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BRISBANE, 20 August 2020—Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic the disruptive effects of the virus are still causing sleepless nights for HR teams in Australasia, Europe and North America according to new data from HR technology experts intelliHR.

The company today released a report on its 2020 Strategic HR Survey which provides a snapshot of what was keeping the folks in business HR departments awake at night in July, along with some recommendations to help make things easier in the coming months.

COVID-19 has challenged businesses like never before and HR departments have been among those at the eye of the storm. But while the initial period was a sprint to ensure employee safety and transition to remote working, HR leaders today face a marathon.

As recently as May, earlier research had suggested many corporates were preparing for a return to the office by a significant proportion of employees. But recent events in Victoria, and to a lesser extent New South Wales and New Zealand, have moved the goalposts.

“We’re all clearly in this for the long haul now and that presents a different set of challenges for employees and the HR teams charged with supporting them,” said Mr Rob Bromage, founder and chief executive officer of the Brisbane-based HR technology platform. 

The intelliHR report contains some good news and some areas for improvement, including:

  • Employee engagement and wellbeing are now the clear priorities. Three out of four people surveyed listed employee wellbeing as the top priority of HR, well ahead of traditional responsibilities like performance management and on-boarding. 
  • But you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Less than half of the people surveyed said their organisation had a plan to manage employee wellbeing and one-in-five firms may not be monitoring it at all.
  • HR leaders may be putting their own wellbeing at risk. Four out of five said employees are managing to maintain the work/life balance. But when asked about maintaining their own work/life balance far fewer, just two thirds, answered yes.

“The focus of everyone from the chief people officer down has now turned to supporting employees over the long term and an unprecedented amount of attention is on engagement and wellbeing—more than we’ve ever seen. It’s a watershed,” Mr Bromage said.

“But unfortunately, in many cases, organisations lack a mechanism to identify issues and track progress in these areas. Use of tools like Zoom and Slack have boomed but they’re not designed to monitor employee morale and sentiment at scale,” he said.

“Not too long ago, topics like engagement and wellbeing were fringe issues in HR circles. This year has brought them front and centre but many firms have not yet found scalable processes that allow them to become business as usual,” Mr Bromage said.

But there’s cause for optimism in the survey results too, he says. 

“We found a high level of engagement and a variety of tactics from organisations to help turn up for work even when they are not turning up physically at work. These included increased social activities, more time off and company-wide physical challenges. Three quarters of the organisations we heard from are already actively getting feedback from employees, so it’s not a one-way process,” he says.

IntelliHR is advising organisations to take a three-step approach to managing employee engagement and wellbeing:

  1. Find a system. Employee engagement platforms, performance management systems and even some HR information systems have wellbeing check-ins which make it easier for HR to keep a finger on the pulse of the workplace at scale and in real time. 
  2. Have a plan and commit a set amount of time to it each week. Make the time regularly to ensure you’ve not missing anything important. The goal of HR teams should be to flatten the curve on fatigue from the disruptive effects of the pandemic.
  3. Monitor and adapt. If there is one thing the events of the last six months have proven it is the old adage no plan survives contact with the enemy. Planning is a cyclical process, not a one-off, and needs to be revisited as circumstances change.

About the survey

The intelliHR 2020 Strategic HR Survey was conducted in July 2020. It asked 22 questions related to HR challenges with COVID-19. 167 responses were received representing eight countries. Over 50% of responses came from HR professionals in management and leadership roles. Most were from Australia (81%), New Zealand (10%) and North America (5%). Professional services businesses comprised more than half (63%) of all responses.

About intelliHR

intelliHR is an Australian HR technology business which has developed a next-generation cloud-based people management and data analytics platform. Our aim is to become an essential core platform for every business to manage their talent providing the necessary tools to align, manage and enable a ‘people and culture strategy’ within a company’s broader business strategy.

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