Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

What’s happening with HR?

At Elephant we recently conducted a ‘State of Play’ survey to see what had happened to HR teams in the last year. We got some fascinating results!

We had just over 130 HR people from New Zealand complete the survey – some were self employed so we have excluded their results from some questions (e.g. HR ratios!).

Here are the results of the survey. It is split into 3 sections.

Section 1: HR team size & ratio’s.

We asked about whether HR teams had grown or shrunk and whether their workloads had grown or shrunk! 80% have seen an increase in workload, yet half of HR team are the same size, and only 30% have increased in size less than 50%. So HR are definitely having to deal with more work.

We also asked about HR Ratios. We found that for NZ companies, almost all fell into the range of 1:40 to 1:60 (1 HR person for every 40 – 60 employees). Those with the worst ratio’s were:

Healthcare/Medical with 1:150, Media with 1:200, Construction with 1:238 and NFP with 1:400.

Issue were charities where the HR team also look after volunteers so suddenly go from an okay HR ratio to one that’s over 1:500. Horticulture also sky rockets when seasonal workers come on. An HR team of 4 who were supporting 600 employees, suddenly have 6,000 seasonal workers to deal with!

The best ratio’s were in the public sector with on government agency at 1:20 (150 HR people to 3000 employees). So if you want to be able to work on more proactive initiatives and spend more time building relationships with managers – the public sector may be an option.

How does this stack up internationally? One UK study showed that the HR ratio there is around 1:63 for the pubic sector, and 1:75 for the private sector. CIPD articles talk about 1:100 however it depends on whether you include the wider HR team, and the complexity of the business. Interestingly in Singapore where the culture is more directive, the ratio is around 1:400.

Section 2: Are HR back at work?

There was almost a 50/50 split between HR teams who are all now back in the office, and those working remotely. Most seem to be doing around 50/50 – 2 or 3 days from home, and 2 or 3 days from the office. But a few were mostly at home, and a few mostly at the office with the odd work from home day.

Section 3: What are the biggest challenges you’ve seen?

We’ve split these results into people who said it has been a mix of positive and negative, then those who said things have been negative and those who said it’s been positive. Around 30% said it was a mix, 45% said positive, and 25% negative.

Below are the specific results:

So have HR teams grown or shrunk over the last 12 months?

Just over half have stayed the same however almost 20% have decreased in size.

So what about workloads?

80% of HR teams have seen an increase in workload.

Another area we looked at was whether HR teams were back in the office, or now working from home. Again some interesting results!

Almost a 50/50 split between HR teams who are all now back in the office, and those working remotely. Most seem to be doing around 50/50 – 2 or 3 days from home, and 2 or 3 days from the office. But a few were mostly at home, and a few mostly at the office with the odd work from home day.

What were the biggest challenges and changes you’ve seen in the last 12 months?

For some it was a mix of both negative and positive changes but 45% said the changes were positive. What will be interested is if everything goes back to how it was once the pandemic is finally over or will we take some learnings from it, and change some aspects of working life that weren’t so great? Only time will tell!

Here were some of the comments we received. We have combined them when the comments were similar.

MIX of both positive and negative change

  • People are grappling with new ways of working
  • Covid lock down boosted morale, as a essential business employees felt lucky to continue to work and have income security. Post covid lock down the increased pressure to get seasonal staff has seen stress levels heightened which leads to a negative effect on culture
  • increase in caring for each other – positive. but people are really struggling mentally, with change fatigue and with heavy workloads – especially if in a lockdown when trying to juggle whanau commitments/home schooling too.
  • Employees becoming more demanding about being remote – can be both a positive and negative!
  • Fear, stress as a negative. But openly discussing them, and showing kindness and being there for one another are positive.
  • We have majorly changed our ways of operating across the business, restructured and massively increased the amount of working from home, so it’s hard to say which has been most impactful.
  • Distributed and virtual teams – some benefits and challenges especially for managers, often psychologically rather than in reality.
  • People’s engagement based on fear of losing their job rather than being seen, connected and appreciated. People being grateful to have a job despite being overworked. Lower turnover has resulted from this, but I’m fearing that what seems like a positive outcome is based on weak reasons.
  • Essential Services so staff have been very committed to their responsibility for feeding the nation
  • Positive – support from management to implement wellbeing initiatives Negative – sense of uncertainty from migrant employees and personal stress impacting workplace

NEGATIVE impacts

  • A huge negative period when trust in the company disappeared due to perceived poor communication. A positive change is appearing now as they see the company do what they say they will do. Communication is the number one item to continue to work on.
  • We’re very much back into reactive mode. A lot of our project work is on hold or has been dropped. Definitely a negative.
  • Work place fatigue – it’s harder; mentally and emotionally. We all need to build resilience, but we’re too tired and busy to try.
  • Reduced engagement among staff. Management are worn out and staff feeling a bit fed up with no pay rise (hard to do when we’re not making money!)
  • Greater sense of entitlement demonstrated by some employees than previously
  • Multiple restructures and lack of job security, pay and hours cuts.
  • Most of our staff are on work visas so that’s been a real struggle.

POSITIVE impacts

  • People are checking in on each other more. Being kind and supporting each other. It has become friendlier- and as a result more productive. Appreciation for connecting with the whole team. Positive, increase in collaboration and empathy for others
  • We’ve seen a real focus on wellbeing, being kind to others, and a huge change in a sense of trust across the organisation and at all levels.
  • People have taken stock of what is important to them and made changes / reprioritised. Zoom meetings / online training etc are more acceptable, lessening the need for (sometimes unnecessary) domestic travel.
  • Managers are stepping up and not allowing team members to be poor performers any longer.
  • Better communication due to lockdowns and the need to keep our business moving forward.
  • Adoption of a more digital environment and this has improved communication.
  • Flexible working. A positive from the Covid lockdowns meant that technology was quickly enabled us to allow nearly everyone to work from home in their roles. People have been asking for flexibility for long time, but leaders weren’t keen, however, Covid showed it was possible. Managers supportive about flexible working. Embracing remote working (stigma is shifting).  Complete 180 shift on flexible working. More people working from home and use of Team online meetings. Staff are more productive as a result. No wasted time sitting in traffic. A relaxation from the Directors about remote work – they came to realise that it can work for some people/jobs.
  • Resilience and realisation that working in teams is the key to our success. Cohesive team work, collaboration across departments to achieve business goals. Previously departments we’re working in silos. Fabulous cooperation across our frontline clinical teams. New ways of working are being considered and actually implemented (managers are being brave and trying new things!)

Angela Atkins is the co-founder of Elephant Group who now operate in NZ, Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She is the author of the Bites series of books and the Management Bites training programme. She now lives in the south west of France, renovating a 200+ year old house.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 19, 2021 by in human resources and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: