Human resources and staffing issues represent one of the biggest challenges for public relations firms, and many agency owners fear their companies could be put out of business by employee lawsuits, according to a survey by Administaff, a leading professional employer organization (PEO), in conjunction with the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Highlights of the survey, which was administered by New York-based Equation Research, include:

„X 56 percent say that HR and staffing issues have emerged as their biggest challenge in recent years (aside from the core business of serving clients).
„X 72 percent believe the risk of an employee lawsuit is much greater than it was 10 years ago.
„X 37 percent fear their companies could be put out of business if they had to defend their firms against a discrimination, sexual harassment or other such lawsuit.
„X 50 percent believe that managing the cost of health care benefits is their fastest-growing management problem.
„X 51 percent say that because the HR function is so time-consuming, they find it hard to devote time and resources to professional staff development and training.
„X 73 percent agree that HR management has become much more technical and complicated during the past decade.

Of the 93 agency owners participating in the survey, 86 percent are from public relations firms with under 50 employees. Almost three quarters (74 percent) say they personally handle the HR responsibilities at their companies.

¡§This survey clearly shows that many public relations firms need substantial HR relief,¡¨ says Michael Herman chair of the PRSA Counselors Academy. ¡§While executives at large corporations have always had a professional human resources department to support their personnel management needs, 80 percent of the agency owners participating in this survey say they cannot justify the cost of a full-time HR professional.  That could mean trouble for them¡Xpossibly, major trouble.¡¨

Among the other survey findings:

„X 77 percent say their firms would benefit from discounts on business equipment and other items that are available to larger organizations.
„X 82 percent believe their employees would benefit from effective training to help managers in their role as supervisors.
„X 95 percent say it¡¦s important that their firms enjoy a reputation as a good employer.