagues and departments in their organisations.  

Ciphr’s findings reveal that many employees rate their own productivity far higher than they rate other people’s productivity levels at work—with HR, marketing, and senior management faring the worst in people’s estimations.  

Of the 1,000 people polled, the vast majority (92%) 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.  

Indeed, HR was thought to be the least productive department, with one in seven (14%) employees surveyed labelling their firm’s HR team as unproductive or very unproductive. That figure increased to 19% for middle and lower-level managers.  

These are alarming statistics for anyone working in HR, as it would appear to show a notable lack of understanding by many employees about the important role and responsibilities of the HR function in U.K. businesses.  

What the results also highlight, more generally, is that people’s perceptions of productivity are clearly influenced by proximity bias. Put simply, it means that employees—at all levels—may be more inclined to favour colleagues that they work with most often, and people in job roles that they’re more familiar with, over other teams and departments at their workplace whose output is perhaps less known or visible.  

For example, over eight in 10 survey respondents think that their team and the people they manage (their direct reports) are productive or very productive (84% and 82% respectively). But, as the data indicates, they are more sceptical about the productivity of colleagues at their organisation who they have less contact with, and, likely, no close working relationship, such as their HR or leadership teams.  

Employees who work remotely face similar bias. According to Ciphr’s survey, just half (52%) of in-person workers believe fully remote workers are productive or very productive, and 18% think they are unproductive or very unproductive. That’s a significant level of distrust aimed at one specific group of workers. 

“The perception of HR as unproductive, while unvalidated, could stem from a variety of factors,” says Claire Williams, chief people and operations officer at Ciphr. “Much of HR’s work happens behind the scenes, focussing on policy development, compliance, employee support, and long-term strategic planning. This low visibility could lead employees to underestimate the productivity, importance, and impact of HR functions. There’s also often a gap in understanding about what HR does in business. Many employees view the role as purely administrative, transactional, and compliance driven.” 

Tags: EMEA February 2024, EMEA News

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