How has COVID changed CEOs perception of HR?

65% of HR leaders think they've played a vital role during the pandemic

How has COVID changed CEOs perception of HR?

The past few months have been chaotic for most of us – for HR and People leaders, they’ve been a rollercoaster of disruption. The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized the way we approach work – upended our old priorities and left us questioning future practices.

With this in mind, Sage People recently released a new research report – HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR. The research found that HR has become much more of a visible force since the pandemic, with both C-suite executives and employees relying more heavily on their HR departments.

Read more: The pandemic is taking a toll on women's career growth

According to the report, 65% of HR leaders believe that their teams have played a vital role throughout the pandemic – with 59% claiming they feel more influential as a direct result.

Furthermore, 87% of C-suite executives credit HR leaders with having accelerated change throughout their organizations during COVID-19. However, just 52% believe this will be a lasting move. One reason for this could be the C-suite underestimating HR’s current workload – particularly in regards to admin. According to Sage People’s research, 40% of HR leaders claim to be ‘too focused’ on administrative tasks – compared to 21% of the C-suite. What’s more, 34% of practitioners openly admit that they simply have too much work on their plates – but just 24% of C-suite executives actually believe them.

Read more: Hybrid models: Are your frontline workers feeling left behind?

HR and People leaders became instrumental in helping organizations adapt to new business priorities – helping drive transformation and lead through disruption – but this came at a cost. The pandemic placed additional pressure on already overloaded HR departments.

“HR has taken on more responsibilities and helped guide the business through ongoing disruption and accelerated digital transformation,” added Paul Burrin, vice president of product at Sage People. “However, this has often created additional workloads which automation can help manage, increasing HR productivity, while enabling organizations to become more agile and resilient.”

He adds:“2020 marked a year where HR’s leaders became champions of change and both executives and employees alike have realized the greater role that HR has taken on. HR and People leaders can capitalize on this and use this opportunity to cast aside older, more cumbersome ways of working to focus instead on quicker, iterative cycles of work. In this way—with the help of automation, cloud technology, and self-service—HR can focus on maintaining influence and building a more resilient workforce that is more prepared for future challenges ahead.”

Further to the report, Sage People has uncovered some core capabilities that HR practitioners will have to home in order to thrive in 2021. The first looked at skillsets – specifically high-level roles.

Sage People found that 86% of HR leaders believe the role of HR director will be completely unrecognisable in 10 years’ time. Instead, HR will have to focus even more on communication – including EQ skills such as empathy and compassion. Next, HR leaders should be getting more involved in the data side of things – in particular with people analytics. Whilst 76% of HR practitioners believe that analytics will be important in the next three years, just 28% were confident in their own abilities with it.

Do you fully understand how the pandemic has changed, and will continue to change, expectations around HR? To read more on how HR and People leaders believe they’ve fared over the past few months – and discover what the C-suite really thinks of HR – download Sage People’s free whitepaper here.

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