Has anyone had it more difficult at work than human resources professionals in the last three years?
First, they had to manage and enable a workforce that suddenly couldn’t come into the office due to lockdowns – aside from in industries with increasingly stressed frontline staff, such as healthcare workers, emergency services workers, and teachers.
Next, the great resignation trend, spurred by the pandemic and elongated by, in particular, Gen Zers’ innovative approach to career development and well-being, made life even more challenging.
On top of most companies rethinking their work policies – adding to the HR workload – the criticality of attracting and retaining workers during this period of economic uncertainty, a tightening labor market, and technological advancement, was matched by the need to train and upskill staff so the organization could operate in the coming years.
No wonder a new global survey published by Humaans – a London-headquartered employee management software company – found that 54% of the 1,000 HR managers quizzed considered their roles to have grown more complex, as they navigated an increasingly rocky landscape with ever-shrinking teams and fewer resources.
Thankfully, various HR technology tools have made their working lives more manageable. And there is little surprise that almost half (46%) of HR leaders are planning to invest more in HR tech, according to Gartner research shared in early March.
Meanwhile, spending big on tech solutions was the top priority – for the second consecutive year – while the other areas of investment were staffing and recruitment (45%), total rewards, and learning and development (both 41%), revealed Gartner’s study of 118 HR leaders, conducted last October.
However the budget was allocated, the main thing was to boost investment in HR today because failure to do so would make tomorrow even tougher, argued Seyda Berger-Böcker, a director at Gartner’s HR practice. “HR leaders continue to face persistent high inflation, intense competition for talent, and global supply constraints,” she said.
Improving retention, collaboration and performance
Notably, the Gartner study found that yearly spending on HR administration rose from $155 per employee in 2021 to $194 per employee last year, partly thanks to pandemic-related tasks, including vaccine mandates and remote-work arrangements. “This is alarming considering HR functions have been trying to reduce the burden of administrative tasks through the use of technology,” said Hamburg-based Berger-Böcker.
She added that HR leaders could generate efficiencies by implementing “human-centric” technology solutions. For example, these might be skills management or learning-experience platforms. Ultimately, investment in this tech would improve the employee experience and, in turn, uplift “retention, collaboration, and performance outcomes,” stressed Berger-Böcker.
The Humaans’ research echoed Gartner’s, with 76% of HR manager respondents indicating that they wanted to invest in HR tech this year, and 56% believing it would save them time and money after the initial outlay.
“The success of any company hinges on the success of its people, and a robust HR tech stack is a powerful component to enable that success,” said Giovanni Luperti, the firm’s CEO and co-founder. “Every HR touch point from headcount planning and compensation to evaluating resources is adding to [HR professionals’] stress.”
Thankfully, there was a widening range of solutions on the market, continued Luperti. “HR tech encompasses all software, applications, and digital tools that help businesses to manage their staff and automate their day-to-day people processes across all stages of the employee lifecycle – from recruitment and onboarding to payroll, absence management, reporting, performance and employee engagement,” he added.
Alongside core HR platforms, Luperti offered examples of helpful HR tech, such as Greenhouse, applicant-tracking software, performance and engagement software like Lattice, and DocuSign, a paperless contract management solution.
Data-driven strategic decision-making
But this proliferation of HR tech solutions is perhaps making things even harder for HR leaders, countered San Francisco Bay resident Alison Borland, chief well-being officer at Alight, a cloud-based human capital technology and services provider. “It becomes difficult for employees to navigate, find what they need, and use it effectively.”
Borland said it would be smarter to invest in HR tech that focused on “improving the integration and connectedness of the [employee] experience.” This way, she added, it would be possible to “leverage artificial intelligence, content, and personalized guidance to … help employees and their families achieve a healthier mind, body, wallet and life so they can live their best lives both at home and at work.”
Danyelle Holmes-Lewis, director of people and culture at Culture Amp, an employee engagement platform, agreed with this advice. “In today’s digital world and with the ongoing investment of transformation programs to renew legacy stack, organizations need to stay competitive to create amazing employee experiences to attract, engage, develop, and retain top talent and fuel company growth,” she said.
Moreover, given the increased responsibilities of HR leaders to better handle human capital in this period of volatility, those who prioritized HR tech and – more importantly – mastered data analysis would be in a stronger position to drive business strategy, stated Holmes-Lewis.
“Gone are the days where HR is a reactive business partner,” she said. “Our role is to drive business performance through our proactive and data-led people strategies to co-create the culture that drives sustainable outcomes.”
Clarifying her core message, Holmes-Lewis concluded: “HR tech underpins this strategy, so it’s imperative to have the right tools to drive efficiencies, fairness, and in how we create the right experiences.”