HR teams have always been at the heart of organisations. They allow business leaders to keep their finger on the pulse of their people’s expectations as well as ensuring that each employee’s lifecycle at the business is as engaged and fulfilling as possible. As organisations begin to make the shift into the new world of working, there is an expectation that the role of HR teams is to evolve once more, placing HR teams at the heart of strategic business planning.
Whilst this shift represents an exciting opportunity for businesses to reshape the modern work culture, will present a number of significant challenges for HR professionals who will undoubtedly find the scope of their role expanding in order to meet the needs of a widespread workforce.
In this article, we will examine some of the most common challenges faced by HR teams across a variety of sectors and what step businesses can take in order to mitigate any negative impact and support their HR people moving forwards.
1. HR challenges in recruitment and selection:
With all businesses now firmly focused on driving profitability and productivity for 2021 and beyond, one of the key factors determining success will lie in organisations being able to identify and attract people with the proper skill sets required to fit their business strategy.
With remote working becoming a more permanent element of the modern working culture, more and more organisations are recruiting for solely remote positions. This is great news in that businesses are able to widen their talent searches beyond a traditionally constrained geographic radius but widening the prospective talent pool also means that the process of honing the search for new employees has become much broader.
Retaining new talent can hinge on the recruitment stage with research suggesting that nearly 40% of new hires leave their jobs within the first six months and 20% of new hire turnover occurs within the first 45 days. This is because of poor onboarding and a lack of transparency about the culture they were entering into. As a result, new hires begin to regret accepting the offer over another and their energy is put into looking for a new job rather than excelling at the current one.
The recruitment process has traditionally always been a time-consuming aspect of the HR function and with the shift to hybrid working, businesses run the risk of casting their net too wide in their search for talent and losing sight of the skillsets they need in order to drive success for their organisation
Technology looks set to play a huge role in supporting HR teams as businesses make the permanent switch to hybrid working. The same systems and processes that helped organisations ensure business continuity during the height of the pandemic will now be leveraged In order to support HR teams and ensure a seamless employee experience, wherever people are working from.
HR systems offer a comprehensive platform to support HR teams in their search for new employees. By having unmatched oversight of their organisation’s existing employees and skillsets, HR teams will be able to refine their talent searches around a more controlled set of criteria . The key to attracting talent in the new working world will be to take a proactive approach to talent acquisition, leaning on technology to help you forecast movements within the organisation and identify skill sets you will require in order to meet your business goals.
By entering into the talent acquisition stage with a well-defined set of criteria, you can also ensure that the people you are bringing on board are an ideal match in terms of skill set and matching your company culture. Honing your requirements at the point of entering into the recruitment stage can greatly help reduce the level of turnover from new employees, ensuring that both they and the organisation meet expectations and most importantly, freeing your HR teams from entering back into the time-consuming process of talent searching.
2. Challenges faced by mergers and acquisitions:
Acquisition processes inevitably bring with them widespread feelings of anxiety, mostly centred around job security concerns as well as impending shifts in company culture as organisations are merged. HR professionals often find themselves thrust into the frontline in these moments, being tasked with acting as a touchstone for employees who will want to voice their concerns.
HR teams often bear the unfortunate responsibility of communicating redundancies and job losses that are an all too inevitable part of mergers and acquisitions. Apart from their everyday workload, this represents a heavy logistical and emotional burden for HR professionals who can often find themselves carrying the burden of the more negative aspects of acquisition processes.
Regardless of which side of the process they find themselves, HR teams are also responsible for building the new company culture which will emerge as a result of any takeover. Often this means looking at multiple organisations and drawing elements from each, finding a way to mesh them into a coherent whole. This is a tricky process as merging organisations can clash in multiple ways- One business may be wholly sales-driven when compared with another. A clearly defined company culture can go a long way towards determining the success of any acquisition process, so it’s no small wonder that this represents a great deal of strain for HR professionals.
Communication is absolutely critical in ensuring that acquisition processes run as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid the more negative elements of takeovers such as job losses but by ensuring that you communicate with your people quickly and effectively, you are able to layout expectations and avoid heightened anxieties that come with employees being left in the dark.
HR systems should be embraced as a way for HR teams to communicate efficiently with employees. Company-wide updates can be pushed out instantly to employees, regardless of where they are working from, ensuring they are kept up to date with the acquisition process. A centralised data point of employees can also help HR teams during the difficult process of deciding who stays and who has to be let go.
3. Generational skill set divides:
Whenever employees leave organisations, as well as often being missed on a personal level, they all to often take with them valuable experience which unfortunately isn’t always communicated to their successors. This is particularly noticeable when older, long-serving employees leave organisations as they may have in depth knowledge of processes or idiosyncrasies with a businesses’ operation which isn’t always easily translatable for someone looking to fill their shoes.
