Has the pandemic caused a shift in the role of HR?

Human Resources

Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions has released a new report revealing how recent events have impacted the role of HR; after speaking to 1500 global HR leaders, business executives and employees.

The ‘HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR’ report from Sage has found that 87% of c-suite executives say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR. 72% of HR leaders saying the crisis has increased their value and wider understanding of their role across the business, while 59% feel they are now playing a more influential role in the company.

The pressure placed on companies due to recent world events has meant business leaders have had to adapt quickly and HR leaders have been at the forefront of that adaptation and transformation.

In this research report, Sage uncovered how HR leaders have fared—and compared these opinions with those of the c-suite and employees. Sage also examined how the role of technology, changing skillsets, and priorities have shifted for HR leaders.

Research findings: How has HR fared?
As a result of the pandemic, HR has become more visible and influential, but with this has come a larger workload. 65% of HR leaders said their team have had a leading role to play in a companies response to the pandemic and have led transformations surrounding remote working and employee wellbeing to name a few.

73% of HR leaders say the crisis has helped them demonstrate their value and increased understanding of HR’s role.

The view from the c-suite
The hard work and greater influence of HR teams have clearly been recognised by the c-suite, with 58% of c-suite executives believing they have developed more appreciation for HR during the pandemic. This is vital, considering 84% of HR leaders feel that others in the organisation were previously unclear on the value HR teams brought.

Furthermore, 87% of the c-suite say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR, although 88% of do recognise that this is a longer-term change that started up to five years ago. There are disconnects however, with the c-suite underestimating HR leaders’ workload, whilst HR leaders are stating overwhelmingly that the pandemic has increased workloads, over three quarters (76%) of the c-suite don’t think HR’s workload is unmanageable.

The view from employees
Just like the c-suite, 60% of employees have noticed a change in HR’s role, such as being more involved in driving change and people-related decisions. 57% of employees also recognise the pandemic as a catalyst for these changes.

More importantly, more than a third of employees, even more so than the c-suite, have recognised the ability of HR teams to adapt and become more responsive as a result of the pandemic, as HR and People teams responded to constant change. Whether it’s enacting workplace safety procedures, introducing new flexible and remote working policies, placing employee wellbeing at the top of the workplace agenda, or recognising the crucial importance of managing employee experiences for a remote workforce during a time of heightened stress, HR has responded and flexed like never before. As a result of all of this, 54% of employees also say they now have improved knowledge and understanding of HR’s role and value.

HR’s accelerated digital transformation – and the skills gap
The research revealed that the pandemic has put a heightened focus on technology and digital transformation, but there is a lack of confidence amongst HR leaders about skills.

59% of c-suite leaders said HR is even more focused on digital transformation, and 67% of HR leaders said they wanted to invest more in HR tech in the future. However, a third of HR leaders said a lack of tech (31%) and investment (36%) is holding them back from bringing their organisation into the new world of work whilst only half (53%) of HR leaders believe they have the right skills and tools for what lies ahead.

Looking to the future
Paul Burrin, Vice President of Product, Sage People said: “HR has taken on more responsibilities and helped guide the business through ongoing disruption and accelerated digital transformation. However, this has often created additional workloads which automation can help manage, increasing HR productivity, while enabling organisations to become more agile and resilient.

“2020 marked a year where HR’s leaders became champions of change and both executives and employees alike have realised the greater role that HR has taken on. HR and People leaders can capitalize on this and use this opportunity to cast aside older, more cumbersome ways of working to focus instead on quicker, iterative cycles of work. In this way—with the help of automation, cloud technology, and self-service—HR can focus on maintaining influence and building a more resilient workforce that is more prepared for future challenges ahead.”