Navigating Burnout Challenges in HR - American Society of Employers - Heather Nezich

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Navigating Burnout Challenges in HR

HR BurnoutA recent Gartner survey has revealed a concerning rise in burnout cases among HR staff. A significant majority—close to 75%—of HR leaders who participated in Gartner's survey expressed that burnout among HR staff has become more challenging compared to the period before the pandemic.

Post-pandemic, the scope of the HR function has drastically expanded. A 2023 February Gartner survey of 217 HR leaders found that 55% said they are getting more requests on a wider variety of topics, and 80% claim their function is facing different challenges to those they faced pre-pandemic.

In response to these mounting demands and challenges, organizational leaders frequently attempt to restructure their HR functions or modify their working methods. However, these efforts alone are insufficient to address the predicament faced by HR departments, as they fail to acknowledge the evolving role of HR within organizations.

Only 9% of HR functions are both highly efficient and highly aligned to their organization’s needs, according to Gartner, Inc. The survey report identifies three key improvement areas important to addressing HR burnout and making HR more efficient:

  1. Participatory Prioritization: HR functions today face multiple challenges to prioritization – 51% of HR leaders reported they are receiving more requests for support, and 45% said it is more difficult now to handle conflicting demands. Participatory prioritization goes beyond internal coordination, putting into place formal mechanisms to involve non-HR stakeholders and empower HR staff, while focusing on flexible reprioritization to anticipate business demand spikes to ensure priorities are not derailed.
  2. Business-Enabling Digitalization: Technology is increasingly integral to how HR functions deliver and is a key part of its convene and catalyze role. A January 2023 Gartner survey of 118 HR leaders revealed nearly half plan to increase investments in HR technology this year. While digitalized processes make work easier within HR, a February 2023 Gartner survey of more than 3,500 employees found only 36% of employees feel that HR proactively looks for ways to make processes and systems more user-friendly. Progressive HR functions are ensuring their digitalization efforts move beyond just HR-centered processes and are truly business-enabling. For this to be successful, HR needs to ensure its roadmap for digitalization is in sync with the organization’s other functions to provide a cohesive end-user experience.
  3. Augmenting HR Expertise: Despite investing in skills development, 55% of HR leaders reported they have more issues stemming from gaps in HR employee capabilities than before the pandemic. Leading HR functions are growing internal skills while simultaneously incorporating non-HR knowledge into the function. “HR needs to allow a more permeable movement of talent into and out of the function, yet only one-quarter of HR leaders say their staffing model allows them to bring non-HR people into HR roles,” noted said Piers Hudson, senior director in the Gartner HR practice. “This type of collaboration with the wider organization will help HR address the novel workforce issues they are now facing.”

Gartner's findings resonate with other post-pandemic research in this domain. Numerous HR leaders have conveyed that the year 2020 was the most demanding period of their careers, and subsequent years did not alleviate the pressure. By 2022, half of HR leaders admitted to experiencing burnout. In an alternate survey that encompassed HR professionals across all levels, a staggering 98% reported burnout.

A significant proportion of survey respondents admitted to contemplating leaving their roles. By adopting the above strategies, HR leaders can guide their departments to maintain their core HR responsibilities while simultaneously transforming into facilitators and catalysts for their organizations. This entails bringing stakeholders together to make informed decisions and discover solutions, as well as leading them toward innovative work methods to mitigate the scourge of HR burnout.


Sources: HR Drive; Gartner


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