Weekly Wrap: The State of HR Today? By One Account, It May be Picking Up

A New Year always seems to bring a lot of new surveys and studies, but this one with Chief HR officers has some pretty interesting findings and insights on first glance.

Titled the 2012 Chief HR Officer Data Survey, it comes from the Consero Group, a company that describes itself as “an international leader in creating high-level, invitation-only events for senior executives.” I’m not terribly familiar with Consero, but the top-line finding they were touting from the study certainly jumped out at me:

“According to the survey, Fortune 1000 corporations are increasing investment in HR staffing and increasing overall HR budgets”

Over 60 percent saw their HR staff increase

Yes, that got my attention, and here are some of the other key findings:

  • Some 63 percent of Chief HR Officers surveyed indicated the staff size of their departments increased in 2012, while only 6 percent reported a decrease.
  • Nearly 60 percent of participants indicated their budgets also increased from 2011 to 2012.
  • HR Officers are generally well paid, with 63 percent of those surveyed earning more than $250,000.

Now, there are a lot of caveats here, and one big one is that the survey respondents are from large (Fortune 1000) companies, and just that fact alone tends to skew things like HR officer salaries upward. Plus, large organizations tend to have larger HR staffs and bigger budgets. You may not be seeing ANY of these trends if you work in a much smaller organization with a handful (or less) of HR professionals and a more modest budget.

“Our survey results offer positive signs for the economy in 2013,” said Paul Mandell, Founder & CEO of Consero, in a press release about the survey. “It is clear that 2012 was generally a time of investment in large corporate HR departments with an eye toward growth in 2013.”

Mandell added, “While 2012 continued to be a challenging year for the economy, respondents to our survey indicated a 5 percent increase in total corporate headcount.”

Only 8 percent of HR officers report to the CFO

That all sounds good, but like I said, YMMV (your mileage may vary) if you don’t work in a Fortune 1000 company with a large HR operation.

But, there were a few more responses I found in the survey that weren’t touted by Consero in their press release that seemed interesting.

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  • When asked the question “Do you have a sufficient level of access to your CEO?” a whopping 92 percent said yes. And, 84 percent said they report directly to the company president or CEO. Only 8 percent said they reported to the CFO.
  • When asked “What is the size of your HR department budget?” the most popular answer (31 percent) said between $2.5-$5 million. Only 4 percent said under $250,000, while 30 percent said over $5 million.
  • Some 59 percent of HR officers said their overall corporate headcount increased in 2012. Another 31 percent said it decreased and 8 percent overall said it decreased between 6 and 10 percent.

Unlike a lot of research, Consero’s 2012 Chief HR Officer Data Survey was pretty light on analysis and deeper insights, but it does seem to indicate this: it’s a whole different world if you work in a big, Fortune 1000 “HR shop,” as my friend Tim Sackett would say.

And, here’s one of those caveats about this survey that I mentioned earlier: The Consero 2012 Chief HR Officer Data Survey “was compiled in connection with the 2012 Consero Chief HR Officer Forum,” the company says. “Questions were posed to all Fortune 1000 CHROs in attendance. A total of 49 responses were provided.” This was an invitation-only event held last November, and there’s no detail on how many companies were invited or attended.

Well, 49 responses when you’re talking about the Fortune 1000 doesn’t seem like much of a sample size. In fact, you can make a good case that such a small number may actually skew the responses and really not accurately reflect much of anything at all.

So, make of it what you will. If you work in HR or talent management in a large company, these numbers may be pretty interesting.

If you don’t work in a big HR shop, well, it’s always good to know how the other half lives — or at least how 49 of them who attended an invitation-only event say they live.

Workers are skipping (and losing) vacation days

Of course, there’s a lot more than another survey about how HR professionals at big companies are faring in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Mr. Lincoln’s School of Management. There’s been a lot of focus on Abraham Lincoln recently because of the great Steven Spielberg movie, so it’s not surprising that’s there is a lot of analysis going on about our 16th president as well. Now The New York Times weighs in on Lincoln as a management guru, saying that, “Today, as President Obama embarks on a new term and business leaders struggle to keep pace with a rapidly changing global economy, the lessons of Lincoln seem as fresh as ever. They demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission.”
  • Workers are skipping vacation days. I missed this article when it first appeared a few weeks ago, but it’s a topic that continues to tell us a lot about the times we’re in today. According to the Baltimore Sun, workers are so busy on the job that they can’t take all the time off they have coming. “Breaking away from work to take vacation can be one of the toughest parts of the job for many employees. … A whopping 70 percent of employees polled by Right Management in November and December said they did not take all the vacation due them in 2012. A survey last year by Expedia showed that Americans earn fewer vacation days than workers in most countries — 12 days on average — but still leave two days unused. The trend that became more prevalent during the recession appears to be spilling over into the recovery.”
  • The joy of job referrals. This front page New York Times story created a bit of a buzz this week. Titled In Hiring, a Friend in Need is a Prospect, Indeed, it said that, While whom you know has always counted in hiring, (there is) a fundamental shift in the job market. Big companies like Ernst & Young are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money but lengthening the odds for job seekers without connections, especially among the long-term unemployed. The trend, experts say, has been amplified since the end of the recession by a tight job market and by employee networks on LinkedIn and Facebook, which can help employers find candidates more quickly and bypass reams of applications from job search sites like Monster.com.”
  • Hundreds of salaried state workers have a second, hourly state job. Remember last week when I mentioned how some salaried California state workers had been allowed to take on a second job in order to get around their exempt employee status and wage-and-hour rules that forbids overtime? Well, the Sacramento Bee reports that the practice is more widespread than first thought, with “California state workers in nearly a dozen departments (holding) both a salaried position and another hourly-wage position in-house, according to new government payroll data. Several hundred managers, supervisors and others in non-hourly jobs also have a rank-and-file position, according to the State Controller’s Office. The numbers confirm CalPERS officials’ assertion that it wasn’t the only department using “additional appointments.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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