A new report from the CIPD and Workday reveals close to two-thirds (61 per cent) of HR professionals either upskilled or reskilled during the pandemic.

A vast number of HR professionals have chosen to strengthen their skills in some way over the last year and a half, with this change being prompted by the crisis.

Half of respondents (50 per cent) upskilled while one in 10 reskilled (11 per cent), showing many HR professionals choosing to improve their skill-set to respond to the changing world of work.

This is despite the majority of HR professionals (83 per cent), prior to the pandemic, feeling that they had the correct skills to respond to any challenges.

COVID-19 also proved to have some positive professional outcomes for HR staff with close to half (43 per cent) agreeing that the standing of people professionals has increased in their organisation due to the pandemic.

This comes as HR helped to facilitate many large changes during the crisis including ensuring COVID-secure working environments, administering the furlough scheme, and implementing widespread homeworking followed by the introduction of hybrid working.

As such, over four in five (86 per cent) stated that the profession offers a meaningful career – up from just 80 per cent of people professionals surveyed last year.

Similarly, over three-quarters (76 per cent) of HR professionals stated they gain personal meaning from their work while a further two-thirds (63 per cent) admitted their work makes them happy.

Conversely, challenges of the role cited by people professionals included the increase in the number of people working from home, supporting employee mental health and wellbeing (55 per cent), building organisational culture and values (48 per cent) and managing performance (46 per cent).

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, stated:

2020 was an exceptional year for our profession. The difficult external circumstances put great demand on all of us, and people professionals have been at the forefront of the organisational response, supporting people, implementing rapid changes, and adapting and learning.

It’s great to see so many colleagues recognising the need to strengthen their skills and ensure they have the right expertise to guide and make an impact in their organisations in an ever-changing world of work.

We’ve always been aware of the vital role our profession plays, but the pandemic has accelerated a focus to putting people much more front and centre in the business agenda, and for our profession to step forward and demonstrate their skills and abilities.

Now is the time to see people professionals build on the fantastic work they’ve done over the last year and continue driving change in their organisations as we continue to navigate the pandemic and the changing future of work and working practices.

*This research has been outlined in the CIPD’s People Profession 2021 survey report.