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Talent Recruitment, Workforce Diversity, and Employee Benefits Lead the Challenges for Businesses Emerging from COVID-19

July 26, 2021
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Annual Paychex Pulse of HR Report reveals how HR leaders are navigating new demands of the modern workforce

The 2021 Paychex Pulse of HR Report, released today, shows that attracting talent tops the list of challenges impacting HR professionals as they adapt to the evolving workplace shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fifth annual report from Paychex, Inc., the HR software and services company that provides the power of simplicity for increasingly complex workplaces, shows that 61 percent of the 1,000 HR leaders surveyed consider recruiting talent their most difficult task. Offering competitive benefits and planning and managing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs represent the next biggest challenges, both coming in at 57 percent.

“Our research sheds light on what businesses need to do right now to meet the new expectations of a workforce no longer satisfied by the status quo,” said Alison Stevens, director of HR Services, Paychex. “Employees today are looking for employers who prioritize employee wellness, offer an inspiring combination of accessible benefits, demonstrate a concerted focus on DE&I, and utilize robust technology to maximize productivity.”   

A Renewed Focus on Employee Wellness

Overwhelmingly, HR leaders agree that companies have a role to play in supporting the mental health of their employees, with only four percent stating they do not see employee mental health as a company responsibility. HR decision-makers also realize the renewed importance of supporting a healthy work-life balance for their employees with 72 percent of those surveyed reporting they have evaluated and/or adjusted their time off policies in the last 12 months. Additionally, employers are becoming more flexible regarding where and when work gets done. For example, as a result of the pandemic, 40 percent of respondents say they are providing flexible scheduling as a benefit and 49 percent will similarly continue to offer telecommuting and remote work options as a benefit. In fact, offering remote work options is tied with providing financial incentives as the most common way HR leaders are encouraging employee retention, both at 41 percent.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a Strategic Priority

Prioritizing corporate DE&I is also top of mind for HR leaders, with 30 percent of HR decision makers planning to place more emphasis on DE&I activities this year, while almost half of respondents will increase their emphasis on DE&I next year. Those surveyed cite retention, recruitment, and civic responsibility as the primary drivers motivating them to increase their DE&I efforts.

Steps companies are taking to achieve their DE&I initiatives include:

  • Providing technology to facilitate responsive and confidential communications on HR-related questions: 39 percent
  • Offering training about bias related issues: 38 percent
  • Creating systems to keep managers and employees connected: 38 percent

Despite the clear motivation among companies to strengthen DE&I programs, HR leaders are facing challenges in two key areas: hiring resources to attract diverse candidates (45 percent) and changing company culture to embrace DE&I initiatives (44 percent).

Technology’s Crucial Role

Technology was cited by respondents as an important means for recruiting employees and maintaining an engaged workplace, with 82 percent of HR leaders saying their HR systems help attract talent and 86 percent stating that their HR systems improve the employee experience. “Technology improved our ability to introduce qualified staff to the company. We really streamlined the interview and onboarding process,” said one respondent, a Massachusetts-based HR leader at a 200-person financial services company.

In addition, 89 percent of respondents report that their HR systems allow them to be more strategic in their roles and 80 percent say they have tools in place to measure workplace productivity and efficiency. Technology remains the top item on the budget wish list among HR leaders for the second year in a row.

For more insights from this report, please view the full research report.

About the 2021 Paychex Pulse of HR Report

The 2021 Paychex Pulse of HR Report features the results of an online survey of 1,000 HR decision-makers at U.S. companies with 20 to 500 employees conducted from May 11, 2021 through June 3, 2021. It is the fifth in an annual series of benchmark reports investigating HR leaders’ challenges, priorities, and use of technology.

Acerca de Paychex

Paychex, Inc. (Nasdaq: PAYX) is a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources, and insurance services. By combining its innovative software-as-a-service technology and mobility platform with dedicated, personal service, Paychex empowers small- and medium-sized business owners to focus on the growth and management of their business. Backed by 50 years of industry expertise, Paychex serves more than 710,000 payroll clients as of May 31, 2021 across more than 100 locations in the U.S. and Europe, and pays one out of every 12 American private sector employees. Learn more about Paychex by visiting and stay connected on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Emily DePerrior

Emily DePerrior

Emily DePerrior joined Paychex in October 2019 and serves as public relations program lead. In this role, she is responsible for advancing the company’s reputation as an HR outsourcing leader, providing PR support for the Paychex Insurance Agency, overseeing media monitoring, reporting and measurement initiatives, and supporting the overall goals of the public relations department. Emily is a graduate of University of Rochester where she studied English with a concentration in language, media and communications. Prior to joining Paychex, she worked at University of Rochester Medical Center and the global PR agency, Text100.

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