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COVID-19 Employment Statistics 2021

COVID-19 Employment Statistics 2021
  • 85 per cent of Australian and New Zealand HR professionals anticipate workforce sizes to remain the same or increase over the next year
  • Achieving consistency for all employees to have access to flexible working proves to be HR’s biggest workplace flexibility challenge
  • Upskilling, cross-skilling or reskilling and leadership development listed as top challenges over the next 12 months

Sydney, Australia 10 March 2021: A survey of more than 1,800 Australian and New Zealand human resources professionals reveals a sense of optimism for the future with the majority of respondents expecting their workforce will either remain the same size (46%) or increase (39%) in the next year. Despite the economic impacts of COVID-19, just 15 per cent of respondents anticipate a decrease in workforce size.

The findings are uncovered in ELMO Software’s HR Industry Benchmark Survey Report. Now in its second year, the survey is the largest of its kind in Australia and New Zealand and is a joint initiative between ELMO Software and the Australia Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

The respondent optimism is represented across all organisation sizes. Respondents from small and medium businesses (those with fewer than 200 employees) were the most optimistic with 89 per cent anticipating the size of the workforce to remain the same or increase. This was followed by mid-market organisations (200-1,999 employees) at 85 per cent and enterprise sized organisations (2,000 plus employees) at 71 per cent.

Despite the broad optimism across organisation sizes there is disparity among industries. Respondents from the education and training industry are the most pessimistic with 28 per cent forecasting decreases in workforce size. This is followed by respondents in the arts and recreation services with 26 per cent forecasting a reduction.

Unsurprisingly health care industry respondents are the most optimistic about workforce sizes with 93 per cent anticipating either an increase or to remain the same size.

The HR Industry Benchmark Survey Report also reveals the challenges that HR professionals anticipate their organisation will face in the year ahead. Upskilling, cross-skilling or reskilling the workforce (26%) and leadership development (26%) were listed as top challenges for respondents over the next 12 months.

The transition to flexible working has raised challenges for respondents with 39 per cent reporting that getting consistency across all people managers to allow flexible work options within their teams was the top challenge. This was followed by maintaining adequate communication and collaboration between remote and in-office staff at 37 per cent. Despite the challenges, 97 per cent of respondents reported that some form of flexibility was made available to employees.

Encouragingly, the survey also revealed that the uptake of various types of HR technology is steadily rising as HR professionals and organisations adapt to a post-pandemic way of working.

ELMO Software CEO and Co-Founder Danny Lessem says, “The survey results suggest a general sense of optimism among human resources professionals that reductions in workforce sizes won’t be taking place in the year ahead.

“ELMO’s HR Industry Benchmark Survey shows that the economic recoveries in Australia and New Zealand are underway and that businesses are beginning to focus on the many other workforce management challenges that lay ahead.

“It’s a sign of the times that many respondents are reporting that their organisations are accelerating their HR technology adoption.

Sarah McCann Bartlett, CEO and Managing Director of the Australian HR Institute, says “This research confirms that skills development will be a key focus for organisations this year as they recover from the pandemic. This will not be possible without rapid upskilling to ensure their people have the right competencies across the board.”


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About ELMO

Established in 2002, ELMO is a cloud-based HR, payroll, expense management and rostering / time & attendance software provider. The company offers customers a unified platform to help organisations streamline their people, process and pay. ELMO operates on a software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) business model based on recurrent subscription revenues.  For more information, please visit