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Loving what you do versus being burnt out

This blog explores how the last two years have brought challenges of epic proportions for HR leaders, with the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the current economic downturn and how HR leaders are in a paradox of loving what they do versus being burnt out

The last two years have brought challenges of epic proportions for HR leaders, with the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the current economic downturn. As a result, a staggering 81% say they feel burnt out.

However, over half (57%) also told us in Sage’s annual ‘Changing face of HR’ research that they love their job – and nearly all (91%) are excited about the future. So why are so many HR leaders feeling conflicted and facing a series of paradoxes in their roles?

The changing face of HR: About the research
We spoke to from small and medium-sized businesses around the world to get their candid thoughts on the sector today; what’s keeping them up at night, and what they need to solve the challenges they’re facing.

Their answers provide a 360-degree view and up-to-date snapshot of the changing role of the profession. HR leaders are grappling with a number of paradoxes, and swift action is needed for HR to fulfil its full potential as a strategic function with the power to help businesses thrive.

Exhilarating vs daunting future
A whopping 91% of HR leaders say they are excited about the future of HR. Many believe that, despite the challenges, now is the time to make a real change and shape the future of work.

Over 90% of HR and c-suite leaders said that HR’s role has changed dramatically over the last five years, with around 40% predicting that these drastic changes will not slow down soon.

Loving what you do vs being burnt out
57% of HR leaders told us they love working in HR, yet a worryingly high 62% said they are considering leaving the profession. It poses the question, while HR leaders were looking after everyone else, who has been looking after them?

As many as 91% of HR leaders told us they found the last few years challenging, and around 80% feel regularly stressed and burnt out. In fact, 95% of HR leaders admit feeling that HR is just too much work. HR professionals also told us they’ve experienced a significant increase in both administrative and strategic tasks since Covid, and although the pandemic has so far abated, the pressure on HR leaders has not stopped.

Leading the table vs seat at the table
Another paradox our research revealed was around the perceived value of HR within organisations. 91% of HR bosses believe they have the skills to lead companies and be future CEOs. 94% of the c-suite agree.

However, many HR leaders aren’t prioritising financial growth today – something that needs to be at the top of any successful CEO’s priority list. Just 13% of HR leaders have this as their number one priority. Overall, it featured tenth in the list of priorities for HR in Sage’s research.

HR’s actual value vs perceived value
Respondents universally recognised that HR needs to evolve from predominantly an administrative function and take on more of a strategic role in companies. However, most also pointed out that the balance often still tips in favour of admin more than they would like.

HR professionals feel recent changes have accelerated the value they bring to organisations, but that c-suite and employees don’t see this value. 92% of the c-suite agree that a major challenge facing HR teams’ success is the perceived value they bring.

86% of HR leaders say they’re speedy and agile, but the sector still has some way to go to convince organisations of their value, and the power and flexibility of the modern People function. 63% of the c-suite still see HR’s role as administrative.

Furthermore, C-suite executives told us they don’t expect HR to play a leading part in areas that would traditionally sit in HR’s wheelhouse. For example, less than half of the c-suite think HR should play a lead role in employee health and wellbeing, or talent management and workforce planning.

Ultimately, there is widespread consensus that the days of HR being seen as an admin function – simply managing ‘humans as a resource’ – should be left behind. 73% of HR leaders believe that the term ‘human resources’ is outdated and 85% of the c-suite agree.

What do HR need?
A shift in mindset is crucial, but HR leaders need to be given the time and space to be more strategic. 92% of HR leaders say the sheer amount of work they must undertake is a big hindrance to future success.

In addition to the workload, as many as 87% of HR leaders claim that they don’t have the right skills. The truth is that the HR skillset has changed, and HR leaders need to upskill for the new era. Over a third of business leaders believe that HR teams need more analytical skills and 40% of HR leaders believe they need technological know-how.

Finally, 83% of HR leaders say they don’t currently have the right HR technology, with just over half using people analytics, cloud HR and automation. However, budgets are a problem, with 90% of HR leaders saying this is their number one challenge.

A matter of head vs heart?
Many HR professionals get into the sector to make a difference: to help people and build great, productive, engaged, and resilient workforces. To build companies that put their people first and reap rewards in the shape of business success as a result.

Not to be buried under paperwork.

Constant change has also made operating difficult. HR teams have felt like they’ve been firefighting for almost three years now. The last few years have been hard to say the least; and change doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Around a third of HR leaders (32%) and 41% of c-suite execs believe HR’s role will change a great deal in the next five years.

Many HR leaders are driven by the same objective – to build great people functions during difficult times and periods of change that enable organisations to navigate stormy waters and thrive long term. However, without the right tools, skills and executive support, many professionals might not be able to deliver on this target efficiently.

‘Changing face of HR’ research report

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