As the landscape of work undergoes rapid transformations driven by economic pressures and shifting workplace dynamics, HR leaders and C-suite professionals in the UK find themselves grappling with mounting challenges in responding to escalating demands from employees.

A recent study conducted by Barnett Waddingham sheds light on the intensifying pressure faced by HR directors and executives to address issues ranging from higher pay expectations to increased working flexibility and a redefined sense of organizational purpose.

The research exposes a palpable strain on HR leaders, with over a quarter (28%) expressing the belief that there are too many demands on their time.

Alarmingly, a fifth (22%) report experiencing high levels of stress on a regular basis.

This rising pressure is reflected in the difficulties HR directors face in aligning with evolving workplace expectations, as 17 percent admit to struggling to keep up with the pace of change, and 16 percent express uncertainty about prioritising their responsibilities.

Employee demands emerge

Employee demands emerge as a central concern, with 79 percent of respondents identifying demands for higher pay as a top worry. Additionally, 78 percent express concerns about the need for greater working flexibility, 77 percent for a stronger organisational value and purpose, and 73 percent for more hybrid working options.

Interestingly, a significant portion of HR leaders (51%) feels that employee demands are often unrealistic. The study reveals a perceived shift in the balance of power within the workplace, with HR directors and C-suite leaders acknowledging that the scales often tip in favor of employees.

The study underscores the challenges employers face in meeting heightened employee expectations, prompting leaders to reassess job viability based on factors such as flexibility and organisational commitment. The struggle to prioritise amidst escalating demands is contributing to internal conflicts within organisations.

The pressure is growing

Julia Turney, Partner, Platform and Benefits at Barnett Waddingham, comments on the findings, stating, “We are now dealing with workforces unafraid to voice their priorities to employers, yet quick to move on if a job doesn’t align with their needs. This places significant pressure on HR leaders struggling to prioritise responses to these demands.”

Turney emphasises the need for a data-led approach to HR functions, asserting, “Having the right intelligence at your fingertips is vital to ensure informed and accurate decisions that benefit both staff and the organisation. HR directors and C-suite professionals should explore tools and partnerships to effectively prioritise and navigate these evolving challenges.”

As the dynamics of the workplace continue to evolve, the call for strategic, data-driven responses to employee demands becomes increasingly imperative for organisations seeking to navigate this complex landscape successfully.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.