Your HR and L&D Career in 2009: The Career Factbook

How has the Human Resources and Training and Development profession changed in the last few years?  What are the real motivations and career paths for people in our profession?  How do people move from practitioners to leaders to executives?  What are the educational backgrounds of people in our profession?  What are the typical compensation ranges one can expect?

Several The Career Factbookmonths ago we set out to study the demographics, career goals, developmental needs, and challenges of people in our profession.  We sent out a large, broad industry survey to our research respondents and received more than 1,300 responses.  Those who responded shared their personal backgrounds, their career experiences, their goals and motivations, and what frustrates them most about their jobs.

The result is a new research report available at no charge, The Career Factbook® for HR and Learning Professionals.” This 130+ page report, which we plan to cover each year, will give you personal and professional insights into our profession.  While this research is not a salary survey or job hunting guide, I believe it will give you many deep insights into what makes the HR and corporate learning profession work.

First, let me preface this by saying that our research found some very interesting things.

  • HR and L&D professionals are highly motivated by the intrinsic value of their work.  While money is a motivator in their profession, they find far greater satisfaction by their ability serve and help others, transform their own organization, and find unique ways to motivate, align, and develop people.   Professionals in the staffing and recruiting part of the profession are much more financially motivated than those in other areas of HR – but even they are less motivated by money than one may expect.
  • Each of the disciplines of HR and L&D has its own deep levels of expertise and experience.  While people often move from role to role during their careers, some of the most satisfied and successful HR professionals tend to focus in one particular area for a long period of time.  Some leverage this experience to move into leadership and executive ranks, but many decide to stay as professionals and have highly satisfying and financially rewarding careers as specialists.
  • There is a distinct break in the skills, areas of expertise, and motivation of those HR and L&D professionals who chose to become true executives from those who chose to become senior practitioners and program leaders.  Our research found that true HR and L&D executives are very business-oriented, focused far more heavily on business-related challenges and issues, and function far more like “business leaders” than pure “HR or L&D leaders.”
  • HR and L&D professionals are a fairly satisfied group.  Even though many are suffering from very challenging business conditions, our research showed that job satisfaction rises steadily with experience (young HR and L&D professionals find the role very challenging) and they become very satisfied and happy with their career in their older years.   Of course those who do not like the profession typically leave, but in the case of our research the average tenure was over 6 years, so these people have all had time in this profession.
  • The profession is a highly educated group.  Our respondents were very highly educated:  34% of our respondents have a Bachelors degree,  51% have a Masters degree, and 7% have PhDs.  In this profession education leads to job satisfaction:  the more highly educated professionals are actually the happiest (but not necessarily the best paid).
  • HR and L&D professionals salaries grow fairly consistently over time.  In our sample group we found that average compensation ranges almost linearly with experience from $67,381 for people with 2-5 years of experience to $115,200 for people with 15 or more years of experience.  Managers can expect to earn 7% greater than non-managers, Directors can expect to earn 42% more than managers, and Vice-Presidents and other executives can expect to earn 25-30% more than Directors.  As you will read in the study, the biggest single driver of earnings is actually level:  once HR and L&D professionals reach the Director level or higher, their earnings go up significantly.
  • There two, equally satisfying, types of career paths in this profession.  One, we would call the “professional” track, enables professionals to gain expertise in their subject area and grow from practitioner to senior practitioner to program leader to what we call the “HR or L&D Master.”  These “Masters” often become consultants, they write books, or they take on very important roles in corporations and other organizations.The other track is the managerial and executive track.  Here HR and L&D professionals take a more traditional approach to growing into manager, Director, and VP roles.  In this profession there is a major narrowing of opportunities at the Director and VP level and our research shows that  people who succeed at these levels doso because they have deep levels of domain expertise in at least one HR or L&D domain.  “General managers” do not seem to function well in HR.
  • The biggest frustration for HR and L&D profesionals is not necessarily lack of resources (although that is clearly an issue), but rather working in teams or organizations that do not value their work.  The single biggest career and job frustration cited in this research is “lack of support and input from business leaders.”  That is, HR and L&D professionals want to be respected and valued by their customers (the business leaders they support).  When the organization or leadership does not give them this support, money or professional development does not generally improve their engagement.
  • HR and L&D professionals are “learners” by nature.  The research clearly shows that people in this profession know that there are no real “perfect” ways to do anything – and in fact they are very highly motivated by opportunities to learn, share with each other, and improve their own professional skills.

I will be conducting a webinar on this topic in July, we encourage you to join us if you would like to hear more – and of course we are very interested in your own personal experiences and comments on this research.  This research was a bit of a new thing for us – but we felt this data would be highly valuable for people at all ranges of experience in this important profession.

As difficult as the business world is today, this research once again reaffirms that our profession is one of hard-working, highly motivated, educated people who take their jobs very seriously and greatly want to contribute to their organizations’ success.

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