Crystal Ball Image Source GriloSage has published a report entitled “The changing face of HR in 2024”. Based on a survey of 1,000 HR leaders from across North America, Europe and South Africa, the report looks at the state of HR today and what it may look like in the future.

The report is 29 pages in length and has three main sections:

  • HR today
  • The future of HR
  • Solving HR’s Challenges

Each section visualises data from the survey with a brief analysis of the data points and quotes from presumably Sage customers and business leaders about the subject covered in the question and responses. The report ends with three next steps organisations should undertake, with links to further collateral to support each action. These actions promote further research, how to choose HR technology and a 10-step guide to HR digital transformation.

Talent has never been so important to businesses. The authors make the case that the term HR is outdated. Yet the issue may be more about the perception of HR routed in what they used to do rather than the value they add to the business. 92% of company execs think the perceived value of HR is a challenge for the profession. This viewpoint is further strengthened by over 60% of business leaders still seeing HR’s role as administrative.

While 91% of HR leaders are excited about the future, 91% of HR leaders and 95% of c-suite execs say HR has the right skills to become heads of business. Why are there so few CPOs that become CEOs?

HR today

This section looks at the state of HR today. Worryingly after 2 years of a pandemic that brought new pressures to HR, not least the Great Resignation, many are feeling the strain. 81% feel burned out and 62% consider leaving the profession. Despite that, 57% love working in HR, so it seems unlikely that so many will leave.

HR has increased in importance, with over 90% of respondents noting its role has changed dramatically over the last five years. However, business leaders are still spending more time on administrative processes rather than with people. Eszter Lantos, Head of People, TCC Global, advocated the idea of a shift from HR and commented, “There is a move away from ‘Human Resources’ and what that originally meant. A more appropriate name would now be a ‘People function’. It’s an old-school view to look at people only as resources rather than as individuals with their own values, challenges, and gifts.”

It is a view shared by 85% of the C-Suite. Perhaps Resource Management, the term applied to matching mainly human resources against tasks in projects, now confuses the issue for HR. Perhaps it is time for a change of emphasis. That the leading role in workforce planning is shifting away from HR, according to C Suite respondents, could be seen as evidence of this.

The diagram explaining the percentage for this is somewhat confusing in the report. 20% or 49% of C Suite see HR taking on a leading role in talent management and workforce planning against 34% of 60% of HR leaders.

The future of HR

91% of HR leaders are excited about the future of HR, and 60% are also worried about the future. The emergence of the importance of culture, DEIB and the softer strategic assets of a company should have brought HR into the limelight more. It is why so many see HR leaders as potential CEOs.

HR leaders are more aligned with CSuite, but is that temporary? HR leader’s top three priorities are

  • Talent management
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Employee health and wellbeing

C-Suite leaders see:

  • Talent management
  • Financial growth
  • Efficiency and productivity

The differences are a concern. Perhaps the report needed to dive into a more qualitative piece of research. Why is employee health and well-being so important? Is it a means by which organisations can improve efficiency and productivity?

The challenges faced by HR looking ahead infer a lack of digitisation in what historically has been a very manual process with the amount of work at the top of the list and the uncertainty faced in the near future with a looming recession. However, with only 13% prioritising financial performance, the likelihood of many CPOs attaining CEO seems bleak. People are at the heart of organisations, yet people cannot exist without the money to pay them. It is a necessity that business leaders understand and forget at their peril.

Solving HR’s Challenges

Respondents to the survey also gave their opinions on what they need for 2023, with upskilling in HR (42%) and better technology skills (40%) as the top two. Investment in technology only ranked 9th on the list.

Reading through the paper, it is clear that HR is ripe for transformation. However, HR needs to work with finance and IT to understand the business base of digitisation of HR processes and systems. They need to investigate the financial value of the 12 potential technologies the report lists. Ideally, if HR leaders can gain those skills and make the case themselves, they may be a step closer to the CEO role.

Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage Group Plc (Image credit Sage.
Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage Group Plc

Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer at Sage, commented, “HR leaders are often the unsung heroes of an organisation but over the last few years have demonstrated their influence, visibility, agility and impact more than ever.

“Considering the acute shortage of talent, the great resignation, and the quiet quitting phenomenon that a lot of organisations are facing, business leaders need to prioritise investment in technology and increase upskilling the HR department.

“As a sector, we need to embrace tech that relieves HR professionals of the admin tasks and empowers them to focus more on strategy, supporting businesses and employees to reach their growth and development targets.”

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

This is a fascinating report that has some useful insights. However, the analysis could be richer or even more controversial than the authors have taken it. There is a strong, if inferred, case for businesses deploying more technology within HR. The challenge for HR leaders appears to be that they need to better understand the financial and productivity aspects of the changes they are completing.

The report also fails to break down the responses by region or by industry. With responses from 6 industry sectors and countries, including Canada, the USA, the UK, Germany, Spain and South Africa, this seems a big omission.

Talent is top of the agenda for every business, and HR is increasingly important, but it may need a name change. Sage could have stolen an idea from its own research earlier this year where it contemplated the possible role of the CFO in organisations. Historically CFO stands for Chief Financial Officer, but Sage contemplated a redefinition of the CFO to one of Chief Facilitative Officer, Chief Fairness Officer and Chief Future Officer. What would be the best description for HR leaders?


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