Industry survey reveals HR’s top challenges for 2021

HRD explores the top trends as the sector evolves in 2021

Industry survey reveals HR’s top challenges for 2021

An industry survey of more than 1,800 HR professionals across Australia and New Zealand has identified the biggest challenges facing the sector over the next year.

ELMO Software’s HR Industry Benchmark Survey Report identified upskilling and reskilling the workforce as the most difficult issue for HR professionals, with leadership development ranked as the second biggest challenge.

The fact that these L&D focused areas ranked so highly indicates that HR leaders see preparing their workforce to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as a key priority.

HRD spoke to ELMO’s CHRO, Monica Watt, who said the lack of migration to Australia and NZ is playing a big part in the need for businesses to upskill.

“The fight for talent that we’ve got because of the skilled migrant shortage and because we’re doing more with less means we need to be bringing in the right talent in a planned period of time, rather than a point in time,” she said.

“Businesses now need to realise they want to hire people who are going to be thinking about their career within the organisation. They should be planning for that and thinking about what roles they want that person to progress to.

“In future, the upskilling and cross skilling will be fundamental, because with the skill shortage, you're going to have to leverage your internal talent.”

Read more: Recruitment challenges during COVID-19

But with the spotlight on internal talent, Watt said it’s imperative that companies are paying market value for their employees. Just because the person has risen to that position from within the business, their pay shouldn’t suffer, or organisations risk having their top talent poached from underneath them.

Despite the challenges up ahead, optimism in the growth of the industry is strong. The survey found 85% of respondents believe their workforce will increase or remain the same size over the next year.

Those working in the healthcare sector were the most optimistic about the growth of HR within their industry, while those in education, training, arts and recreation services were the most pessimistic about the future.

The benchmark survey, which is in its second year and is the largest of its kind in ANZ, also highlighted key areas of concern around flexibility and the reality of hybrid working long-term.

Of the respondents, 39% reported that getting consistency across all people managers was a top challenge. The second biggest hurdle (37%) was maintaining adequate communication and collaboration between remote and in-office staff.

Read more: Deloitte NZ Head of HR: ‘Don’t be afraid to challenge the business’

Watt said this challenge around encouraging all managers to buy-in to flexible working was the most surprising outcome of the survey for her.

“If you've got flexible start time, you're enabling your people to have more empowerment of their life to do the school pick up, to go the gym, to visit a parent in a nursing home, all of those sorts of things,” she said.

“Getting five or six hours of diligent and productive time from an employee is far greater than a person who is anxious and less productive, who is worried about something else other than work.

“I really would challenge HR to have those conversations and put the evidence on the table to show those managers who don’t believe in flexible work.”

She encouraged HR professionals to let the data do the talking. Run an experiment over a quarter or six months, measuring productivity and employee engagement, to really show the benefit of flexibility.

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