The pivotal role played by HR teams during the Coronavirus crisis has thrust the function into the spotlight and demonstrated the importance of an effective people strategy. That’s according to new research from Personio, the all-in-one HR software solution, which also finds that HR teams are eager to maintain a more influential and strategic role in the future. And with half (51%) of UK HR managers saying that the HR function cannot continue as it did prior to the outbreak, it’s clear the pandemic has only accelerated HR’s ongoing evolution.
The research – which surveyed 500 HR managers across the UK – highlights the extent to which the HR function has helped organisations respond to lockdown regulations and navigate this difficult period. Eight out of ten (79%) respondents say HR has been integral to helping the business successfully adapt to the new normal, while nine out of ten (91%) rated the function’s response as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
Although two thirds (66%) of HR managers surveyed say they dealt with a much higher administrative burden during the lockdown, they also delivered critical strategic value and broke down silos between HR and senior teams. Overall 71% of respondents believe HR has added strategic value to the business during the pandemic – with the same number saying the HR function has been more closely involved at board / senior team level during the outbreak.
The findings make clear that HR managers are ready to evolve their role. According to the research, 80% of HR managers agree that it’s important for HR to maintain the strategic role it played during the outbreak. Meanwhile a third believe it’s vital the function becomes more strategic (33%) as well as more agile and flexible (33%) to stay ahead going forward.
However, there are question marks over HR’s ability to truly evolve and hold on to its new, more strategic, partnership role in the long term. Worryingly, just under half (48%) of HR managers surveyed state they do not have all the HR tools and systems in place to be as effective as possible and 71% say they struggle to access data or analytics in the business.
During the pandemic, 42% of UK HR managers say that the HR function has lacked the data and tools it has needed to support the business in the best way possible. And with less than (46%) of HR teams having an HR-specific recovery plan put in place, and HR budgets increasingly under threat (39% expect budgets to decrease in the next 12 months*), the function may not be in an ideal situation to capitalise on its newfound position of influence.
The research indicates that digitising processes and systems could help HR teams work more effectively, with less admin and better data providing more time to think and act strategically. 63% of those who cite ‘all’ their HR processes as digitised rate the HR function’s response as ‘very good’ during the outbreak, compared to 41% and 48% for ‘most’ and ‘few’. Meanwhile, those whose HR function is completely digitised are more likely to have a specific HR recovery plan in place: 55% where all processes are digitised compared to just 34% where only a few had been digitised.
Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO of Personio said: “HR is a company’s backbone, and this is never truer than during challenging times like these. The Covid-19 crisis has given HR teams a unique opportunity to demonstrate what they’re best at – helping businesses make strategic decisions when it comes to their greatest asset: people. HR teams will be critical to supporting individuals’ and businesses’ return to workplaces and navigating the challenging time after the lockdown.
“But this more strategic HR role can only be achieved when organisations have the technology, data and systems in place that free HR managers up to focus on their people while providing them with the insights they need to be effective. Organisations must act now to ensure the HR function can continue to operate strategically in the post-pandemic workplace. Budgets may be under threat, but people strategy is one area that absolutely must remain a focus for businesses as we adapt to new ways of working.”
Additional insights from the research include:
Since the Coronavirus outbreak started:
- 64% have furloughed team members
- 20% have undertaken redundancies
- 42% have decreased salaries in some or all parts of the business
- 34% have removed bonuses
- 58% have reduced operating budgets
The top four steps HR has implemented to help the organisations respond to coronavirus:
- 1. Support for remote working / WFH – 66%
- 2. Increased internal communication – 53%
- 3. Implemented additional mental health / wellbeing initiatives – 44%
- 4. Provided extra support for parents – 37%
*Not including personnel and salary costs