Resourcing disparities pile pressure on HR teams in 2021, finds research

Culture Amp research shines a light on HR performance review strategies in light of the pandemic and remote working

The extraordinary pressure HR teams are under is likely to continue going into 2021. This is according to new global data on companies’ responses to people management challenges caused by the pandemic as well as how those responses were organised. 

Culture Amp, an employee experience platform, conducted its ‘How companies are embracing a new future’ survey with over 400 HR professionals in September 2020 and found that only just over half (57%) of the respondents believe that their team has adequate capacity to address their employee engagement and workforce planning needs in 2021. 

The situation is unlikely to change any time soon, with 37% of the respondents – across industries including technology, professional services, healthcare and retail – halting new hires or at least considering a freeze on such activity.

Changing work models put even more pressure on HRs. Pre the COVID-19 outbreak just 5% of the companies surveyed had most employees working remotely but now 75% report that the majority of their employees are fully remote. 

One-third of the companies that had never embarked on remote working previously are planning to continue the practice of remote working once restrictions ease.  For those organisations which had little experience of remote work, 35% will keep more than half of their employees working remotely, 39% will have less than half of their employees remote, and 19% will return to majority in-person work.

Despite the upheaval, HR team sizes have stayed the same this year, with 72% of respondents reporting no change in staffing since the COVID-19 outbreak.  Even for those companies experiencing increased demand for their products and services during the pandemic, only one fifth (20%) have strengthened the HR department to cope with increased workloads.

The findings raise concerns over the ability of HR functions to handle ever-changing workloads in light of previous Culture Amp research in June 2020 which found that most (57%) HR professionals were already finding their stress levels unmanageable. 

The ‘How companies are embracing a new future’ data is also concerning the impact that HR policies are having on individual employees and workforces alike. Two third (64%) of respondents believe they can measure the effectiveness of COVID-19 related initiatives, but this still leaves 36% of the HR professionals in the dark as to whether or not they are doing the right thing. 

The findings also show how HR teams are playing a crucial role in giving C-level executives continued visibility of line managers and departmental teams’ management of reconfigured, more geographically dispersed and home-based company workforces. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of HR practitioners said that they had increased survey frequency during COVID-19  with 93% of employees saying they felt supported by senior leaders despite the changes of the last nine months. 

Moving forward, most organisations intend to maintain employee engagement and proceed with their performance reviews as planned, with the majority set to keep their original performance goals while 32% plan to reduce or simplify them. Only 7% plan to increase their performance goals for the period. 

Additionally, 64% of businesses plan to retain their normal review processes, 22% will reduce or simplify them, and only 9% intend to delay reviews until a later date. 

Dr Kenneth Mathos, director of people science, Culture Amp says: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded many changes of companies, placing extreme pressure on Human Resources to solve unprecedented problems. In most instances, existing operations and policies have been adapted to new circumstances, which in itself can be a challenge. 

“For HR to be effective change agents, and with resourcing levels stretched in most cases, HRs need to have a strategy that considers both short- and long-term needs with sufficient support, necessary resources and cooperation from key parts of the organisation. 

“A well-equipped HR function can then make judicious decisions and effectively implement them as they adapt their employee feedback strategy, performance management, headcount plans, and policies to support employees – while helping maintain their own sense of wellbeing at the same time.”

The complete Culture Amp  ‘How companies are embracing a new future’ can be found here.
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