Researchers conducted a study to identify what drives HR professionals to reach their full potential – and what forces them in the opposite direction.
According to Fraser, the research found key areas that lead HR professionals into ‘flow’ or stress.
The researchers studied 821 HR professionals, who varied in age, role, seniority and years of experience.
There were five key areas which affected HR’s performance.
- Changing pressure
However, pressure did not result in greater flow when the individual perceived that this pressure was a bad thing.
“Whether we view pressure as a challenge or a threat is a critical skill,” Fraser said. “HR professionals performed better when they felt ‘safe’ and able to stretch themselves without fear of persecution.”
He advised that if an organisation wants its HR team members to be at their best, they need to be given work that stretches them and builds capability – but it is vital that the stretch “is not so far it overwhelms them”.
The results showed that across all HR roles, 42.7% of time was spent providing advice, in meetings or on emails. If conflict resolution, interviews, reports and training were added, this rose to 63.9%.
Many HR professionals said that this prevented them from fulfilling their employers’ expectations of them working strategically; across all HR roles, time spent on strategy was 7.8%, and for HR managers this only rose to 9.9%.
It was also found that the effect of interruptions correlated with personality: the more introverted a person was, the more distressed interruptions made them.
“The takeaway here is that HR managers are constantly being diverted from strategic work to address immediate issues,” Fraser said. “There is a need to delegate this work wherever possible or respond to it in more innovative ways, including using self-help for client managers.”
- Work-life balance
When boundaries between work and home were high – for example when individuals were not able to work from home – performance was reduced.
“People who really enjoy work don’t mind if it spills into home time, as long as it doesn’t impact on home negatively,” Fraser said. “The key message is, do you find work enjoyable? Work out what ‘balance’ means for you, and how you can minimise work interference by setting realistic boundaries.”
- Support networks
Across the board, HR professionals said they severely lacked resources, which led to HR managers performing operational work as well as a high percentage of advisory work.
According to Fraser, organisations need to remember the importance of asking: “who is looking after HR?”
“The nature of HR often means that you are supporting others and rarely looking after yourself,” he said. “In a way, it seems that [HR] has no one they can turn to and offload.”