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Time to re-brand HR and shift focus from processes to people, Sage study finds

  • 92% of company execs think the perceived value of HR is a challenge for the profession
  • 73% of HR leaders and 76% of C-suite say HR teams focus is mainly on processes
  • Over 60% of business leaders still see HR’s role as administrative
  • But 91% of HR leaders are excited about the future of HR

ATLANTA (Nov. 21, 2022) – The scale of the challenge facing Human Resources (HR) teams to convince organizations of the power of the modern People function is revealed today in a new study from Sage, the leader in accounting, financial, HR, and payroll technology for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). 92% of C-suite execs believe the perceived value of HR is a challenge for the profession. 

The poll of more than 1,000 HR and C-suite leaders working in SMBs across six of the world’s largest economies also highlights that a staggering 81% of HR professionals are feeling burnt out and 62% are considering leaving the industry. 

The research signals that now could be a seminal moment for the HR industry and it’s time for HR’s big rebrand. 73% of HR leaders and 85% of the C-suite claim the term ‘Human Resources’ is outdated. Furthermore, 91% of HR leaders say the scope of HR’s remit has changed dramatically over the last few years – and 96% of the C-suite agree.

But while 86% of HR leaders feel the sector is adapting to become more speedy and agile, over 60% of C-suite execs (63%) still see HR’s role as administrative. Less than half (39%) of HR leaders say they believe employees are knowledgeable about what HR does. And many business leaders don’t expect HR to play a leading role in key areas that would traditionally sit in its wheelhouse, such as workforce planning and company culture, the study also reveals.

“HR leaders are often the unsung heroes of an organization but over the last few years have demonstrated their influence, visibility, agility and impact more than ever,” says Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer at Sage. “Considering the acute shortage of talent, the great resignation, and the quiet quitting phenomenon that a lot of organizations are facing, business leaders need to prioritize 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.” 

While HR leaders are trying to evolve their functions from predominantly administrative to more strategic, 73% of HR leaders and 76% of the C-suite say the balance often tips in favor of admin. 

The future of HR 

While 91% of HR leaders say they are excited about the future of the profession, 83% agree that not having the right HR technology is a challenge for the future – only 59% of organizations currently use people analytics and cloud HR systems, and just 54% have some form of HR automation in place.

With 92% of HR leaders citing the sheer amount of work they’re facing as a barrier to future success, technology is key to managing the challenge. By automating admin, HR teams can spend more time on strategy, while self-service empowers employees to own their data, sparing HR the legwork too.  

“HR leaders get into the profession because they want to make a difference. Unfortunately, paperwork and admin too often get in the way of that. So it’s not surprising HR leaders feel more exasperated than ever. Thanks to automation, analytics, self-service and more, People leaders have a bigger opportunity than ever to finally swap the spreadsheets for strategy and re-discover why they got into HR in the first place: to make a difference,” says Helen Armstrong, CEO and Founder of Silvercloud HR.

Asked what the top challenges will be for HR in 2024, in addition to workload, 90% of HR leaders predict it will be limited budgets, 89% cite lack of resources, and 83% say not having leadership support will be significant barriers.

When asked what the profession will need to be successful, two things feature highly on the list for HR leaders: a boost in HR skills (42%) and increased investment in specialisms (37%) (e.g. DEI specialists). 40% also want more technological know-how, and 33% want better peer-to-peer support networks within HR.

As for the top priorities for HR in 2024, HR leaders and the C-suite agree that talent management should be at the top of the list. Diversity equity and inclusion, and employee health and well-being are the next top priorities for HR leaders, while the C-suite feels HR should focus more on financial growth, and efficiency and productivity.  

To learn more, download a full copy of the report.

Press Contact:

Peter Olson
[email protected]


‘The changing face of HR in 2024’ report by Sage included 1022 responses from senior HR leaders (666) and C-suite execs (356 comprising of CEOs, CFOs, and CTOs) across the US, UK, Canada, Germany, South Africa and Spain in medium (500) and small (522) businesses. The polling was carried out by Edelman on behalf of Sage. The results are supplemented with interviews from six senior HR and business leaders. 

About Sage

Sage exists to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive, starting with the millions of small- and mid-sized businesses served by us, our partners, and accountants. Customers trust our finance, HR, and payroll software to make work and money flow. By digitizing business processes and relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, banks and governments, our digital network connects SMBs, removing friction and delivering insights. Knocking down barriers also means we use our time, technology, and experience to tackle digital inequality, economic inequality, and the climate crisis. Learn more at