By Alison Stevens
Today’s HR leaders are facing unprecedented challenges, with economic uncertainty, shallow hiring pools, and ongoing inflation continuing to apply pressure from all sides. However, the 2023 Paychex Pulse of HR report revealed that HR leaders have plenty of other issues on their minds, including the broadening scope of their roles. According to respondents, the role of HR in the workplace is changing, with leaders saying they’re wearing more hats than ever before.
Here’s what HR and business leaders are thinking about as the second half of the year begins—and how they plan to overcome the unique challenges of today’s business landscape.
Addressing employee burnout. Whether employers call it “polyworking,” moonlighting, or some other catchphrase, workers taking on additional jobs is a top concern for businesses. Seeing that these trends are at the top of leaders’ minds is unsurprising as a second gig may contribute to the issue two-thirds of HR leaders say is their top HR concern: employee burnout. Working long hours—even if they’re split between two positions—can quickly drain employees, affecting productivity, engagement, morale, and well-being. It can also lead to “quiet quitting,” another top challenge for employers.
Still, HR leaders recognize that it’s not just employees working two jobs that face burnout. As a result, the Pulse of HR found that 92% of HR leaders have or expect to offer an employee well-being program over the next 12 months and 40% plan to implement employee or manager training that highlights the importance of wellness. HR leaders also plan to broaden the services available to help reduce stressors in employees’ lives both in and out of the office by offering employee assistance programs (30%), shortened workweeks (28%), and childcare assistance (28%).
Overcoming labor concerns. While low unemployment is great for the economy, it’s challenging for employers looking to fill talent gaps. HR leaders expect the labor market to continue to be an obstacle over the next 12 months. To win top talent, succeed long-term, and reap the benefits of an intergenerational staff, these companies need to embrace applicants from all walks of life and tailor their employment offers to match. The report found that the company’s mission is important across demographics, so employers are planning to emphasize the following with this in mind.
Also of note, businesses plan to focus on engagement and retention to succeed in the coming year by investing in tools, benefits, and training opportunities that help their employees—and their companies—thrive. A significant portion of survey respondents (37%) shared that they intend to offer upskilling and reskilling opportunities that support career growth, same-day pay options, enhanced benefits, and competitive raises to encourage workers to stay in their roles.
92% of HR leaders have or expect to offer an employee well-being program over the next 12 months and 40% plan to implement employee or manager training that highlights the importance of wellness.
Opening channels of communication to drive results. Communication emerged as a running theme throughout this year’s survey. Nearly all (95%) respondents shared that they plan to make investments in HR technology over the next 12 months to achieve their business, HR, and personal objectives—and many (43%) will focus those investments on tools that facilitate open communication within teams and enterprises.
This interest is driven, in part, by the ongoing prevalence of remote and hybrid workers, who may feel disconnected from their colleagues. According to the Pulse of HR, HR leaders hope that investments in communication tools will enhance connection between remote/hybrid employees and managers, and with communicating questions to management. The most commonly cited motivations for these investments were increasing employee productivity (43%), improving employee experiences (42%), and promoting training and skill-building (39%).
They also hope these investments will drive recruitment success, with 81% of HR leaders saying they use or plan to use HR tech to attract and retain workers over the next 12 months.
Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into the workplace. When asked about their top goals for the year, most leaders shared that they're focused on improving customer service and operational efficiency. That means exploring what AI has to offer. Over three-quarters (76%) of HR leaders expect to use AI in the next year. They’re likely to use the tool for applicant tracking (30%), assessing employee satisfaction (29%), and recruitment ad generation (27%).
Navigating the changing role of HR. The role of HR in the workplace is changing, with many HR leaders in the space saying they plan to actively work on communicating their HR strategy in the next 12 months (37%). There is broad interest in the potential of HR tech to support this shift, with nearly as many (36%) saying they plan to use more technology to boost their own productivity in the coming year.
76% of HR leaders expect to use AI in the next year, including applicant tracking (30%), assessing employee satisfaction (29%), and recruitment ad generation (27%).
While the results of this survey paint a diverse picture that reflects the complexity and uncertainty of today’s business environment, they also speak to the HR leaders’ commitment to being stewards of their companies’ futures. They’re embracing the “technology-plus-training” approach to lay a foundation that supports companies’ ongoing embrace of digital tools and facilitate success in a challenging market. At the same time, HR leaders are looking at their own places in their organizations and working behind the scenes to ensure people-management policies align with changing business goals.
Alison Stevens is director of HR services at Paychex, Inc.