Only five of the board directors of the FTSE 50 have a background in HR.
Research by HR recruiter Ortus, shows HR professionals are seriously underrepresented at board level in British companies. Out of the 595 board members of companies in the 50 largest quoted companies in the UK, Ortus found only five came from a HR background, meaning less than 1% of the UK’s most senior executives have expertise in HR.
Stephen Menko, director of Ortus said: “It’s astonishing that while HR directors are pivotal to an organisation’s growth and long-term success, they are almost completely absent at board level in some of the UK’s largest companies.
“The level of underrepresentation of HR professionals in the top jobs is even more surprising when one considers the importance of their role. Any company is only as good as the people it employs and HR is on the front line when it comes to sourcing, engaging and retaining employees who can take their companies forward. Failure to look after the HR functions of a business have serious consequences, but there is an ongoing sense of prejudice in the UK that HR is less strategic than other support functions. It’s a very misguided way of thinking”.
The highest earning director with an HR background is Vodafone’s Chief Executive Vittorio Colao, whose salary rose £66,000 last year to £2.7m. His company currently employs 84,000 people around the world. The next highest director with an HR background was Clare Chapman of Kingfisher, who received £510,000 last year .
Despite their limited numbers, the value of HR directors on the boards of companies in the FTSE 50 rose by 6% in the last 12 months, up by £49,000 from £813,000 to £862,000 .
Stephen Menko continues: “It’s clear HR directors at the top of companies are proving their worth and this has been reflected in the healthy growth of their salaries. In a shrinking economy companies must ensure their HR functions operate as efficiently as possible, bringing on board only the best talent with which to achieve growth. Companies with HR people at the top are in a strong position to do this, but others continue to undervalue the importance of HR within their businesses.
“Employers who don’t take a serious approach to developing a clear strategy for the acquisition and management of talent are placing themselves in a weak position to deal with the economic challenges they currently face”.
The latest data from the ONS shows there are currently 77,000 HR directors working in the UK, compared to 207,000 finance directors and 129,000 marketing directors .
Stephen Menko said: “This means there are just three HR directors for every five marketing directors and less than two per five financial directors. People are at the heart of any business and failing to reflect this at the highest level indicates a failure to fully exploit the expertise of HR directors. In order to prevent HR functions being overlooked, those working in HR functions have to be more vocal in showing why their expertise is essential to business strategy at the highest level”.