UK companies struggle to connect with digital HR, SD Worx survey finds

Businesses are yet to implement digital practices, as they deprioritise digital transformation in HR

27 October 2020

Despite technology being the saving grace for many businesses within the UK, a new survey by HR & Payroll services provider SD Worx reveals only 36% of HR departments within the country are able to boast of a high level of digital maturity when it comes to HR and payroll. The survey conducted within 11 European countries also found that only 9.4% of UK businesses have implemented a fully automated, digitised and/or integrated HR and payroll process or system.
  • Only 9.4% of UK businesses have implemented a fully automated, digitised and/or integrated HR and payroll process or system
  • 43% of HR departments in the UK are only moderately satisfied with their current digital HR and payroll processes 
  • Just 30% of SMEs rate their automation level for HR and payroll processes and systems to be high or very high
  • Digital transformation in HR falls to 17th place (out of 19) when it comes to key business priorities

The digital revolution has given HR a chance to bring more strategic value to the table as administrative and routine tasks disappear thanks to automation. However, findings show that nearly half (43%) of HR departments in the UK are only moderately satisfied with their current digital HR and payroll processes – a trend seen when considering HR reporting and analytics, and wider payroll digital HR tools. 

Digital isn’t top of mind

Even though a large number of UK HR departments seem unsatisfied with their digital functions, the survey highlights how digital adoption just may not be on the radar for many businesses in the current climate. On a list of 19 possible HR priorities, both ‘HR process automation’ and ‘Digital transformation’ were listed in 14th and 17th position for the UK, respectively, whereas ‘Well-being’ featured amongst the most important focusses for businesses. 

To paint a more nuanced picture, the majority of polled organisations within the UK have projects in place or plan to launch projects within the next 12 months to tackle HR process automation (50%) or digital transformation (47.1%). Yet, there seems to be a lot of room for optimisation, as only 22.5% consider digital transformation as a very important project and objective within the HR department.

“Because of budgetary constraints, the automation and digitisation of HR aren’t priorities for most companies during COVID-19. But from an HR perspective, they are. Advanced digital maturity allows you to focus on strategic tasks and to raise the value of your HR team as a business partner”, says Ferdi Claes, MD HR Europe at Computer Task Group.  

European SMEs to gain the competitive edge 

According to findings, the most digitally advanced companies in HR across Europe are those with more than 250 employees. Nearly half of those larger companies rate their automation level for HR and payroll processes and systems to be high or very high - while only 30% of companies with fewer than 100 employees dare to say the same. Furthermore, with the majority of SMEs being moderately to very unsatisfied with their digital maturity in HR, it has become apparent that many of them still have a lot of ground to cover. Investing in digital HR can be an effective way for SMEs to gain a competitive edge, where it comes to attracting and retaining best talent while generating long-term savings for the business.

“Technology is freeing up HR teams to take on big-picture matters, armed with predictive data analytics, making the field more exciting, more rewarding and perhaps more competitive as well. We can’t ignore the importance of digitisation, as it affects us in so many ways. Productivity soars, and HR professionals and able to show the real value they bring to the business. That makes the HR function even more strategic and puts talent managers at the heart of value creation,” said Cathy Geerts, Chief HR Office at SD Worx,

Today’s HR challenges require both stability and fluid movements, and are addressed in the SD Worx e-book ‘The Future of Work and People in Europe – HR, Fluid as Hula-Hoop Shaking’.