People management is one of the biggest challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, SD Worx survey finds


UK CEOs and board members have sought more information about their people during the COVID-19 crisis, with 74% saying people data unlocked strategic decision making. This is according to SD Worx, the payroll and HR services provider. What’s more, people data is not only helping navigating a crisis but is also imperative to coming out better off in the long run.

Traditionally “people analytics” is used to make smarter hiring decisions, increase employee performance, find better job candidates and improve employee retention. Now employee data is being used for business-critical decisions, focused on business continuity and employee safety.

A total of 77% of businesses reported that the frequency of leaders requesting people data has increased during the COVID-19 crisis. Yet only 30% of HR leaders interviewed said that it was easy to gather and provide the people data required, with the remaining 2/3 of the industry finding responding to the C-suite demand difficult.

Cathy Geerts, CHRO at SD Worx said: “In times of uncertainty, getting the basics right is key. And “people data” is one of the fundamental assets to inform executive decision-making. For that, the information must be right.

Where HR systems are not capable of providing the data required quickly or in an easy to use format, business performance can suffer. In fact, the numbers tell us the story of a decade-long underinvestment in people systems and technology.

The pandemic-related turmoil has illustrated that people data can tell a compelling story, it can grab leaders’ attention and more importantly, drive effective and meaningful change. Once that vital information is in their hands, business leaders must use empathy and transparency to help their companies weather the storm.” 

With 29% of firms saying that their technology actually hindered them from doing effective workforce planning when it was most needed, investment in HR tech is sorely needed. This is especially crucial in direct management of people where 60% of employers said they had significantly increased the need to change employee pay and benefits during the crisis. In fact, 43% of firms said their current HR and pay systems had not coped well during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The quest for more robust and consistent data analysis on people has been growing over the last decade. However, this survey has found that many businesses did not have HR systems and technology that produce the people data that leaders required as a transaction activity which needs to be delivered at the lowest cost.

Ignoring the importance of this people data is becoming a cost for businesses that want to succeed since it’s integral for organisational resilience. By fostering this resilience, a firm may actually benefit from crises where it could otherwise suffer.

It’s this kind of adaptability that’s needed now more than ever. As of 2017 only 60 companies from the 1955 Fortune 500 firms remained, and in 2020 and beyond that number will only decrease. It’s clear from this fact how fast change is happening and how important adaptability and resilience both are. By making employees the resilient and adaptive force of your business, key decision-makers can make everything else work around that strong core.