In the latest instalment of our HR industry executive interview series, we spoke to Paul Burrin, VP, Product at Sage People about his company, the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, the opportunities presented by digital transformation and the impact of cloud computing…
Tell us about your company, products and services
Sage People is Sage’s flagship global cloud HR and People system for midsize organizations. Great brands including Skyscanner, Trustpilot, and Innocent trust Sage People to help organizations become more agile, and their businesses more resilient.
Our highly configurable solution drives digital transformation through workforce visibility, increased productivity and great workforce experiences. Sage People is the HR and People system for mid-market organizations whose business success relies on their people’s success.
What have been the biggest challenges the Human Resources industry has faced over the past 12 months?
Managing the new HR agenda and digital ways of working as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge – it’s been a dramatic change in both work and lifestyles. More specifically, research has shown three main problems:
- inadequate vital HR data for managing situational and preventative measures
- inability to re-prioritize work and enable flexible working
- inflexible processes, policies, systems and approval bottlenecks
This speaks to a general challenge of being able to adapt quickly, managing ongoing disruptions and operational uncertainty. HR and People leaders also are facing pressure to help keep employees engaged, connected and productive, whilst continuing to serve customers. More recently, wellbeing has become a further challenge as employees complain that the new employee experience is leading to tiredness, stress and in the worst cases, depression.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
HR and People leaders should seize the moment to accelerate digital transformation, enable the workforce to become more flexible and the business more able to adapt to the uncertain operating environment. The good news is that HR has risen to the occasion and is helping with this transformation in many organizations.
Recent challenges have acted as a catalyst, accelerating the need for policies, processes and technologies to support remote and flexible working, keeping track of employee sentiment, wellbeing and productivity, while ensuring a relentless focus on helping customers. This is a great opportunity for HR and People teams to lead, driving change and creating additional business value.
What is the biggest priority for the Human Resources industry in 2020?.
To help employees remain safe and well, while enabling sustainable performance, so they in turn look after customers and partners and keep the business moving forwards.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?
Many of the new or changed ways of working that we’ve seen as a result of COVID are likely to continue into next year and organizations will need to think, plan and manage through a range of scenarios. Remote and flexible working will likely continue, although there will be increasing demand to open offices and workplaces safely, while managing employee wellbeing and the new employee experience more effectively.
The underlying importance of accurate data will remain to help inform scenario planning and business decision making, along with the associated challenges of data privacy, security and remaining compliant with GDPR and other legislation. The importance of diversity and inclusion will also remain high on the agenda.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
Cloud and mobile computing are now an imperative, in that this has allowed companies to set up remote, online working as offices and places of work have had to close. This has accelerated digital transformation that was already underway, and this trend is likely to continue.
The application of AI and machine learning, the internet of things and blockchain technologies also offer the promise of further automation in HR, helping organizations become more forward-looking, better able to manage ongoing change, and remain relevant in a fast-changing world.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Human Resources sector?
HR and People leaders are no strangers to rising to a challenge. However, the global coronavirus pandemic has seen the whole industry pivot, and HR leadership has become more widely evident across organizations in just a few short weeks.
From moving employees to 100% remote working, to interpreting ever changing government legislation and support schemes, HR teams have been under intense pressure to react and respond quickly, which has been outstanding. As a result, many organizations have seen their HR colleagues in a whole new light and it’s great to see this well-deserved recognition.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Talking to our customers and partners, working with great colleagues, and figuring out how we at Sage can leverage new technologies to find better ways of doing things. This includes improving ways of working, while thinking about this in the context of the bigger picture of creating stakeholder and shareholder value.
And what’s the most challenging?
Like many people, learning to manage time more effectively when meetings are online, back to back, and last pretty much all day. It can feel like I’m super busy, but is this also super productive?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Learn to be grateful for what you have, and then you’ll find true happiness.
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Paul Burrin is a work trends expert, a People Geek and Vice President at Sage People, a global cloud HR and People platform that helps organizations around the world to acquire, retain, manage and engage their workforce.