When HR first emerged in the early 20th century, its main purpose was to address labour issues, complete employment administration tasks, improve working conditions, and ensure compliance with labour laws. While the years that followed saw HR functions adapt and expand their scope in response to changing business dynamics , the disruption experienced over the last three years significantly elevated the strategic impact of HR further.
It’s not only the role of HR that’s changed since the early days of 2020. Senior leaders across all functions are now pivoting their attention towards employees, and how their experiences shape the business landscape. Recent Qualtrics research - 2023 State of HR Report: The rise of people teams as a business growth driver - reveals almost three-quarters (71%) of HR and people leaders in Singapore say their company’s senior executives now have a greater focus on employee experience (EX) than before the pandemic. A similar number (68%) say they are now more involved in the company’s strategic initiatives, and 80% say improving EX is seen to significantly improve business results.
The state of HR in 2023: Listening more often at the right place and time
The strategic value of HR has never been higher, so it’s no surprise employee experience management is emerging as a vital part of the operating framework in countless workplaces across Singapore. As organisations mature their approach and programs, the traditional ways of working and the areas of focus for HR are changing as teams prioritise uncovering rich employee insights to guide their strategies and programs.
For example, only a handful of years ago the majority of organisations in Singapore would have been running an annual employee engagement survey. Today, however, this single, once-a-year insight is no longer adequate for employers looking to understand and address the evolving needs of their teams. It’s a sentiment echoed by many local HR leaders, with 79% saying it’s important for their company to increase the frequency of employee listening over the next three years. In further proof of this point, three-quarters of leaders (78%) are reviewing employee feedback at least monthly - with 20% looking at it daily.
It’s not only the frequency of employee listening that’s changing. The focus is evolving too, with most HR teams now listening beyond the metric of engagement. In the Qualtrics study, HR leaders say they are measuring additional EX KPIs, such as , inclusion (53%), intent to stay (49%), and well-being (41%).
Feedback is also being captured across a range of experiences and moments in the employee journey, with the most popular around onboarding (56%), candidate experience (45%), internal mobility (45%), technology experience (39%), and workplace experience (35%).
This movement toward listening more frequently in the right places at the right time is enabling leaders to understand what’s most important to employees and where they’re meeting and missing expectations. Equipped with this holistic insight, organisations can confidently take action to deliver on people’s expectations, which leads to engaged and highly productive teams, and helps businesses keep and develop their best talent.
A maturing business function: 4 ways to demonstrate the impact of HR
The increasing impact of HR as a strategic growth lever is reflected in the priorities of HR leaders across Singapore. While training and development is the top priority (38%), it’s closely followed by preventing and treating employee burnout (35%), progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, employee onboarding (34%), talent attraction and hiring (33%), and linking HR operations to business outcomes (33%).
It is arguably this last priority - linking HR to business outcomes - that is both the biggest challenge HR leaders need to overcome to cement their greater leadership role, and a sign of how the discipline of employee experience management is still maturing.
And within the development of the modern EX function, HR leaders say they struggle with poor data quality (33%), closely followed by misaligned incentives and rewards (30%) and poor integration across systems (30%).
As organisations and HR leaders develop their EX programs, and work to elevate their impact further, there are four key areas to prioritise:
Organisations are embracing entirely new approaches to employee and customer experience management, and as part of this shift HR leaders need to be leading the way for the entire workforce. From designing new listening frameworks, through to transforming organisational culture, HR leaders must communicate the value of improving employee experiences, and work with leaders across the business to realise this value by converting employee insights into actions that improve organisational performance .
Translate people issues into business issues
Let's be clear, organisations are essentially a group of people working together on a set of shared goals. When we talk about the business, we are talking about people. Employee insights reflect organisational performance, and the most impactful HR leaders are finding ways to convey operational data (e.g., turnover or performance metrics) that encourage CEOs to look at people data in the same way they would other business data.
Start small, wherever you are
Making changes that improve leadership alignment doesn’t have to be onerous or be achieved in one fell swoop. Some of the best programs start with smaller actions that add up to impactful change – and they’re also often met with the least resistance. This research shows us that stepping up to align teams within HR and shared services functions around a common vision or strategy, or improve data quality and integrations, would make a huge difference.
Collaborate with the CIO
Technology and People operations teams are now both responsible for the employee experience – and the level of collaboration and partnership will determine the power and ability to drive tangible business outcomes. The rapidly evolving world of HR tech, plus the outsized influence that technology, systems and processes has on employee experiences (especially burnout) means that collaborative partnerships with HR, Technology, and Operations teams are no longer a nice-to-have.
A path to greater business impact
HR is no longer just the glue between employer and employees - it’s as invaluable to the bottom line as sales, marketing or product. And the highest levels of leaders across the globe agree.
The programs underway are a vital first phase in the maturity of employee experience management in Singapore, and are critical in elevating the visibility of the deep strategic impact that HR leaders and their teams deliver. In times of uncertainty and disruption, these teams lead the way as organisations navigate through unfamiliar challenges and emerge with strength. The business critical role that these teams play has never been more salient and it is an exciting time to be working in this space.
Despite the rough ride many of us have experienced over the past few years, the strengthening partnerships between HR leaders and executives across all areas of the business is a positive outcome. Through this renewed focus on HR as strategic leaders and investment in employee experience management practices, both business and employees will benefit.