Transferable HR skills could be a double-edged sword, study warns

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of HR professionals think they are far from indispensable and could easily be replaced by someone else in their current job, a study has found.

In the survey by salary benchmarking website of 1,800 employees across different industries, HR professionals were among those most likely to think they could be easily ousted from their current role.

Emolument described HR as facing a “double-edged sword” on job retention. While easily transferable skills and networks between competitors create a fluid job market, this also means employers are rarely concerned about finding replacements. 

However, those working in administrative and support functions are even more likely to view themselves as dispensable, with seven out of 10 respondents with job titles such as executive assistant and clerk saying they could easily be replaced. Not working close to revenue-generating functions gives them the sense they are not as important to their employer, Emolument suggested.

By contrast, 71 per cent of employees working in healthcare said they could not be easily replaced, reflecting nationwide concerns around the limited talent pool available in the sector. Statistics from charity The Health Foundation, published last week, revealed the number of nurses from the EU registering to practise in the UK fell by 96 per cent following the 2016 Brexit vote. 

More than half (57 per cent) of graduate respondents to the Emolument survey said they could be easily replaced. However, at the other end of the spectrum, 55 per cent of workers with 15 or more years of experience also described themselves as replaceable, suggesting a sense of instability is affecting people both at the beginning and the end of their career. 

Women felt more insecure in their roles, with 59 per cent believing they could be easily replaced compared to 50 per cent of men. Emolument said this could be because women often earn less than their male counterparts and are more likely to be confined to lower-level managerial positions.

“With so many employees feeling disposable, employers are faced with the vast challenge of making their staff feel valued,” said Alice Leguay, chief operating officer at Emolument.

“Forecasts point to self-employment rates rising to 40 per cent of the workforce by 2020, double the current levels, which puts retention at the forefront of many HR departments' strategy. Tools such as training programmes, charitable activities, attractive working spaces and more flexible reporting structures are popular, but time will be needed for employees to regain their self-worth.” 

Figures released earlier this month from the Office for National Statistics revealed there were 4.8 million self-employed people in the UK at the end of April 2017, the equivalent of 15 per cent of all those in work.


Related articles

Four out of five workers have experienced a ‘career slump’ – and almost half quit over it

Experts urge HR to treat building a workplace culture as more than ‘apples on desks’

Third of multinational employers fear a talent drought following Brexit

Businesses urged to reassure EU27 staff promptly or risk 'significant skills drain'