Adapting HR Strategies for the Post-Pandemic World

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of Human Resources (HR) has transformed significantly. Recent studies, including a poll of over 200 HR directors and a Gartner study of 217 HR leaders in February 2023, underscore the evolving challenges faced by HR professionals. As the world of work continues to change, HR departments must redefine their functions to meet these new demands effectively.

The pandemic has broadened the scope of HR functions. According to the poll of HR directors, only 9% of HR functions are highly efficient and aligned with their organization's needs. The Gartner study revealed that 55% of HR leaders were receiving more requests on a wider range of issues, and 80% encountered distinct obstacles compared to pre-pandemic times.

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Piers Hudson, a senior director in Gartner's HR practice, pointed out that the "new world of work" has not only added new demands but also increased obstacles to HR effectiveness. Burnout among HR workers has become a more significant concern, with 71% of respondents reporting it as a challenge. Moreover, more than half of HR leaders struggled with hiring and retaining HR staff.

To address these new challenges, HR leaders are looking to restructure their functions and change their ways of working. However, these traditional approaches only marginally improve functional excellence because they fail to recognize the evolving role of HR in organizations.

Historically, HR has focused on employment policies and administration, essentially being the "owner and operator" of these activities. The new demands on HR are multifaceted and interconnected, requiring a shift towards HR becoming a "convener and catalyst" within the organization.

As a convener, HR is best positioned to bring stakeholders together, establish frameworks for decision-making, and facilitate problem-solving. HR can then catalyze these stakeholders to ideate and define new ways of functioning in today's complex work environment.

Gartner's survey suggests that leading HR departments are concentrating on three crucial areas to enhance their functional excellence:

Participatory Prioritizing: With the increasing complexity of HR demands, HR leaders are adopting mechanisms that involve non-HR stakeholders and empower HR staff. This approach emphasizes flexible reprioritization to anticipate spikes in business demand and ensure that priorities remain aligned.

Business-Enabling Digitization: Technology plays a pivotal role in HR's evolving function. It not only aids in operational efficiency but also supports HR's role as a convener and catalyst. Digital tools facilitate communication, data analysis, and collaboration among stakeholders.

Talent Development and Collaboration: Despite investing in skills development, 55% of HR leaders report challenges stemming from deficiencies in HR personnel capabilities post-pandemic. Leading HR functions are addressing this issue by expanding internal talent development programs and incorporating non-HR expertise into their teams. Collaboration with other departments and a more permeable talent movement are seen as essential for addressing novel workforce issues.