This notion of a gulf in skill sets between the older and younger generation is particularly evident within the construction industry where an ageing workforce find themselves facing retirement with an ever decreasing pool of young employees entering into the sector in order to take over. This is an understandable concern for businesses who are keenly aware that without the ability to attract younger talent, the valuable knowledge held by older employees runs the risk of simply being lost upon their retirement.
The key to mitigating the impact of potentially lost knowledge will be for HR teams to take a proactive approach when older employees are approaching retirement. The process should be twofold, ensuring they are engaging with the outgoing employee, driving conversations around their career and gathering from them, what they feel their most valuable knowledge to impart would be.
Armed with this information, HR professionals can use it to inform any recruitment processes, be it searching for external talent or finding someone internally to step into the role. By having a clear understanding of the value the exiting employee brought to the business, you can help ensure a sense of continuity.
4. Managing turnover:
The upheaval of the past year has seen many people reassessing their expectations and priorities regarding work. As businesses begin the move towards the “New Normal”, they may find themselves at odds with their employees who may find that their organisations no longer suit their needs. This potential for high levels of employee attrition is a major concern for any business looking to focus on driving forwards their productivity and profitability.
It also represents a significant strain on HR teams who will be burdened with the process of handling exit interviews as well as being tasked with finding talent to replace outgoing employees. The hospitality and retail sectors are already feeling the strain in this regard with the upheaval to their respective industries meaning that many employees are reluctant to return to their previous roles.
High levels of employee turnover could not come at a worse time for businesses who inevitably want to place their focus on driving forward the success of their organisations, rather than diverting resources into filling gaps left by exiting employees.
HR teams have played a crucial role over the past year as touchpoints between companies and their employees, communicating expectations and policy changes. As we move into the new future of working, businesses will be leaning on their HR teams once more in order to act as champions of company culture.
As employees return to their places of work, HR teams should be encouraged to take a proactive approach in engaging with their people, gaining an understanding of any anxieties they may have and communicate clearly any company expectations. By taking on board the feedback of their employees, organisations can more effectively build a working structure that benefits all parties and can reduce the level of turnover caused by employees who feel they are unheard, leaving.
5. HR challenges facing international business:
Legislative changes brought about from the UK’s exit from the European Union, as well as the continued impact of the global pandemic mean that businesses which deal overseas are faced with a number of unique challenges moving forward.
The continued disruption to international travel means that for the moment, businesses are still heavily reliant on virtual platforms in order to remain connected with overseas partners. This can be a source of some concern for organisations as certain, less developed nations may not have the infrastructure in place to deal with a long term shift to remote communication.
Businesses which operate across multiple jurisdictions also find themselves faced with the difficult task of navigating local laws. Any business operations have to ensure they are compliant not only with relevant laws domestically but also being mindful of any potential breaches locally for any of their overseas partners.
This represents no small task for HR teams who will find themselves having to deal not only with the question of how to remain connected with a widespread, international workforce but also, how best to navigate the complexities of international law.
Communication is key. Organisations should identify or actively recruit talent to serve as team leaders for each international partner, encouraging them to keep in regular contact with HR teams and to help educate and advise them on any idiosyncrasies.
Clearly set out expectations for all international partners, in order to ensure that one standard is being met. Ensure that one business location acts as a central hub for communication between parties, avoiding replication of data and repetition of comms.
6. Key challenges facing the retail sector:
As a largely customer-facing role, employees in the retail sector are understandably still anxious as the effects of the global pandemic are still being felt. Along with the hospitality sector, the retail industry has found itself contending with a great deal of upheaval, with employees finding themselves furloughed on short notice as government guidelines have occasionally dictated the necessity of imposing restrictions.
This disruption has lead to an understandable level of anxiety around job security and along with it, the further risk of employee disillusionment with their places of work. Businesses in the retail sector will want to ensure a sustained period of growth and success and can ill afford to contend with high levels of employee turnover.
HR teams will need to act as champions of their organisations and proactively engage with their people in order to ensure that they are effectively communicating company expectations. Safety and wellbeing will be a primary concern for many in the sector and businesses will need to make sure that they are taking the proper steps to safeguard their employees. HR professionals should make a point to regularly update employees on measures being introduced to help safeguard their wellbeing.
7. IT and logistical concerns:
The more permanent switch to hybrid working will represent a significant evolution for many organisations. Although many of us have been working effectively from home for more than a year now, with remote working set to become a more permanent feature of modern work culture, businesses will need to make sure that from a logistics standpoint, that they are ready to meet the demands of this shift.
Currently, most businesses will find they have existing remote workers as part of their structure, many of whom will have been supplied with laptops, office chairs and extra monitors in order to make their home set up more comfortable. As remote working is folded more permanently into the structure of businesses, the distribution and maintenance of appropriate equipment will be a key consideration for organisations looking to make the switch a long term success.
