How is HR adopting to the post-pandemic workplace?

New report finds growing teams, higher turnover and shift to 'more of an advisory or consulting role'

How is HR adopting to the post-pandemic workplace?

The HR profession in Australia is changing, according to a new report, after dealing with crisis after crisis to shape the industry anew.

"In recent years, organisations have been confronted by a wide range of extreme circumstances, such as floods, bushfires, drought, increased temperature, the COVID-19 pandemic and cyber-hacking. Each has significant implications for HR policy and practice," said Dr. Justine Ferrer from the Deakin Business School.

The statement came after the institution released its latest State of the Human Resource Profession 2022 report, in collaboration with academics from University of South Australia, Swinburne University of Technology, and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The report is based on a survey of 390 HR professionals in Australia between April and June 2022.

HR workforce changing

The report initially found that the once male-dominated industry of HR has transitioned to a profession with 84% of women making up the workforce, much higher than the 10% back in 1976.

The number of HR professionals is also expected to further expand because of the pandemic, according to the report, as more than half of the respondents said their teams had grown over the past five years.

However, the report also found a "big turnover" in HR professions, with almost half of the respondents staying in their current roles in less than two years.

Ferrer attributed the situation to the pandemic, particularly the pressure it brought on HR professionals.

"They became the source of understanding and communication for government regulations and restrictions, they managed the transition to working from home in large numbers, they became well-being managers as well as risk managers," Ferrer said in a statement.

Changing responsibilities

The report also found that the profession is transitioning to "more of an advisory or consulting role." Only 13% of the respondents are taking full HR responsibilities, as traditional HR duties are now being fulfilled by line managers.

This is not a new issue for HR, but indicates a "bigger shift" in the function of HR in organisations, according to Ferrer.

"The line manager has a more intimate knowledge and understanding of the employees, while HR provides the support, and advice required to ensure processes are followed correctly," he said.

In another notable shift, many HR professionals are part of "People"-named teams, instead of the traditional "Human Resources" category.

"The shift to the people function suggests that people are the core of what needs to be done for the organisation, and this is in line with the shift in focus of HR to people-related supports, such as employee wellbeing," Ferrer said.

Top priorities for HR

As organisations face skills gaps, the attention of HR leaders is on recruitment, retention, and reducing turnover, according to the report.

Mental health and employee wellbeing are also high on HR professionals' priority list to secure the loyalty of staff.

"It's also critical to attract talent. In a post-pandemic environment, employees are demanding that the organisations they work for prioritise their health and wellbeing," Ferrer said.

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