How moving HR to the cloud can help lead business recovery


  • Every company needs a strong talent organization.
  • Cloud can play a key role in helping you optimize human capital management.
  • Legacy systems aren’t flexible enough to help attract top talent and keep them engaged in their work.
  • Cloud workforce solutions offer vital insight into the people metrics you need to help the business succeed.

It’s time to move past legacy systems that are holding your organization back

As businesses strive to recover from the economic hit brought on by the pandemic, managing cloud workforce needs has never been more critical. A productive, agile and innovative workforce is key to driving organizational objectives and identifying new sources of revenue. But companies face huge challenges to keep employees physically safe on-site, and productive and connected when working away from the office. Much of that strategy, planning and execution falls on human resources.

Enter the cloud. Accommodating hybrid work schedules, responding to employees’ well-being, and managing your organization’s workforce needs are all critical to recovery. Now more than ever, HR executives should have the tools to help them quickly gain insight into their company’s talent needs, workforce management, payroll and more — and make decisions driven by data. A vital first step: moving to a cloud-based human capital management (HCM) system.

Most on-premises systems can’t keep up

Despite the advantages of cloud-based solutions, many organizations continue to resist migration, usually because of the expense. Leaders may see little incentive to invest in a new system, especially in a shaky economy.

But many of these companies are stuck with 1990s-era tech — fragmented systems that don’t easily communicate with each other or effectively serve employees and managers. They’re bogged down with multiple solutions for talent management processes, such as recruiting, sourcing, performance management, and rewards and compensation. That can cause inefficiencies and a clunky user experience. It can also make it harder to change strategy quickly as circumstances change or to get real-time insight.

Many HR leaders are tackling very different responsibilities now than they were at the start of 2020. They can’t afford to rely on systems that aren’t compatible or that hold them back from being able to pivot quickly.

Bar chart titled
Which of the following pose the biggest challenges for your business when delivering on your company's workforce priorities?
Employee anxiety and burnout
Lack of tools to accelerate collaboration, creativity and coaching
Weakened culture in a virtual world
Highest-ranked choices for CHROs from a list of 9 options. Source: PwC Pulse Survey. September 3, 2020: CHRO base of 75

Three ways the cloud can enable your organization’s recovery

1. Real analytics can drive revenue growth

Optimizing the approach to data analytics across the business is the No. 1 digital transformation investment executives expect to spur revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to our October PwC Pulse Survey. HR leaders need clear, accurate insight into the people metrics that help enable the business to meet strategic goals. This type of data can illuminate critical issues, including well-being, engagement, productivity, hiring and compliance.

Most cloud solutions come with embedded analytics and reporting capabilities. Some are fully integrated and provide cross-functional analytics and dashboards to help the business be more connected, from finance to the supply chain to human capital management. For example, you can gain instant insight into the cost of employees working on a particular project or the impact of adding ten full-time employees to the budget.

Predictive analytics capabilities, meanwhile, can help you foresee the impact on employee and team performance when making organizational changes. This allows you to develop what-if scenarios, such as how changes like promotions or pay increases could affect teams. Forward-looking insight into workforce trends also helps you take early action to align the workforce with the needs of the organization.

The pandemic has forced many companies into new territory — cutting staff for the first time, for example. The cloud gives organizations the agility to quickly change direction and help executives make tough strategic decisions with more clarity. They can also help make operations more efficient at a time when companies are particularly cost-conscious. For example, cloud solutions offer features like chatbots and digital assistants that employees can use to get their questions answered without having to call a service desk. And robotic process automation can automate payroll and other transactional data entry.

2. Enhanced workforce health and safety

Employees are stressed from fears of the virus, shifting local restrictions and lockdowns, continued isolation from work, and on-again, off-again remote schooling. In the September PwC Pulse Survey, 51% of CHROs identified employee anxiety and burnout as a top challenge. A cloud-based system can help companies offer employees benefits they need — a tutoring program for people with school-age children to help with remote learning, for instance — and help them sign up for that benefit quickly. CHROs can also more easily tap into employee sentiment data via cloud systems to find out what benefits workers value and what they need to be productive and efficient.

In the case of the energy company below, the health and safety functionality of the cloud helped executives manage the employee health system more effectively than the company’s clunky legacy system. They can now track COVID-19 exposure and instantly communicate with employees to help keep them safe.

3. Recruit, manage and retain talent more effectively

Cloud solutions offer fully integrated hire-to-retire functionality. They typically cover many aspects of talent management, not just administrative and operational aspects. They also feature built-in integrations with social networks to reach a wider pool of talent. Artificial Intelligence- (AI-)enabled sourcing features can help narrow down the potential candidates while providing an intuitive and engaging experience for the candidates using chatbots. They also can help streamline the onboarding experience, like automating paperwork and customizing relevant learning content for new hires. Freeing up routine and time-consuming tasks means new employees have more time to make meaningful connections with their managers and colleagues.

Meanwhile, cloud systems can help transform annual performance reviews and other cyclical talent processes, encouraging more interactive and frequent conversations. Organizations can also more effectively match the right employee for the right job, maximize the value of talent meetings, and manage talent pools and succession plans.

Bar chart titled
Where CHROs are focusing to make worker productivity sustainable
Focus on objectives and outcomes
Employ new virtual tools and training
Leaders reinforce messaging around productivity and strategy
Conduct periodic studies of how team members allocate their time to tasks
Adjust performance goals and incentives
Reset expectations with external and internal clients
Reduce working hours or new protocols
Use surveillance tools to measure and monitor employees at work
Q: Of the changes you've made to encourage sustainable employee productivity as a result of COVID-19, which of these are you most focused on? (Select up to three.) Source: PwC US Pulse Survey. October 6, 2020: CHRO base of 69 Leaders reinforce messaging around productivity and strategy

Actions CHROs can take now

Engage your CEO

Focus on the benefits of the cloud in making strategic improvements. Cloud-based solutions do a much better job of incorporating talents and skills into the planning and analytics process. Even after the pandemic passes, businesses will go through cycles of ups and downs. Cloud-based HCM solutions provide powerful workforce modeling tools designed to help HR executives calibrate their workforce based on changing business needs. These tools can also help organizations use their existing talent more effectively, optimize workforce-related costs and ultimately create a workforce that is more able to change and adapt quickly.

Moving to the cloud can also help you make better progress on your diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Many companies still struggle to gain traction because they don’t have clear insight into their own metrics — each office’s HR department may have its own system to store data, for example, or the company may be relying on outdated spreadsheets for analysis. Cloud solutions can help bring disparate workforce data together in a single place, streamlining the analysis process and offering a clearer picture of your organization’s current diversity metrics — allowing you to track progress and make changes more effectively. What’s more, these inherent cloud capabilities are part of the core product. They don’t require additional tools like most on-premises solutions.

Strategize with the CFO

Zero in on the financial benefits. Moving HR applications to the cloud can be a catalyst for achieving cost savings. In addition to analyzing predictable and variable costs, cloud solutions offer industry-standard processes, digital tools and mobile capabilities. These tools help streamline processes that lead to cost savings. For example, HR departments can deploy more self-service capabilities and reduce service center calls through digital assistants. Cloud solutions can also help you manage regulatory and compliance risk, minimizing liability exposure for noncompliance.


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Diane Youden

Principal, Workforce Transformation, PwC US


Scott Pollak

Principal, HR Transformation, PwC US


Murali Gandi

Director, St. Louis, PwC US


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