Cirencester (UK), November 2021 - HR leaders have risen to the challenge of supporting and leading organisations through the Covid-19 pandemic despite huge and accelerated changes in working practices. Fosway Group, one Europe's leading industry analysts, has launched its HR Realities 2021 research, which lifts the lid on post-pandemic working practices, technology investments, and HR innovation.
The last twelve months have seen accelerated changes in working practices for 93% of HR professionals, with 39% making significant changes to what they do and how they do it.
The research, carried out in partnership with UNLEASH, reveals that only 20% of respondents found it easy for their HR operation to cope with organisational changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than eight out of 10 (81%) of HR professionals say where, when, and how people work in their organisation has changed because of the pandemic. These changes have been the catalyst for HR teams to innovate their practices to better support a hybrid workforce.
The pandemic has accelerated HR's adoption of what might have been perceived as radical changes to HR policy before the pandemic, but which are now seen as essential in the new world of work: 83% have accelerated a progressive approach to flexible working; 64% have accelerated their approach to personal wellbeing; and 59% have accelerated their approach to employees' work-life balance.
The research shows that a shift to more hybrid ways of working - 62% of HR professionals expect their workforce will work less than two days a week in the office - is being driven by the desire to increase employee engagement and business productivity and effectiveness.
As a result of these changes, HR teams are focusing on new measures of success, the most popular being employee engagement and advocacy. These are followed by being an employer of choice; creating a 'digital ready' culture; diversity; equity; inclusion and belonging; and reduced employee turnover.
David Perring, director of research at Fosway Group, said, "This research shows that despite the challenges of managing through the Covid-19 crisis, HR professionals have been able to up their game and innovate their processes to meet the ever-changing and accelerating needs of the business. Much of the innovation is focused on flexible working and wellbeing, showing that HR teams recognise that people success will drive organisational success."
Despite this innovation, HR teams face technology challenges that are hampering their ability to accelerate change. A sizeable proportion (42%) say their HR systems are not fit for the modern workforce; 38% say they are; and 20% say they might be. The quality of the employee experience is the number one driver for changing HR systems, followed by the user interface and enhanced analytics.
The data shows that HR analytics (56%) is the number one area for HR technology investment; followed by recruiting and talent acquisition (45%); learning and development (44%); onboarding (44%); and talent mobility and career opportunities (40%).
Reflecting the impact of the skills challenge on organisations, 51% plan to change their onboarding and reboarding within two years, while 44% plan to change their systems that support talent mobility and career opportunities within the same period.
David Wilson, CEO of Fosway Group, added, "The HR innovation highlighted by this research shows how HR professionals have stepped up to accelerate and support changes in working practices. The data shows the focus for HR technology investments in the coming year is on reimagining the people experience, so organisations can expect to see disruption across key HR domains including analytics, learning and development, onboarding, and employee engagement.
Marc Coleman, founder and CEO at UNLEASH, commented, "After a year in which HR stepped up and became real heroes in organisations around the world, it is so important we check in with what's changed, what's serving us well - and what's not. The emphasis on the employee experience and the additional planned investment in people analytics show that HR has moved beyond the transactional to the transformational. We have to know and understand what our people want and respond to that, especially in such a tough talent market, where attraction and retention is more challenging than ever. I'm looking forward to sharing this research with our audience and continuing to unpack more insights in the weeks and months to come."
Research for Fosway's 2021 HR Realities was carried out between June and October 2021, with input from 313 HR professionals including chief HR officers, HR directors and managers, and HR technologists.