Overworked and undervalued, but light at the end of the HR tunnel

18 February 2021 | 3603 Shares

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A paper published recently, “HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR” highlights many of the differences in perceptions of Human Resources – not just between the c-suite set and HR professionals themselves, but also among employees at all levels in the business.

The first publication of its type since the onset of the COVID pandemic, the document (available here [PDF]) presents a case for the need for greater automation (and use of IT in general) across HR departments. It puts forward a compelling argument for better skilling internally, and the need to build bridges of communication between HR departments and the c-suite.

The conclusions, action points and analysis of those surveyed points to the last year being a catalyst for changing attitudes. Clearly, the largest influence was – initially — the move to a hugely distributed workforce outside the office. In many of these cases, previous instances of remote working were non-existent.

While many employees have been able to return to their workplaces, some have had to adopt different models: “hybrid” working situations are often the norm and have indubitably changed the HR landscape.

Human resource professionals at all levels can take some comfort from the report’s statistics, which show clearly that HR responded well to the sudden change in circumstances, and employees have recognized this. So far, so positive.

Altered perspectives

However, there remains a significant difference between how the c-suite perceives an enterprise’s HR function and how it perceives itself: 76% of the c-suite feel HR’s workload is manageable, yet 60% of surveyed HR leaders said their administrative and strategic tasks have increased in their workloads.

This increased, but “manageable workload”, now continues to get in the way of many HR professionals’ ability to plan strategy. The authors’ previous report released a year ago (“The changing face of HR”) found that over half of HR leaders (53%) were delaying change in their departments because of competing priorities.

That of course is a perennial problem, and one that bedevils just about every function: there are too many day-to-day tasks to consider, so getting an objective view of how to change in the long term is nigh-on impossible.

However, the effects of the pandemic on business have been felt hardest by people who work in them. COVID is first and foremost a human tragedy; it goes without saying that addressing HR’s need to plan and implement a more agile workforce strategy must be a priority for businesses.

Solving the problems

Some of the steps needed seem simple: Cutting out paperwork, repetitive tasks, admin and bureaucracy would have an immediate positive impact, and, the report postulates, this can be achieved in two ways.

Firstly, automation by using technology platforms like Sage HR. In 2021, it seems strange that people have to copy & paste text and media from one system to another or even transcribe paperwork into digital formats. But that is the reality of many HR professionals, and, where repetition and dull work exist, so too do mistakes — bored people make errors.

Secondly, HR technology platforms can offer employees and prospective employees self-service. To take a single example, on-boarding can be extended to pre-onboarding, where new hires get information and learning materials before contracts begin, to get up to speed before day one.

Over an employee’s life cycle at a company, continuous self-servicing (for expenses, leave, absences and so on) can keep processes streamlined. It can also engage staff with the company’s ethos and strategies, and create more-rounded, better-skilled, more capable long-term employees.

Technology too can help build the support structures needed to promote flexible working. We have already mentioned “hybrid” working, where people work both at home and in the office. The HCM (human capital management) systems now available as-a-service from the cloud help HR make this viable and, in fact, of positive long-term benefit for the organization. You can see a demo of the Sage HR platform here to see just how simple, yet powerful cloud-based HR software can be on practical and strategic levels.

Opportunities await

The report shows that the last year has presented HR leaders with an opportunity — 87% of c-suite executives said that the pandemic had accelerated HR changes, but only roughly half (52%) felt those changes are temporary. Making a case for change in human resource management methods has to happen now.

To make the necessary changes happen, we urge you to download the report in the first instance and use its contents to formulate your own case for technology as a lever for transformation. Further down the process, you may also find this document useful, as it will help solidify your arguments.

But at the end of the day, cutting HR admin costs by 40% and the costs of a hire by 50% are statistics that will speak to the c-suite most effectively. The latest in HR technologies — Sage HR — achieves both. The winners are the people in the organization, whether they populate the boardroom or the (virtual) coal face.