As dramatic as shifts in the workplace have been for everyone, human resources (HR) professionals have been managing the whiplash of change over the past 18 months. HR is now, without a doubt, much more than a support function.

HR is playing a strategic role through this public health crisis, leading COVID-19 tracking and compliance, formulating organizations’ COVID-19 responses, and helping workforces navigate through the challenges of remote work, reskilling and upskilling, extended leave, furloughs, unemployment, government orders, and economic spikes and slowdowns.

So on HR Professional Day, let’s take a moment to do two things. First, learn from the example below of HR excellence. And second, say thank you to recognize all HR professionals around the world for all they’ve accomplished!

HR in the Spotlight

Just when many organizations looked forward to a return to some semblance of stability, HR leaders are managing the complexities of eight meta trends impacting human resources. They include the rise of the hybrid workforce; the need for flexible work, social justice and equity, and well-being; and the need to balance data intelligence with data privacy, to name a few. There are many companies that have made noteworthy progress in these and other areas.

HR Leading with Innovation

Microsoft’s HR leaders underwent a massive change effort when the company successfully completed the implementation of one HR platform in the cloud for all its 140,000 employees in 109 countries.

After decades of running HR operations using the on-premise SAP ERP Human Capital Management solution and multiple homegrown applications, Microsoft knew it needed to deliver on its mobile-first, cloud-first philosophy. So, the company consolidated all its global core HR data into a single mobile-friendly platform using SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite. Now, regardless of whether employees work remotely or in a hybrid model, everyone can enjoy a consistent employee experience – whoever and wherever they are, and whatever they do. And, the company can use data to design engaging, inclusive experiences as the needs of the workforce change.

The Best Is Yet to Come

This is just one example that stands out. At companies large and small, across every sector, HR professionals are striving to manage the impacts of a rapidly changing workplace. If the past 18 months are any indication, HR professionals will continue to innovate and provide a better employee experience over time. Specifically, we anticipate that HR leaders will work even more closely with operational leaders and assume the role of “expert advisor” on matters such as requiring vaccinations and handling COVID-19 test results to give that extra layer of safety to employees.

Ideally, this increased HR influence can be used – at least in part – to lean into business and digital transformations already underway. They should also use this influence to ensure that cultural and workforce transformation initiatives result in wins for both people and profits. For what lies ahead and for managing the impossible this past year, HR professionals deserve everyone’s heartfelt thanks for everything they do.

Say thanks to your HR team today.

Marc Havercroft is global chief customer officer for SAP SuccessFactors.