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New Bersin & Associates Research Shows that Human Resources Organizations Lack Critical Skills for Success in 2011  

Inaugural HR Practice Study Finds that Size Doesn’t Matter, but Skills Do When It Comes to HR’s Business Impact 

Oakland, CA – January 26, 2011 – Bersin & Associates, a world-class research and consulting firm that empowers HR organizations to drive bottom-line impact, today announced the launch of new research  that shows many HR organizations lack the skills they need to succeed in 2011.  

The study, which included surveys and interviews with more than 720 global organizations, found that overall spending levels, organization structure, and team size have far less impact on business performance than the skills of the HR professionals themselves.  The resulting report, The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence is a foundational piece of research in Bersin & Associates’ new HR Research Practice, which offers benchmarks, tools, case studies, operational frameworks, and proven service models that define best-practice human resources organizations. 

“This research clearly shows that the days of bloated HR organizations focused on administrative tasks are over,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer and president, Bersin & Associates. “Lean, technology-enabled, well-trained HR teams are able to take advantage of modern talent practices and partner with business leaders to drive impact.” 

The research also determined that the decades-old “HR generalist” model is no longer effective unless these individuals are highly trained and connected to senior business leaders.  The key competencies that drive results today are familiarity with integrated talent management, understanding of workforce planning, and comfort with social networking and HR technology.  

These findings emerged from a two-year global benchmarking study that looked at 14 talent management and HR effectiveness measures across global businesses.  The measures included a company’s ability to source the best talent, hire and onboard top candidates, identify and develop leaders, build a culture of learning, allocate compensation effectively, and drive high performance through coaching and feedback. 

“Our research revealed that many HR teams are unprepared for the future,” said Stacey Harris, director of strategic HR and Talent Management research, Bersin & Associates and author of the report.  “Twice as many HR organizations gave themselves poor marks in these 14 critical areas than those that rate themselves excellent. This shows how difficult it is for HR organizations to train their staff, stay current with new practices, and create a culture of business partnership among their HR leaders.”  

Bersin & Associates’ new HR Practice was created to meet these challenges in several ways: it delivers research-based tools and proven strategies that help HR teams prioritize their efforts, stay current with modern approaches, select the right solution providers, and stay fully aligned with business leaders. 

“Today, HR Professionals in almost every industry are grappling with an array of huge new problems: the growth of global markets, rapid proliferation of new technologies, skill gaps in critical positions, and increased productivity demands,” said Gwen Callas-Miller, Executive Director, Global Talent Development, Textron.  “With its new HR Practice, Bersin & Associates will provide HR professionals with the research, support and industry-level standards that leaders of other business functions rely on for guidance.  These are the foundational building blocks that will help HR leaders deliver the best possible people-related business decisions.”  

Bersin & Associates evaluated a total of 140 individual Human Resources practices to identify the Top 10 HR Best Practices that produced the highest impact.  Among the additional findings from this research: 

  • Companies that empower key HR professionals to take on a “strategic business partner” role create HR teams that outperform the average HR organization by 25 percent or more. Such companies typically outsource HR administrative functions and realign their HR business partners to work with line executives on hiring, coaching, leadership and collaboration.  
  • Most HR organizations are poorly prepared for the future: they are not fully familiar with social networking, new career models, global recruiting and leadership, or enterprise change management. As a result, HR organizations that focus heavily on more advanced internal HR skills outperform those that do not. 
  • HR’s strategic ownership of knowledge-sharing, collaboration and social networking drives greater business impact than many traditional HR strategies. Companies that focus on these modern tools for empowerment are delivering twice the business improvement of those that focus on traditional HR strategies such as pay-for-performance or new HR information management systems.  
  • Engaging in the leading-edge practice of workforce planning, including enterprise forecasting and skills-gap scenario planning, is one of the greatest drivers of business results.  For example, companies that excel in workforce planning drive four times the value of those who focus on the consolidation of HR technology systems.
  • HR must still excel at the basics. Payroll, benefits, administration are still critical factors in business success, and today these functions must be globalized and deal with a highly contingent workforce.      

The research also demonstrates that companies with fewer HR professionals per employee outperform those with larger teams if they focus on the right skills and partnering model.  Bersin & Associates HR practice is designed to help organizations make up for this gap – by focusing on building skills, knowledge, and world-class expertise – instead of focusing only on hiring more staff or cutting costs. 

“The challenge for HR professionals today is living up to the high expectations that come with a seat at the table – expectations to drive business results through people and culture,” said Harris.  “Our new HR Practice and this particular body of research reveal the keys to driving impact.  We are also addressing long-standing requests by our Bersin & Associates members to help them prioritize and align their HR strategies with the business to deliver the greatest return.” 

Visit our new Bersin & Associates HR Practice at

To download a complimentary copy of The Top Best Practices for the High-Impact HR Organization: Executive Summary go to

The Bersin & Associates report, The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence  is available for $995 for a PDF and $1195 for a hard copy. For more details go to

Meet Stacey Harris through an upcoming Webinar introducing our new practice at

Those interested in learning more about Bersin & Associates’ Top 10 High-Impact HR Practices, its new HR Practice and its WhatWorks® membership may email or call (510) 251-4400.  For media queries, email or call (415) 465-2711. 

About Bersin & Associates 

Bersin & Associates empowers HR and learning organizations to drive bottom-line impact through world-class research and consulting.  The company's WhatWorks® membership gives human resources, learning, and talent acquisition professionals the information and tools they need to drive change in their organizations as strategic business partners.

Bersin & Associates members use our insights and tools to benchmark themselves against best practices, design and implement programs across the HR and learning spectrum and select and implement systems.  More than 5,000 organizations worldwide, including more than half of the Fortune 100, use Bersin & Associates research and consulting to guide their learning, talent, and human resources strategies.