People Profession 2021: UK and Ireland survey report

This year's report explores the impact of COVID-19 on people professionals' work in 2021

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Our annual snapshot of the people profession provides an up-to-date, evidence-based picture of practitioners’ experiences and challenges over the last year. This year, it explores the seismic changes in the workplace caused by COVID-19, but also people professionals' contribution to their organisations, their career progression and values they place on their work.

The report, produced in association with Workday, also provides an annual benchmark for the people profession, combined with a year-on-year overview.

Key findings

  • External factors and digital transformation have driven organisational change: Respondents cited the precipitous shift to home (or remote) working brought about by COVID-19, and digital transformation, as being transformative changes within organisations and people functions in the last year.

  • Working from home makes key aspects of people professionals’ work more challenging: Supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing was seen as the biggest challenge, as well as building organisational culture and values and managing performance.

  • People professionals have upped their skills and standing: Approximately two-thirds of respondents have had to either upskill or reskill as a result of their organisation’s response to COVID-19. Sizeable proportions of those surveyed agreed that the standing of people professionals in their organisation has increased because of the pandemic.

  • The people function plays a vital role in influencing organisational strategy: The majority of respondents agreed there are clear links between the people function and business outcomes, and they work collaboratively across business functions to meet business needs.

  • Despite the pandemic, people professionals remain positive and proactive in their career progression: Nearly all respondents participated in some type of learning and development in the last 12 months. The majority feel that their career progression has exceeded or met their expectations and agree that the profession offers a meaningful career.

  • Purpose and principles are very important in people professionals’ work: A high percentage of respondents agree that work provides personal meaning in their lives and makes them happy. A high majority said they would not compromise their principles to affect their success and progress.

About the survey

The survey was conducted online with YouGov during May and June 2021. We surveyed in-house and independent people professionals working in HR, OD&D and L&D in the UK and Ireland.

By taking the pulse of the profession annually, we can make sure we're providing you with the right tools and resources to not only thrive through change – but to shape it.

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Download a visual summary of findings:

Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, helping customers adapt and thrive in a changing world. Workday applications for financial management, human resources, planning, spend management, and analytics have been adopted by thousands of organisations around the world and across industries – from medium-sized businesses to more than 50% of the Fortune 500. For more information about Workday, visit

Profession Map

CIPD Profession Map

The Profession Map sets the international benchmark for the people profession. Use it to make better decisions, act with confidence, perform at your peak, drive change in your organisation and progress in your career. No matter who you are in the profession, whether you’re a CIPD member or not, the Profession Map is relevant to you.

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