Four in 10 businesses in the UK and Ireland believe their HR processes have become less efficient since the start of the pandemic, according to new research from industry specialist, Zellis.

Faced with the huge task of adapting to COVID-19 and the shift to hybrid working, over a quarter (28%) of organisations reported that they plan to outsource key HR processes to better manage internal resources.

Meanwhile, one in five businesses (22%) said that the decline in overall HR efficiency has resulted in increased pressure from the boardroom to accelerate digital transformation initiatives. For HR teams, this will mean prioritising a move to cloud-based operations (28%) and increasing investment in automation, AI, and other emerging technologies (21%).

A similar number reported that they have experienced reduced access to critical systems for payroll and HR employees no longer working in an office environment. Difficulties with tracking and collecting data on employee time and attendance (27%), an increased threat to employee wellbeing (26%), and the heightened risk of cyber-attacks (25%) were also listed as significant challenges presented by hybrid working.

Nonetheless, with the survey indicating that 82% of organisations do plan to allow hybrid working to some extent post-pandemic, there will now be a push to bolster HR operations to better fit the new reality of work.

George Dunnett, Chief Product Officer at Zellis, commented:

“Whilst the pandemic has shown the importance of flexibility in the face of unforeseen challenges, many organisations have understandably struggled with managing their HR resources over the past year and a half. The pandemic has put more emphasis on the ‘human’ element of HR, with businesses focusing a lot of time and attention on employee wellbeing, as well as easing the transition to hybrid working. Whilst this is to be welcomed, this change in focus has put a large strain on business-critical HR processes like payroll, recruitment and onboarding, and information management. That’s why we’re seeing an increased need to either implement better technology or outsource to specialists in order to ensure the quality and continuity of employee services.”

The research was conducted across HR and payroll professionals across the UK and Ireland in June 2021. The full report can be accessed here.