Almost three-quarters of HR professionals say the pandemic has increased their value in the eyes of the business, according to research by software company Sage People.
Seventy-two percent of HR leaders said others’ understanding of the role had increased in the past 11 months, and 59% said they now played a more influential role in the company.
Sage’s report – HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR – revealed that almost nine in 10 (87%) felt that changes to the HR function had been accelerated due to the pandemic.
HR priorities for 2021
However, other executive functions’ perception of HR remains unchanged, according to Sage. More than half (57%) of C-suite executives still saw HR as a largely administrative function, despite the same proportion viewing them as equal leadership partners in the organisation.
There was also a perception gap regarding HR workload. Over three-quarters of senior executives (76%) felt the amount of work placed on HR departments was acceptable, even though 60% of HR professionals have experienced an increase in both administrative and strategic tasks.
Employees’ perceptions of HR changed for the better during the pandemic, Sage found. Six in 10 employees noticed changes in HR’s role to become more strategic and people focused, with 25% saying this change had been substantial. Just over a third thought HR had been more responsive during the pandemic.
Looking to the future, 59% of HR professionals and senior leaders expect there to be an increased focus on digital transformation.
However, 36% of HR leaders feel there is a lack of investment to make this a reality. Less than half (45%) feel they have the digital tools they need, while 58% of C-suite think HR is adequately equipped.
There is also a confidence gap between those in HR and their C-suite colleagues. Fifty-two percent of HR leaders said they were confident they could bring the organisation into a “new world of work” compared with 63% of C-suite executives.
“HR has taken on more responsibilities and helped guide the business through ongoing disruption and accelerated digital transformation,” said Paul Burrin, vice president of product, Sage People. “However, this has often created additional workloads which automation can help manage, increasing HR productivity, while enabling organisations to become more agile and resilient.”
He said HR leaders had become “champions of change” and recommended they make the most of their visibility and broader role.
He added: “HR and people leaders can capitalise 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.”