The Power Of Talent

Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey

representing the views of over 1000 HR leaders

Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey

Offers in depth insights on HR strategy and tactics

Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey

now in its sixth year

HR Survey Executive Summary

About the respondents

More than a thousand HR professionals completed our survey this year. The seniority of our respondents has increased this year, not only just in their ages, with nearly half aged 45 and above, but also in their role within the business: 17 per cent of this year’s respondents are C-Level and above.

More than half of respondents are a member of their operational board or executive teams and more than one in four are responsible for global or international HR functions. The gender split remains on a par with previous years with nearly two-thirds of our respondents being female (63 per cent).

Board HR priorities

There is a decreased focus on training and recruitment priorities across the survey this year, as economic uncertainty continues to bite. Recruitment as a board priority has fallen by a significant 8 per cent in comparison to its position in 2016.

Change management, business efficiency and leadership capability have all increased in importance over the last year each growing between 2 & 3 per cent. Culture development shows growth year on year. Downsizing has been falling over the last three years, implying that the majority of organisations responding may have already downsized or be at optimum size.

Perception of HR

The vast majority of our HR professionals feel that their role is valued by the board and nearly two thirds (63 per cent) feel satisfied with the way that they are perceived in their roles but there remains a significant proportion feeling undervalued.

There was a clear 50:50 split this year in those that feel responsible for proactively driving HR to do more for the business and those that feel they should be encouraging business to take more responsibility for the HR function.

HR as Innovators

More than half our respondents cite continually evolving products and services as crucial to their organisations and a further one in four believe it is quite important. Luckily, the large majority of our HR respondents (85 per cent) feel that they actively support innovation within their organisations. More than one in ten responded that they lead the way in promoting and supporting innovation.

There must be more work to do around innovation as whilst nearly a quarter of all our respondents feel that their organisations are ahead of the competition when it comes to innovating, the vast majority believe that they are on a par with their competitors or feel that they are lagging behind.

Systems & technology

The rise of technology and its impact, both positive and negative, is an area that we have highlighted within this survey. The rise of digitisation and automation in HR processes is an area that is preoccupying our respondents with more than half (60 per cent) feeling that its importance within the HR function has grown over the past year. HR departments are increasingly reliant on digital systems and processes and the vast majority (91 per cent) are aware that technology is vital for measuring their departmental function and return on investment.

Nearly a quarter cite that their existing processes for managing suppliers and recruitment are having a negative impact on their ability to be effective; so perhaps the change is overdue? More than half acknowledge the march towards digitisation and recognise that new technologies, artificial intelligence and automation will be affecting their workforce planning in less than 5 years’ time.

Labour market trends

HR continues to feel the pressure from diversified employee contracts and work statuses, and recognises that workers need a whole new set of rights and social protection to support them in leading more flexible working lives. The growing demand for flexible employee contracts was a labour trend affecting nearly half (45 per cent) of our respondents. Our survey shows that there is an upward trend for organisations to at least employee a proportion of their labour force on flexible contracts.

People are living and working for longer, which has implications for employers' age strategies beyond older workers; as a result demographics and ageing populations are a labour trend that concerns more than half of our HR professionals (52 per cent). It’s clear the challenge around age is much more complex than simply realising that people now want to work ever later into life, and that employers need to harness and accommodate this.

Emigration of the available talent pool is also concerning our respondents and rightly so, as there is a corresponding increase in organisations employing workers from overseas and more than a quarter of respondents planning to increase those numbers over the next year. Even in light of Brexit only 6 per cent of UK respondents plan to reduce proportion of people they recruit from overseas.

HR reporting

This year we asked our HR professionals what they would like to be able to measure that they don’t currently and the results were interesting. It would appear that two of the most commonly used measurements for organisations: recruitment KPI’s (already measured by 73 per cent) and employee engagement (already measured by 70 per cent) for example, are unavailable in a proportion of our respondents’ businesses and frequently appeared on their wish lists.

Absence and staff retention information were 29 per cent more likely to be measured than profitability of the HR department and return on investment for recruiting.


The ability for candidates to reach out to potential employers through their own proactive online connectivity shows no sign of abating. One of the most dramatic swings highlighted by this year’s HR survey is away from using third parties to source candidates and towards direct hire through technology platforms. Personal Networks, referrals and alumni programmes are down significantly as recruitment tools and the use of social media has grown significantly with more than four in ten (44 per cent) of our HR professionals using this for candidate acquisition.

LinkedIn, online job boards and reaching out through the corporate website are all recruitment tools being used by our HR professionals increasingly over the past few years. As a direct consequence the use of recruitment agencies for ‘transactional’ recruitment activities has fallen by 13 per cent, however there is an increased focus on value added services from recruitment partners.


In today’s competitive business environment, it has become more important than ever to leverage diversity and maximise the talent of every employee. Despite this fact, the proportion of our respondents that are satisfied with their diversity initiatives showed no change in comparison to last year, holding steady at 56 per cent. However, there was, overall, a general decline in the number of HR professionals stating that their diversity programmes were fully or mostly complete this year, down 3 per cent when compared to 2016.

Companies are defining their role in the global marketplace with more than a third of HR respondents seeking more functional skills and international expertise. That said, gender, ethnic and cultural diversity are still the dominant traits being sought by organisations within their formal diversity programmes.

HR career

Global uncertainty may be incentivising our respondents to stick within their current organisations. Our HR professionals appear to be looking to stay longer in their jobs than in previous years with job turnover down compared to last year and only a fifth (20 per cent) planning to move in the upcoming year. A third of our respondents have held their position within their organisation for more than 6 years. Almost half plan to stay at their current job for more than three years.

Broadly speaking, our HR professionals are happy within their current roles, with more than eight out of ten reporting that they find their role quite or very fulfilling. Furthermore, they appear to be taking pride in their work and more than half (51 per cent) report that the sense of HR having an important role to play within their organisations contributes most to their sense of fulfilment and being well paid less of an issue.


The average salary for HR professionals responding to the survey this year has been calculated to be $116,979. Salaries are highest in Europe and the UK in particular. But the gender pay gap is still very much in evidence with men earning on average a quarter more than their female counterparts. This holds true for every level of role across the profession.

Despite this, more HR professionals are satisfied with their remuneration package this year compared to 2016. Nearly two thirds believe that they are being paid what they are worth and a further 13 per cent consider themselves extremely satisfied and rewarded well for what they do.