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Home » Future of work » HR leaders play a pivotal role in helping businesses succeed in a post pandemic world

Amanda Cusdin

Chief People Officer, Sage 

The pandemic has demonstrated HR’s value more than ever. With new ways of working and an ever-greater competition for talent, our new report looks at what comes next for HR leaders in a post-pandemic world.

From demonstrating agility in a constantly shifting workplace to balancing new and often unexpected demands brought on by the COVID pandemic, HR and people teams have played a vital role in keeping organisations going during the toughest of times.

HR leaders have cool heads, quick reactions and strong shoulders. That was the main message from over 2,000 HR leaders, c-suite execs and employees Sage polled in recent research on the changing role of HR.

The sector is shifting away from its traditionally admin-focused reputation and towards more agile approaches, with 87% of c-suite execs agreeing that the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR. In addition, 60% of employees also believe HR has recently evolved to become more strategic and people-focused since the pandemic began.

Yet more recently, companies are looking to HR to lead the way as they deal with a myriad of challenges facing them in the future world of work.

Reimagining a hybrid work future

First, HR leaders must successfully navigate flexible and hybrid working. This presents a significant challenge, largely because there is no one size fits all approach. With no existing guidebook to draw from, many HR teams are embracing a ‘test-and-learn’ approach and drawing on feedback from employees.

For hybrid working to be effective, there must be a clear focus on outcomes and trust between leaders and their teams. Those that continue to monitor employees on a more traditional basis of where they are and how many hours they work, will not be successful in this new way of working.

At Sage, for example, we’ve created a flexible hybrid framework, with a clear set of guiding principles. Within this, teams decide the specific ways of working that will enable them to best support our customers and the business.

96% of HR leaders are more concerned about employee wellbeing today than before the pandemic.

Building irresistible organisations

Second, progressive and business-minded HR teams are having to be creative when it comes to redesigning talent acquisition strategies as they compete in the Great Resignation.

This means there’s no room for error when it comes to creating great candidate experiences and removing excessive admin from the recruitment process. One Sage customer, non-profit Youth Dynamics, sped up hiring decisions from 30 days to just 10 with automated recruitment workflows. Likewise, software company Reiz Tech have been able to make their onboarding process four times faster by moving to cloud HR and using data more smartly.

Creating people-focused companies

Focusing on great employee experiences is also another key focus for HR leaders. According to Gartner, 96% of HR leaders are more concerned about employee wellbeing today than before the pandemic.

HR leaders told us in our research they’re further prioritising employee mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies. Many are also working to embed sustainability into how their company operates, as they respond to increasing demand from employees who want to work for organisations that prioritise purpose.

HR’s long to-do list

The task ahead of HR leaders is enormous. To face it, they need support from other business leaders, the right technology, adequate resource and budgets and more innovative skillsets than HR may traditionally be known for. Worryingly, however, less than half (45%) of HR leaders told us they’re equipped with the right tools to navigate this future.

Technology holds the key. Automated HR processes and people analytics can be used to drive tangible business decision-making and more equitable DEI policies, while cloud systems can create smooth employee and candidate experiences in a new hybrid working world. So it’s no surprise that 67% of HR leaders told us they’re planning to invest more in HR tech.

That investment should alleviate the weight on those strong shoulders – but cool heads and quick reactions may still be needed for a while.

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