HR challenges and opportunities in 2021 – new SAP SuccessFactors research


As changes in the workplace accelerate globally, Australian HR executives may be underestimating the investments needed to support a productive work environment in the wake of the pandemic, according to a survey released today by Oxford Economics, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and SAP SuccessFactors.

According to the report, “The Future of Work Arrives Early: How HR Leaders are Leveraging the Lessons of Disruptions”, the vast majority of Australian HR executives surveyed claim their organisation effectively found new ways of working in response to the pandemic (80%) and believe they are well prepared to address the changing work environment (78%).

HR challenges and opportunities in 2021

However, other findings indicate Australian HR executives may be underestimating upcoming people challenges as changes to the workplace continue to accelerate.  Almost half of Australian leaders (47%) see increased employee demand for remote work as one of the top long-term impacts of the pandemic, with 64 per cent saying they expect flexible work policies will be more important to an organisation’s ability to attract or retain talent going forward. Yet less than a quarter (23%) agree the majority of their workers can work remotely and have the necessary technology and environment to do so effectively.

Only 14 per cent of Australian HR executives surveyed plan to invest in return-to-work technologies over the next 12 months, including test and tracing and remote worker management technologies, despite almost half (49%) expecting that maintaining productivity in the new dispersed work environment is going to be an ongoing challenge.

Australian leaders are also not viewing reskilling talent as a top priority, with only a third (34%) claiming they expect to invest in learning programs for reskilling and upskilling over the next year. Among the top countries to invest in reskilling are Mexico (50%), India (46%) and Spain (40%).

“Modernising HR is a critical piece of any organisation’s digital transformation journey, and it’s become even more important as we continue to adjust in the wake of the pandemic,” says Angela Colantuono, VP and head of SAP SuccessFactors ANZ, which partnered with Oxford Economics and the Society of Human Resource Management to conduct the study.

Preparing for the future of Work

“There has been a huge amount of resilience and agility demonstrated in recent months as workplaces have adapted, but driving ongoing business results demands a continued focus on agile processes, learning and reskilling, and a culture that embraces every individual and values their feedback.”

Staying on top of employee sentiment is another area where executives’ feedback points to a mismatch between expectations and intentions. While more than 44 per cent of global respondents said that establishing a culture that supports remote employees will be a challenge going forward, and most acknowledge that their workers have had very different experiences depending on if they are salaried, hourly, office or field workers, Australian leaders are significantly less likely than other countries to be conducting regular pulse surveys to gather employee feedback (25%). Many may be left in the dark about employee sentiment as the workplace continues to evolve.

The Future of Work Arrives Early: How HR Leaders are Leveraging the Lessons of Disruption” report surveyed HR leaders in 10 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The data in this press release represents more than 300 HR leaders in Australia.

Download the global report here. To find out more about SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management solutions, visit the HR and People Engagement homepage at SAP Australia