HR ‘underrepresented at board level’

Fewer than one per cent of FTSE 50 board members have an HR background, according to research by HR recruiter Ortus.

Fewer than one per cent of FTSE 50 board members have an HR background, according to research by HR recruiter Ortus.

The research shows that of the 595 board members of companies in the 50 top companies in the UK, only five came from a HR background. The research is of interest to diversity specialists given that, of the few women on the boards of the UK’s leading companies, a significant percentage have a background 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 frontline 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”.

Ortus says the highest paid director with an HR background is Vodafone’s Chief Executive Vittorio Colao, whose salary rose to £2.7m last year. The next highest director with an HR background is Clare Chapman, Group People Director of BT, who received £510,000 last year, the research showed. Clare sits on the Board of Kingfisher plc as a non-executive director. HR professionals sitting on UK boards see average annual pay rise 6.5% to £853,000, according to Ortus.

Stephen Menko states: “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”.

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