The function of the office space will undergo a change too, becoming a more flexible social hub for teams to meet up, rather than a rigid, structured working environment. The set up of equipment and desk space will pivot to meet this, with hot-desking looking to become the new standard for many offices.
Many workforce management solutions are modular in nature and ideally suited to help supplement the function of HR teams in ensuring all workers are set up for success. A centralised data point can allow a clear frame of reference for any equipment leant out and can also be linked to IT teams to allow quick and simple updates regarding maintenance.
HR platforms can also act as a tool to supplement hot-deskingg, allowing a controlled flow of people into the office location and offering an easy to use tool for the booking of meeting spaces.
8. Employee benefits and Reward Schemes:
Employee benefits play a vital role in demonstrating company culture as well as helping to frame the organisation as a desirable place to work. As businesses look to make a strong post-pandemic recovery, the ability to bring in the right talent for the business may very well rely on the effective communication of employee benefits.
There is increasing evidence of the growing importance to have a clear structure around employee benefits and rewards in place within your organisation- a survey by Aviva found that 48% of people stated a desire for some form of wellness benefit when assessing an organisation. As we move into a post pandemic world, many people’s priorities will have shifted to place a greater emphasis on the work-life balance and wellbeing. Your employee benefits structure is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to meeting these ideals.
A key concern for many businesses as they move towards a future of hybrid working is ensuring that employee benefits and reward schemes are universally beneficial for their employees whether working primarily from home or the office. Benefits form a key component of an employee’s overall job satisfaction and it is vital that rewards aren’t weighted towards one method of working.
HR systems allow a universal platform for remote and on premise staff to communicate with HR teams and for HR professionals to easily and effectively push out updates regarding reward schemes. Lean on technology to allow you to keep an ear to the ground regarding your employee’s needs- push out a pulse survey to take the measure of your people and ensure that your reward schemes align with their needs.
9. HR Challenges facing Healthcare:
Understandably, the past year has placed an unimaginable strain on the healthcare sector. Even as the rest of the country moves towards a sense of relative normality, the impact on workers in healthcare are likely to be far more long lasting. The physical risks as well as the emotional and mental strain of being at the frontline of a global crisis has quite understandably, lead to an increase in turnover rates of staff.
With the pandemic still being felt keenly across the country, the healthcare sector can ill afford such high attrition rates of skilled staff. Changes to movement between borders as a result of Brexit has also raised concerns as the NHS has long been reliant on an influx of overseas workers to fill a variety of key roles.
The function of HR teams in the healthcare sector will be extremely complex moving forwards. Issues surrounding low wages, high levels of burnout and perceived physical danger will undoubtedly find HR professionals acting in a counselling role, serving as a touchpoint for the concerns of employees.
Keeping an open platform for communication between HR teams and employees will be vital In ensuring that there is an outlet for frustrations or concerns. Stress and anxiety around the pandemic is unavoidable, particularly in the healthcare sector but by being proactive in driving discussions with their people, businesses can help mitigate the impact of high attrition rates and hopefully reduce the level of employee burnout.
10. HR Challenges for the Future:
As businesses look to drive success now and for the years to come, there will be a degree of forecasting required in order to make sure that the function of HR teams aligns with business strategies. The pandemic has already seen the role of HR professionals evolve into one of far more influence, having a direct impact on business continuity planning.
As we move into the new working world, businesses will need to ensure there isn’t a hard stop and backslide into old patterns of working and that their HR teams continue to evolve and develop to stay in lockstep with the future of the workforce.
Attracting and retaining talent will continue to play a key part in the HR function as businesses cast their net wider, recruiting for remote positions. The success of the hybrid workforce will also be heavily dependant on the ability of organisations to offer effective employee training and development with their focus split between on-premise and remote staff.
Solution: Ensuring your HR teams are set up to succeed in the new working world will be of the utmost importance. Increased digitisation should be a priority for businesses, as well as ensuring that their HR systems and process are robust and agile to support the increasing complexity of demands facing their HR teams.
It’s clear that as we move towards the future that all businesses regardless of industry, will be faced with a number of unique challenges when it comes to the issue of human capital management. As workforces evolve, so will the responsibilities of HR teams. When planning for the future, it is vital that businesses have the systems and technology in place to support their HR teams.
HR professionals have already performed a vital role in helping businesses remain agile throughout the course of the pandemic and their influence is only set to increase as businesses pivot to the future of hybrid working. Across all sectors, the key will be keeping a finger on the pulse of employee’s needs and empowering HR teams to drive conversations in order to meet these challenges.
We’ve already seen how HR systems can play a key part in freeing HR teams to focus on looking after their people. At Advanced we believe in the power of technology to allow people to do more and particularly when it comes to HR, we think it’s time to focus on the Human rather than the resource.
Get in touch with us today to discover how our HR Software can help free your HR teams and help your business focus on achieving the heights that it deserves to.