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SD Worx’s HR Vision Post-COVID

Like many HR service providers, SD Worx has been supporting its clients over the last six months by continually making updates to the changing legislation and dealing with client queries and operational challenges. SD Worx also launched a study to better understand changing market needs, the findings of which have just been published. The SD Worx study was one of the most extensive European HR COVID impact surveys, across 20 industries and 3,000 companies from 11 European countries, and it found that the highest HR priorities in 2020 are operational, administrative tasks. As part of its thought leadership white papers, SD Worx has also set out a new vision for HR, to enable clients to balance “Stability” and “Fluidity”.

Key study findings

The study confirms HR’s top priority in 2020 was payroll. When asked, “What priorities or projects do you have (or plan to have) within payroll and HR?” the option “To ensure smooth, efficient payroll calculation and payment” scored the highest (#1 priority for 8 out of 11 countries) across 19 different options covering all aspects of HR. Payroll has never been more valued than in times of crisis; payroll administrators are “essential workers”.

So, when will things get back to normal? Nearly half of European companies surveyed were convinced that COVID-19 would have a lasting impact on their business. We will have to radically change the way we work (together) after the crisis. However, the HR study finds that HR directors rate their level of digital maturity as low: only 37% of surveyed organizations claim to have reached a high level of digital HR maturity. So, as many lives and business models have been disrupted, HR agility has never been more important.

The SD Worx study showed that the top three areas companies look at to leverage external specialists and outsource service providers are:

  1. HR process automation
  2. Regulation expertise
  3. Digital transformation.

Other insights from the study demonstrate that besides payroll and HR services and performance, many European country priorities were as diverse as they are homogenous, something seasoned European HR directors are not unfamiliar with. As well as reflecting cultural priorities that might result in different priorities, NelsonHall expect the variations also be partially due to the timing of the different countries' COVID responses. The study was conducted over the month of June 2020 and during this month, many European countries were at a different stage of their COVID19 responses. The impact of the crisis was just starting to be understood and realized. According to most countries surveyed, the three areas that were the lowest priority were HR policy, reward, and contingent workforce.

Employee experience has been a common theme of many HR strategies over the last few years, and many still aim to optimize the employee experience better. With so many employees now working remotely, the employee experience and employee engagement are more critical than ever before and require modern technology to keep employees connected while ensuring timely, accurate, real-time information, and facilitating reliable outcomes throughout the HR delivery model. The SD Worx study showed ~60% of employers are still actively trying to improve the employee experience, either with existing projects or projects planned over the next 12 months. SD Worx defines employee experience as the digital workplace experience and cultural & inter-personal engagement as well as the physical work environment. SD Worx recognizes a trend towards more personalization in HR, with almost half of companies having “flex reward projects” in progress or planned within the next 12 months.

SD Worx response

In response to the HR study, to meet European countries' needs across such a wide range of industries, SD Worx set out its HR service vision. Its vision is to bring stability to HR services alongside a fluid offering, enabling each company to find its own optimal balance.​ The concepts of stability and fluidity are outlined below as well as some examples of how SD Worx addresses these:

Stability is defined by SD Worx as:

  • Future-proof HR tech: SD Worx offers cloud-based HR/payroll technology offerings in the core markets of the U.K., Ireland, Benelux, France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
  • Efficient HR processes; SD Worx recently developed its HR SME digital services platform “SD Worx Buddy”, piloted in Q2 2020 in Belgium. Frictionless tools: SD Worx launched its mySDWorx app for absence, expenses, payslip, internal communications, and a FAQ for HR. It has over 160K installations It uses machine learning to determine the ten most asked questions and is tailored to the client's database. It supports conversations designed for the employees (not for the process). Over 2019 it has rolled out an onboarding assistant to capture more employee data; now released in Belgium and UK, and the next country onboarding to be developed is Germany.

Fluidity is defined by SD Worx as:

  • Personalization: SD Worx enables personalized remuneration packages through its reward cloud platform. This lets employees tailor their reward components with voluntary elements. Helping employees to value their rewards can not only boost motivation but also complement a cost-efficient overall reward policy
  • Empowerment: SD Worx empowers organizations to be proactive and adapt to fluctuations in the workloads through its workforce planning offerings. It takes each employee’s qualifications, availability, seniority and other requirements into account which could be fulfilled by permanent or flexible staff, through the SD Worx Flexible Staffing solutions
  • Autonomy: SD Worx solutions support personalized training trajectories, enabling organizations to boost employee engagement, performance and giving them greater autonomy.

For those who want to get more in depth insights on the research, SD Worx is creating a series of publications that will be published on the SD Worx platform (link). These are the first:

  • Payroll: highly valued, hardly optimized
  • HR, fluid as Hula-Hoop shaking (publication end of October, webinar at Unleash)

Also foreseen are ebooks on Workforce management and on Digital HR and Employee Experience.


The themes of SD Worx’s vision align well with the benefits Cloud HR transformation buyers look to achieve, according to NelsonHall’s Cloud HR Transformation Services market analysis report. According to the NelsonHall report, the top three were improved compliance, simplified and modernized technology, and improved employee experience. In 2020 and following the pandemic, it is evident that improving employee experience as an HR objective is not disappearing. Its definition and the height of the bar is being raised, moving beyond the realm of just a mobile app offering,  as vendors strive to deliver more frictionless and efficient offerings.

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