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HR function requires greater tech confidence to support the workforce

07/06/2024 minute read Paul Ridings

We are excited to share the findings of a recent study we conducted in partnership with Engage Business Media. Earlier this month, a survey was sent to over 30,000 members of the Engage Employee community to find out how confident they are in the tools their HR function is given, and in their leadership’s digital transformation strategy.

Respondents spanned industries including Healthcare, Manufacturing, Construction, Finance, Retail, IT, Tourism, FMCG, Transport, Housing, and the Public Sector, giving a wide range of cross-industry insights. Most of the respondents came from organisations with 100 to 500 employees (26.32%). However, there was participation across the board from companies with 0-50 employees and those with up to 3,000 employees at a mode average of 15.79% (when organisations with 50 to 100 and 100 to 500 employees are excluded).

Here is the breakdown of the respondents’ levels of seniority:

  • Manager - 60.32%
  • Executive - 22.22%
  • Team Leader - 12.70%
  • Director - 4.76%

Which responsibilities are the biggest priority?

Employee engagement tops the list of their responsibilities at 54.17%, showing that most HR functions and organisations see it as a priority for achieving better outcomes overall. Their other key responsibilities include:

  • Policy development - 6.25%
  • Training/Development - 8.33%
  • Payroll - 4.17%
  • Talent acquisition - 4.17%
  • Performance management - 6.25%
  • None of the above - 6.25%

Is there room for leadership improvement?

The survey found that the HR function is lacking in confidence. The average confidence rating in the HR function's tools to support the workforce is approximately 6.77 out of 10. Additionally, we also found that only around a third of respondents (37.50%) are confident about their leadership’s digital transformation strategy. Most respondents remained neutral (44.64%), which isn’t inspiring given that 17.86% selected ‘Unhappy’.

Hybrid working dominates

Since the pandemic, there has been a revision in how people work, and more importantly where they work. This period showcased the plausibility of working remotely. However, hybrid working is the most prolific work model, with 59.68% of respondents saying it has been widely adopted in their organisation.

Interestingly, while hybrid working does involve people operating remotely as well as in the office, only 14.68% said their model embraces remote working. This may be because there are some issues that, in the eyes of the leadership team, requires face-to-face meetings. Much depends on the culture of an organisation, considering that remote working can be more flexible in terms of travel-time saved and work-life balance. Some would also argue it’s possible to be more productive within a remote working environment, while those that are perhaps more traditionalist in this regard would argue the opposite is true.  

Only 9.68% of respondents said they employ an in-office work model. The remainder (3.23%) work either in a factory or do shift work. Moreover, in response to the question: “Do you have desk-based and desk-less/shift workers in your business?”, 70% said “yes”, while 30% said “no”.

Do they have immediate plans to upgrade their digital systems?

The majority aren’t looking to upgrade their digital systems at all (39.29%). This may be because budgets have tightened. However, over a third of respondents (33.93%) said they are in the process of implementing new systems, and 19.64% say they aren’t implementing any new systems or looking to upgrade their digital systems right now or in the next 12 months. In fact, only a minority of 7.14% are planning their next steps. This may be because there is still a lack of confidence in the market, making organisations lean more to risk adversity.

There is a need to change perceptions around why they should be evolving their digital systems. With 65% saying employee wellbeing is a core priority, how could more effective tools further enhance the employee experience? The right tools could help them to be more productive and feel more valued. It’s also important to ask: “What else may be stopping them from investing?” Looking at the 19.64% that have no digital transformation plans, it’s worth considering whether there is room for improvement, and the hurdles that hinder change.

Confidence in Artificial Intelligence

Despite concerns about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), which are usually related to fears around people’s jobs, there is much excitement about these innovations and how they will transform processes. For example, rather than being an outright negative, AI and ML could be used for the most mundane and repetitive jobs, freeing people to work in more strategic roles. It can also be used as a vital research tool by helping to aggregate data for reporting purposes.

The excitement around AI may also be inspired by the buzz around generative AI. Here is what the respondents said about the degree to which AI is used in their organisations:

  • We are already using it to drive many core processes - 17.86%
  • We are using it for some basic functions - 60.71%
  • We are not yet using it - 21.43%
  • We’re excited about AI and how it will transform our processes - 66.07%
  • We’re indifferent to AI - 17.86%
  • We’re cautious about the implications of AI, but we don’t want to fall behind our competitors - 16.07%

Not just about confidence and technology

The survey also looked at the frequency at which these organisations provide feedback, with 33.93% of respondents saying this occurs on a quarterly basis, and 28.57% declaring that it happens annually. A few even said there is no designated time for it. It also covered the methods of employee feedback, how they currently track hours worked for desk-free and shift workers, and how many hours payroll spends making manual amendments to payroll data.


The findings of our survey show that there is a need for more confidence in and from the HR function, so that they can deliver what the workforce needs to do their jobs more effectively, efficiently, and sustainably. Nevertheless, 65% of respondents said that employee wellbeing is a core strategic driver within their organisation.

While they have confidence in technologies such as AI and ML, there is still room for improvement from leadership. With the right strategies in place, organisations can drastically improve employee wellbeing. This won’t just be about the technological solutions used either, as there is always a need for the human touch, including effective regular feedback and communication. Seeing feedback acted upon, for example, can increase employee engagement, loyalty, productivity, motivation, and satisfaction. And with this, leaders can build much greater confidence.

If you’d like to learn more about the role of technology in relation to the HR function, be sure to check out our People Management Hub.