In-depth research to inspire

Lynn Gorin, HR Research & Intelligence: “At the beginning of 2021, we were all convinced that we'd get our normal lives back in no time. Back to the office, back to collaborating without keeping a distance, back to our old HR habits … back to business. But if 2020 was the year of disruption, 2021 turned out to be the year of acceptance. Normal wasn't coming back. On the contrary, blink your eyes twice and the world has changed as many times. Many companies are still struggling to find their place in this new reality.”

Lynn Gorin

The Future of Work and People

In June 2021, SD Worx was in the middle of conducting the second edition of its large-scale European employer survey The Future of Work and People, reaching a total of nearly 3,000 companies - from small start-ups to established enterprises with thousands of employees.

The Future of Work and People 2021

Gathering intel across 12 European countries and regions


Online survey bij IPSOS on behalf of SD Worx


June 2021


2,746 HR decision makers from 12 countries and regions

Map of European countries that participated in the survey
  • Austria | 210
  • Belgium | 297
  • France | 309
  • Germany | 286
  • Ireland | 103
  • Italy | 259
  • Netherlands | 238
  • Nordics | 116
  • Poland | 115
  • Spain | 305
  • Switzerland | 220
  • United Kingdom | 288

Lynn: “The goal of this recurrent research project is to provide companies with the necessary data and insights to benchmark their own operations, to get inspired, to gain essential knowledge and to adapt successfully in the new world of work and life.”

Marie Dalleur

Ride smarter, not harder

Marie Dalleur, Corporate content manager: “How could we get our survey results to the attention of as many companies as possible? We agreed on a communication concept that fits the bill: Ride smarter, not harder. And it was our job to make sure each piece of content we published was spot on. By enriching the data with a lot of insights, tips and real solutions by our experts, we made this happen.”

“In the end, we created 3 e-books, 11 blog posts, 3 press releases, an infographic, visual quotes and a whole lot of buzz on social media to share our most remarkable survey findings - all within the concept of Ride smarter, not harder.”

The reasoning behind Ride smarter, not harder
An old cycling adage says it's not always the one with best legs, the best bike or the best team that wins the stage. Success in cycling is all about tactics: riding with your head. It's about knowing when to jump and when to save your energy, when to go your own way and when to rely on others. Well, success in work and life is also about being smart nowadays.

Our main sponsorship of Team SD Worx was of course the inspiration for this concept.

4 of the most remarkable survey results

#1 The top 10 HR challenges for the future

In one of the e-books, 10 SD Worx experts zoom in on the top 10 HR concerns. Not just to explain why certain HR responsibilities seem to be at the front of employers' minds, but also to provide ideas on how to turn those challenges into opportunities.

  1. Staff welfare and resilience
  2. Employee engagement and experience
  3. Attract and recruit
  4. Sustainable employability of employees
  5. Talent development and internal mobility
  6. Teleworking and hybrid working
  7. Employee retention and attrition
  8. Keeping or gaining control of personnel costs
  9. Staff planning
  10. Strategic wage policy

#2 Nailing the digital HR monuments

In our employer survey, we asked companies which HR domains have already been digitalised. We compared the top 5 domains to the 5 cycling monuments - as the most prestigious classic races are called - including tips on how to win.


Milan - San Remo

The opener of the season. Nowhere to hide; this is when you show your true colours after a long period of preparation. The key to winning this race - which often ends in a sprint between the major players - is to focus on powerful cloud-based payroll technology that integrates seamlessly with HR software.

Absence and attendance

Tour of Flanders

Next up is the Tour of Flanders. With its narrow short hills, usually steep and cobbled, the route forces the best riders to continually fight for space at the front. There are many different tactics to win, but victory is only for those who keep the big picture in mind and rely on self-service.

Expense management

Paris - Roubaix

The cycling classic Paris - Roubaix, also known as the Hell of the North, is a notoriously unpleasant race and a real endurance test. Riders spend most of the day covered in mud and dirt, so swiftly navigating the sharp corners and nasty cobbles is an art. The similarity to expense management is undeniable.

Training and development

Liège - Bastogne - Liège

The route of the oldest cycling monument changes from time to time, meaning that riders should carefully study the race before they appear at the start. What was new and decisive last year could be out of date this year, just as in the realm of learning and development. What's always a given, however: the uphill finish favors committed riders.

Staff and work planning

Tour of Lombardy

Although this race is known as "the classic of the fallen leaves" and is held at the end of the cycling season, it's still a great opportunity to outshine the competition. The extremely varied route means the main contenders are riders with a broad range of skills. The same goes for staff and work planning: you have to know your (digital) game.

#3 How payroll outsourcing helps to save money

Payroll jumped from number 8 (in 2020) to number 3 (in 2021) on the list of HR domains that are most suitable for outsourcing. About 6 in 10 European companies count on a third party to some degree, or are willing to do so. The cost-saving possibilities play a big part in this rise.

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#4 The state of digital HR in Europe

We elaborated an infographic on the state of digital HR in Europe with the most striking figures. For example, only 37.7% of European companies report a (very) high level of digital maturity and only a minority uses employee-centric digital tools.

Digital HR

Food for thought

Marie: “SD Worx local teams then selected and tuned our content for their specific market and audiences. In total, 847 companies downloaded our e-books, of which 85% local versions. By turning SD Worx research into in-depth but also snackable and personalised content in local languages, we intend to keep on sharing striking facts and figures with as many HR professionals as possible. We know from our customer panel discussions that our survey results have inspired people to take fact-based decisions that generate impact, which is the outcome we're all going for.”