New research reveals insights into what HR teams are expecting the future of their work to look like in the coming year. This has been especially influenced by the impact of COVID-19 and the sudden shift to remote working this year.

A new report by Culture Amp, an employee engagement platform, explores how companies are embracing a new future at work and what changes and challenges this is likely to bring.

Just under six in 10 HR leaders (57 per cent) believe that a big challenge for them over the next year will be a lack of adequate capacity to address employee engagement and workforce planning in 2021 – two key issues due to the changes that have taken place this year.

However, this situation is unlikely to be resolved as over a third (37 per cent) stated that they were halting new hires or, at least, considering to stop hiring.

This trend carries through when analysing the sizes of HR teams. Almost three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) have reported no changes to size of the HR team since the global pandemic broke out. This is significantly worrying when looking at statistics for companies who have received more or sustained demand for their products over this time (71 per cent). Only one fifth (20 per cent) have strengthened HR departments in order to manage increased workloads.

Most interestingly, almost half of all companies (48 per cent) expected the company’s headcount to either increase or significantly increase by the end of this year.

Additionally, another challenge for HR teams going forward is being able to implement and track the effectiveness of initiatives related to COVID-19. Only two-thirds of respondents felt that they could measure the effectiveness of COVID-19 initiatives, meaning over a third may not be able to do so, possibly leading to ineffective long-term strategies.

Despite this, almost three-quarters of HR staff focussed heavily on communications with 71 per cent saying that they increased the frequency of employee surveys during the pandemic. Interestingly, this may have had an impact on staff wellbeing with over nine in 10 employees (93 per cent) stating that they felt supported by senior leaders in this challenging year. However, it is clear that some companies may need to adjust further in the coming year as around a quarter (24 per cent) maintained the same frequency of collecting employee feedback.

Looking into 2021, most organisations intend to maintain employee engagement and proceed with performance reviews as usual (64 per cent). However, a third of HR respondents stated that they were looking to reduce or simplify their original performance goals. Similarly, 7 per cent planned to increase them.

A final significant move amongst HR teams that is likely to continue is making greater use of contractors or freelancers. 11 per cent of organisations are currently implementing this whilst almost two-thirds (61 per cent) are actively considering it.

Dr Kenneth Mathos, director of people science, Culture Amp says:

The Covid-19 pandemic has demanded many changes of companies, placing extreme pressure on Human Resources to solve unprecedented problems. In most instances, existing operations and policies have been adapted to new circumstances, which in itself can be a challenge.

In order for HR to be effective change agents, and with resourcing levels stretched in most cases, HRs need to have a strategy that considers both short- and long-term needs with sufficient support, necessary resources and cooperation from key parts of the organisation.

A well-equipped HR function can then make judicious decisions and effectively implement them as they adapt their employee feedback strategy, performance management, headcount plans, and policies to support employees – while helping maintain their own sense of wellbeing at the same time.

*This research was taken from Culture Amp’s report ‘How companies are embracing a new future’ which surveyed over 400 HR professionals in September 2020.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.