In a recent survey conducted by HR and payroll software provider Ciphr, UK employees have expressed a perception of the Human Resources (HR) department as the least productive among various departments within their organisations.

The findings shed light on employees’ self-ratings of productivity, revealing disparities in how they perceive their own effectiveness compared to that of their colleagues and different departments.

According to the survey, a staggering 92 percent of respondents considered themselves productive or very productive, showcasing a high level of self-confidence in their work.

However, when asked about the productivity of their organisation’s leadership team, only 67 percent held a positive view.

The HR department faced even lower approval, with only 62 percent of employees expressing confidence in its productivity.

What about other departments?

Notably, HR ranked as the least productive department among those surveyed, with 14 percent of employees labelling their HR teams as unproductive or very unproductive. This figure rose to 19 percent among middle and lower-level managers, indicating a significant disconnect between employees and the perceived productivity of their HR counterparts.

The survey suggests that such perceptions may be influenced by proximity bias, wherein employees favour colleagues and departments with whom they have more frequent interactions. This bias is evident as employees were more sceptical about the productivity of teams they had less contact with, such as HR and leadership.

Claire Williams, Chief People and Operations Officer at Ciphr, commented on the findings, saying, “The perception of HR as unproductive – while unvalidated – could stem from a variety of factors. Much of HR’s work happens behind the scenes, focusing on policy development, compliance, employee support, and long-term strategic planning. This low visibility could lead employees to underestimate the productivity, importance, and impact of HR functions.”

The crucial role of HR needs to be emphasised

Williams emphasised the importance of raising awareness about the crucial role of HR and recommended regular internal communication to increase transparency about HR activities and successes. Additionally, she suggested using data and insights from HR systems to demonstrate the impact of HR initiatives on employee retention, satisfaction, and overall organisational success.

To address the misperception of productivity, the survey proposes introducing objective measures and robust performance management frameworks that include clear goals, documented performance reviews, transparent metrics, and feedback mechanisms.

The survey also highlighted the impact of employee engagement on productivity perceptions. Engaged and motivated employees expressed more positivity about their colleagues’ productivity levels compared to those who were unengaged and unmotivated. High employee engagement and job satisfaction were identified as vital factors contributing to business productivity and success.

For more details and to access the full survey results, visit Ciphr’s survey results page. Ciphr, a leading UK-based provider of integrated HR, payroll, learning, and recruitment solutions, serves over 600 organisations globally across public, private, and non-profit sectors.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.