Since the pandemic, many HR employees have noticed their responsibilities increase as they assist new hires. This is driven by potential candidates who now expect companies to focus more on their overall employee experience. Presenting a challenge for HR employees who often have limited resources, but still want, and need to attract top talent.
How HR employees role and demands have changed
Traditionally, the main purpose of HR was to process an employee’s hiring or separation paperwork. HR staff would clarify policies, administer training, and assist employees during open enrollment periods, when they select their benefits for the upcoming year. Generally, the main questions HR would usually address related to specific procedures, including:
According to a 2021 SHRM article, “The Pandemic Has Expanded the Role of HR”, explains how during covid, HR professionals were tasked with assisting employees effectively navigate their jobs as they began working from home. Many workers reached out to human resources as they also coped with new personal concerns, including their physical and mental health. Soon companies realized each concern needed to be carefully addressed in order for their business to continue to function efficiently.
Also, during this time, many employees reexamined their careers to determine what was best for their family’s future. According to the Census Bureau, 5.4 million people submitted new business applications in 2021. This was an all-time high, and surpassed the previous record of 4.4 million applications that were submitted in 2020.
As more people were willing to start their own business, retire, or pause their career, this resulted in 47 million Americans quitting their jobs voluntarily, during The Great Resignation of 2021. This tighter labor market encouraged employers to take a more comprehensive approach to hiring in order to attract and retain employees.
What many employees expect from their HR professional
Many employees in 2021 started to vocalize their new priorities, as they became aware of companies who took a more personalized approach to help them during the hiring process. According to a 2021 SHRM article, “Job Candidates Seek Assurances on Workplace Safety, Flexibility”, this expanded focus in the following areas:
Safety and health protocols - The risk of contracting Covid-19 was a main concern before candidates accepted a job with a new employer. They often would inquire about the various safety and health procedures that were implemented so they could prevent getting sick in the workplace.
Flexible work schedule - While coping with the stress of having to blend work and family responsibilities, job seekers also got accustomed to managing their own schedule. Working for an employer who understands the importance of flexibility, for most job candidates, was important enough that many sought other positions when flexibility wasn’t made available.
Workplace culture and diversity - Many workers, especially Generation Z, started to also look closely at the culture and diversity a company promotes throughout its organization. Not having a culture that embraced a diverse or socially responsible workplace usually prompted candidates to consider other job opportunities that aligned closer with their values.
Since 2021, managing these new employee concerns meant some HR professionals felt overworked. According to a 2023 SHRM article, “Report: HR is Simply Too Much Work”, 91% of HR professionals admitted in a Sage global survey, the challenging environment HR workers faced over the last few years. With 84% feeling stress on a regular basis and 81% described themselves as being personally burned out. Also, in the same survey, 62% said they were considering leaving HR.
Strategies HR employees can use to cope with these new responsibilities
According to HRMorning, HR professionals are seeking out various strategies to help them achieve better outcomes while also avoiding potential burnout. Some of these methods include:
HR assessment - Reviewing the current workload for the HR department. For example, specifically reviewing the metrics for the number of recruitments and the current workload for each person. This establishes a good starting point for accessing the overall staff performance.
Level of engagement - Is the HR staff engaged in their work, or are they feeling stressed? By understanding any frustrations and potential ways to automate tasks will usually help the HR staff be more engaged.
Review results - Determining the results that are achieving the best outcomes, and reviewing what tasks need to stop, start or continue for achieving goals is key. For example:
Stop - What process is no longer needed that you can stop doing or possibly delegate?
Start - What project would you like to start that would be helpful to implement?
Continue - What are tasks that you want to continue doing in the future?
Group break - One method to prevent stress is to give the HR staff a group break to help workers who normally get absorbed in their projects, a chance to both physically and mentally step away.
Benefits for employers who effectively balance and manage expectations
According to a survey Gartner conducted of the top 5 priorities for HR in 2023, the 800 HR leaders indicated they were: leader and manager effectiveness, change management, employee experience, recruiting, and future of work. By effectively balancing and managing these HR priorities, and the workload, the main benefits employers usually will experience include:
Increased transparency - Employers who demonstrate transparency help set the tone for trust and avoid misunderstandings when the information is readily available.
Better communication - Communication that is clear and understandable makes it easier for employers to share a consistent message with everyone.
Solid branding - Companies who become an employer of choice, usually have solid branding that encourages employees to refer other professionals to apply which can help with recruitment.