5 of the biggest HR trends right now

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Industries and organisations around the world have been totally transformed by the pandemic. Even the way we work in our professional and personal lives has changed.  

When companies are hit by seismic shifts such as this one, the role of HR and People leaders and their teams becomes even more important than usual.

That’s why we’re checking in on how HR teams are doing, how expectations have changed, and the role technology has played.

What exactly has shifted and what should HR leaders do about it?

This is the question we set out to answer in our research report, HR in the moment.

We talked to more than 2,000 People leaders, business executives, and employees to find out more about how the world of HR has evolved, what to expect next, and what organisations need to work on a little harder.

In this article, we highlight some of the trends we’ve seen emerge.

Here’s what we cover:

HR has more influence but a bigger workload

The pandemic has seen HR leaders take on bigger roles in their organisations, with their colleagues’ understanding of what their teams do growing along with them.

With a fresh, people-focused agenda in place and more visibility for their department, 65% of HR leaders say their teams have played a vital role in the pandemic, leading change, making remote work possible, and supporting employee wellbeing.

A solid 59% of you feel you’re now delivering a more influential role in your company, with 72% feeling that navigating a time of uncertainty helped you demonstrate your value and increase understanding of HR’s role company-wide.

But with great power comes great responsibility—and more admin work.

HR and People leaders said they’re spending an increasing amount of time on:

  • Flexible working policies (60%)
  • Workplace safety (59%)
  • Management of workplace policies (56%)
  • Developing company culture (60%)
  • Driving the overall HR strategy (59%)
  • Creating great employee experiences (57%).

With that in mind, prioritisation and finding more agile ways of working are key to making sure that HR’s shiny new agenda is sustainable.

HR leaders need to try different ways of doing things, learn from them, and have the courage to adapt quickly.

The C-suite is seeing HR as leadership partners

All the hard work and influence of HR teams has been recognised by the C-suite.

As we’ve just mentioned, HR has become more visible by leading change and driving new ways of working. And the result of is that 58% of C-suite executives feel they have developed more knowledge of, and appreciation for, HR.

This is welcome news, especially when 84% of HR leaders feel that their colleagues were previously a little unclear on the value their teams brought to the table.

The evolution of HR

Want to know how HR is changing? With insights from HR leaders and business executives, exclusive research from Sage has the answers. Check them out in this interactive infographic.

Read now

Our report also found that 57% of C-suite members strongly believe their HR teams are equal leadership partners in the organisation.

A staggering 87% of C-suite executives say the pandemic has supercharged changes in HR, while 88% recognise that this is a longer-term change that started up to five years ago.

HR’s workload is being underestimated

But there’s work to be done yet.

A significant 57% of C-suite executives still see HR as mainly an administrative function, which could hint at a lack of communication around the different initiatives handled by HR and people teams in their organisations.

For example, over a third of you say you’ve got too much work to do, while just 24% of C-suite leaders think HR has too much work to do.

This lack of understanding around HR’s workload means that 76% of C-suite execs don’t identify their HR team’s workload as unmanageable.

Without the support and understanding of C-suite business leaders, there will almost certainly be more issues than necessary when it comes to delivering on that new HR agenda we mentioned, as well as when managing internal expectations.

HR and the C-suite need to work together to prioritise work and cut down on admin so HR leaders can continue to grow their influence and impact, ultimately adding more value to the business.

HR is becoming more people-focused and responsive

Just like the C-suite, 60% of employees have noticed a change in HR’s role.

They view the department as being more involved in driving change and influencing people-related decisions, with 25% of employees seeing this change as substantial.

When it comes to HR’s role and the value they bring to their business, 54% of employees say they now have a better understanding of it all.

More importantly, more than a third (34%) of employees recognise the ability of HR teams to adapt and be more responsive after navigating through the pandemic.

Coronavirus has probably been one of the biggest challenges many HR leaders have faced in their careers to date.

In response to it, HR has generally reacted and responded as needed, building the best possible experiences for employees, prioritising safety and wellbeing, and becoming quick experts in new support schemes and laws practically overnight.

While HR leaders may not be comfortable calling themselves agile, the truth is that this is probably the best word to describe their teams’ response to the pandemic.

HR and People leaders might want to capitalise on this trait even more, using this as an opportunity to throw out older, less effective way of doing things in favour of quicker, iterative cycles of work.

You can do that with the help of automation, cloud technology, and self-service systems.

With the right tech to back it up, HR can focus on building influence and creating a more resilient workforce that’s ready to face future challenges.

And finally: Tech is more mission-critical than ever

The huge (practically overnight) shift to remote working in response to the pandemic means that today’s workforce is now more dispersed and cloud-enabled than ever before.

HR tech has played a crucial role in that move to remote work as organisations scrambled get their entire workforce working remotely.

Our research found that a whopping 94% of C-suite and HR leaders feel that digital transformation was already important before the pandemic, with more than half saying it was extremely important.

On top of that, 59% of you now believe HR is doing even more work related to driving digital transformation than they did before the pandemic hit.

For example, when it comes to HR leaders, 75% of you say you’re already using some form of HR tech.

Also, of those who have already invested in HR tech, 67% are planning to invest in more, which really goes to show the value it’s already bringing businesses.

It’s worth noting that (quite worryingly) 36% of HR leaders are seeing a lack of investment in HR as a barrier to proper digital transformation.

With that in mind, it’s up to HR and People leaders to make a doubt-busting business case if they are to overcome this hurdle.

The evolution of HR

Want to know how HR is changing? With insights from HR leaders and business executives, exclusive research from Sage has the answers. Check them out in this interactive infographic.

Read now

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