People & Leadership

HR evolution: How HR is changing today and into the future

HR professionals are struggling. They’re tired; they feel overwhelmed and are nearing burnout–so much so that many are considering leaving the profession altogether.

What’s causing them to feel this way?

A few things. In recent years, the world has faced a range of challenges and changes–from the pandemic and geopolitical turmoil to mass resignations and quiet quitters, the abrupt shift to remote work and widespread economic uncertainty–and all of these are causing HR leaders to feel overwhelmed.

We recently had conversations with more than 1,000 HR leaders and C-suite executives and combined these insights into The changing face of HR in 2024 report. According to the survey, around a third of HR leaders–and 40% of C-suite execs–believe that the drastic changes we’ve experienced across the industry in the last three or so years aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

Despite these challenges, more than half of the HR professionals we surveyed (57%) assert that they love their work and are confident about the value they can add in defining broader business culture and improving performance.

So, what can HR do to better handle its current challenges while also preparing for what lies ahead? We unpack some tips below.

Address the HR burnout crisis by focusing on wellbeing

In 2023/24, we expect to see many of the hurdles and trends that have defined the industry in recent years continuing to evolve.

To handle this, HR leaders must prioritise their own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of the workforce at large. The first step has to be for HR to overcome its own burnout crisis. If they don’t address this, they won’t be able to help the rest of the organisation.

This demands that the department, and the business, take a more proactive and holistic approach to wellbeing, focusing on performance wellbeing but not at the expense of mental and physical wellbeing.

Offering wellness training is a good place to start, and it has been shown to improve overall health and job satisfaction. It’s also important to give HR a seat at the table so that they have a voice and can drive the design of better workplace policies. This is also important so that HR leaders can play a part in making decisions that contribute to the wellbeing of everyone in the business.

Acknowledge that change is happening and manage it

Our research found that HR leaders and executives are excited about what lies ahead and how the HR function will evolve (91% agree). But they are also worried about the future.

Handling this uncertainty comes down to managing it. For example, if hybrid is becoming the de facto way of working, what can HR teams do to make it easier to manage and support employees even when they are working remotely? Additionally, if the changing face of the workforce means that the business is now partnering with more contractors, gig workers, and freelance employees, HR can make an important impact by developing policies that enable them to better manage and support these people.

It’s also important to remember that many of the more traditional performance metrics have gone out the window with the rise of new ways of work. HR must work with management to develop modern policies and to create objective performance metrics; this includes rethinking promotion and salary increase criteria.   

Upskill people by showcasing the value of HR

63% of the C-suite believe that HR is primarily responsible for admin. Our research shows that this comes down to a mismatch between areas where HR thinks they should take a leading role and the areas where the C-suite expects them to take a leading role.

Addressing this demands that HR get comfortable doing their own public relations, showcasing how the function can help employees thrive, and, perhaps more importantly, how HR can play an important role in the company’s success.

HR leaders believe they have what it takes to lead. In fact, they are so confident in their ability to lead that they believe their experience makes them the perfect candidates to be future CEOs. And business leaders agree; 95% of C-suite execs believe that HR leaders have the skills to become heads of business.

Embrace technology and automation to up efficiency

How can HR overcome major barriers to success? Our research highlighted greater technological know-how as one approach.

Technology can play an essential role in helping HR leaders handle the challenges they face. And they are already using these innovations to improve and augment their work. Our research shows that more than half of HR professionals (59%) currently use cloud HR, employee self-service, and people analytics. The industry’s use of gamification, the metaverse, blockchain, and AI is less prolific.

We know from experience that when HR teams have the right technologies in place, they streamline key processes and gain valuable insights into how the workforce is performing.

For small to medium-sized businesses (under 250 employees), Sage HR is a modular HR system that simplifies processes across the entire employment journey. Sage 300 People is designed for larger firms to help HR leaders better manage and support global or multi-locational teams.

The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years; as a result, companies are starting to lean on HR more and more. As they do, we must understand what HR does, what they can do, and what their challenges are.