Survey on HR priorities beyond COVID-19: key takeaways

17 September 2020 - Reading time: 5 Minutes

In case you hadn’t noticed: change is the only constant. With COVID-19 still affecting all areas of our society and economy, we believe that keeping our finger on the pulse has never been more important. Why? Successful adaptation starts with gathering knowledge and closely observing the market. And as the leading European payroll and HR services provider, that’s exactly what SD Worx does for you.


We conducted an online survey in June 2020, reaching a total of 3,000 companies in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. One of the polled organisations’ main concerns was their HR and payroll strategy for the near future. Or to put it in more concrete terms: which priorities will define their agenda? The most noteworthy findings are summarised in this overview.


Back to basics

Out of a list of 19 possible HR tasks, payroll seems to be the number one concern nowadays. Whereas we see a more geographically diverse playing field for other HR tasks, all countries – except for Austria (2), Switzerland (2) and Ireland (6) – ranked the correct and on-time payment of their talents as their top priority. HR service to employees came in second place. This entails answering and processing HR questions from employees. Strikingly, both most valued priorities are operational, administrative tasks. It turns out companies first want to completely master the basics of HR before they dive into other projects.

About 50% of companies were streamlining their payroll processes in June 2020 and another 30% planned to tackle this issue in the short, medium or long term.

Securing your company’s lifeline

The next cluster of priorities is about cost efficiency. Understandably, in times of crisis, one of the first things employers tend to look at is maintaining cash flow. HR departments have several ways of contributing to this overall objective. For example, by focusing on performance management to boost productivity with measurable individual and team goals. Or by optimising wage costs. In the service industry, these can easily cover up to 60% or 80% of the total costs. Operational efficiency is another method used to save money. Long story short, each of these HR duties can help an organisation mitigate the (financial) impact of the crisis.

“Having clear insights into your cash flow and costs, from wage costs to underperformance and the effects of absenteeism, is crucial to companies and their HR departments. Rightly so, it’s their lifeline.”

Michael Custers, Chief Marketing Officer at SD Worx

Policy work on the back burner

Somewhat surprisingly, we find policy-related topics at the very bottom of the priority list. Devising a set of ideas or a plan to digitally transform or automate HR processes, establishing a uniform HR approach for the entire company – including internationally – and improving the remuneration package offered to employees are all considered less urgent by entrepreneurs and HR professionals. A few exceptions aside – Poland and Italy for rewards, Belgium for digital transformation and France for HR policy – most companies seem to put strategic projects with a medium- to long-term impact on hold for the time being. A possible reason is that these projects require a lot of time and expertise, which are scarce resources in difficult periods.

Despite the rise of HR tech companies and the accelerating digitalisation of our world, technology-based solutions do not seem to be top of mind in HR.

Eager to discover other remarkable facts and figures about today’s HR?

Join us at Corporate Research Forum’s (CRF) international conference ‘Re-imagining the new landscape: reset, renew and thrive’ on 12 and 13 October 2020. During the event, CRF will bring together a world-class faculty from IMD Business School, authors from Harvard Business Review and other experts and partners.

SD Worx will have a virtual booth at the conference and will host a master class on ‘The Yin and Yang in HR: the art of balancing flexibility and stability’, in which we’ll reveal the findings of our survey on the future of work and people in Europe. Hope to see you there!

Yes, I’d like to get the scoop

Good to know: if you’re already a member of CRF, you can access the webinars for free.

Looking for more HR & Payroll Guidance for your organisation?

Find out how SD Worx can help you.

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