HR Indaba delegates learn how digital ‘sidekicks’ can supercharge human resources


Sage experts reveal how HR leaders are solving challenges with the right tech.

Sage payroll and HR sales managers, Ancel Draai and Nicolene Koster, engaged in an enlightening conversation to a packed-to-the-rafters venue at this year’s HR Indaba about resilience, reinvention, and embracing chaos. Underpinning the discussion was the important role that the right digital tools play in helping HR professionals navigate the complex challenges they’ve faced over the past two years.

Reinventing the role of HR

Ancel kicked off the discussion by commending the delegates on “embracing the chaos” and being able to reinvent themselves as HR leaders. In a post-Covid-19 world it’s easy to forget what we’ve all been through, but, as Ancel pointed out, no one could have imagined the stress and trauma that some in the industry have faced. He added that HR professionals are the real heroes, and the right ‘sidekicks’ have played a pivotal role in supporting them through the obstacles – because there was no room for failure.

Everyone was thrown a massive curveball, and they had to step up and swing as hard as they could – even if they couldn’t play baseball! “You adapted to that change, but it’s still a challenge. That’s why it’s so important to have the right ‘sidekick’ to amplify the job at hand,” he added.

Embracing the chaos

At this point the audience was reminded of a memory that they’d prefer to forget: remember when the president said it would only be a couple of weeks of lockdown, but it turned into years? “Businesses had to adapt, and HR professionals helped them do that because they’re resilient,” noted Ancel.
Nicolene added that the lockdowns and ensuing “new normal” were a complicated challenge – and there was no way of doing it without the proper digital tools. She applauded the audience by saying, “You did it and got it right! For the first time, HR wasn’t just there to roll out administration tasks; you were involved with business survival and strategy.”

Ancel noted that a global study undertaken by Sage found that during this time, HR professionals tripled their amount of admin, but with the right ‘sidekicks’ in place, like digital systems that automate processes, these same professionals now spend 60 percent more time on bigger picture aspects, like developing company culture and flexible working policies.

Rising above the challenges of change

The Sage experts revealed five common challenges that HR professionals faced during the height of Covid-19, namely: the complexity of legislation (remember TERS?), being time-poor and feeling burnt out due to working from home, having to rethink HR and payroll as employees weren’t physically in-office, needing real-time reporting as business objectives were constantly shifting, and trying to retain key employees during a time of great uncertainty.
For all these challenges, digitalisation was – and still is – key. Digital tools like employee self-service have streamlined processes, and integrated real-time reporting allows HR and payroll specialists to extract important information that the business needs right now, while the right tools (or ‘sidekicks’) also help measure engagement, performance, and DE&I objectives so that the right talent stays.

Making the shift to move forward

Nicolene and Ancel highlighted several case studies where digital ‘sidekicks’ transformed businesses: for example, a family-run agricultural company in the Western Cape had disparate systems with multiple employees and companies, and they couldn’t get a single view of the truth. The business had outgrown its software, and data was stored in multiple places. Hours were spent on manual tasks that caused errors, and it was extremely difficult to manage operations during lockdown.

Ancel said that Sage guided the business in question to understand where they were, and where they wanted to be. Once there was a path, Sage recommended an integrated people solution for HR and payroll. Now, they have improved operations, effective reporting, and they’ve saved huge amounts of time. It’s tools like these that have helped them, and many others, move forward.

Finding the right ‘sidekick’

In closing, Ancel and Nicolene noted that it’s crucial for HR professionals who want a digital ‘sidekick’ to do a cost-benefit analysis, and to consider what having a solution in place versus not having one will cost the business. “Does the solution cater to specific needs, and does it give a single view of the truth?” added Ancel. “These are all questions you must think about.”

Nicolene pointed out that 83 percent of HR leaders say that technology has enabled them to be more flexible and responsive to changing priorities, and 81 percent have said they wouldn’t be able to operate effectively without it.
“Keep in mind that you can have the software, but it doesn’t work without a strategy. You must consider ‘the why’, and once you know what you need, do research and speak to the vendors out there – so you can supercharge your human resources,” she concluded.

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