Very, according to The Wall Street Journal, calling HR professionals “suddenly hot.” Companies are recognizing the importance of experienced HR specialists on a range of hot button issues like executive pay, management succession, and integrating acquisitions. A good HR director with solid recruiting, hiring and performance management policies can shield a company from claims, as well as develop and nurture a productive workforce.

A competent HR professional is also a company’s front-line defense to claims of discrimination and harassment. Training programs and complaint procedures can offer legal defenses to discrimination and harassment claims. For all of these reasons, experienced HR executives are in high demand.

At least 65 current and former human resources managers serve as outside directors in 101 boards, a Wall Street Journal analysis found, up from probably a half dozen 10 years ago.  Starbucks recently plucked an HR expert/board member for an interim gig running HR while looking for a replacement.  When VR Corp. bought North Face, it was the outside director with HR experience who successfully melded the corporate cultures.

HR professionals are often undervalued and underpaid. We encourage employers to take a serious look at whether they have the appropriate HR support and make adjustments accordingly. An HR audit is a great way of gauging and evaluating the HR function and role in a company.