HR Insights 8 min

HR’s Journey Through 2021: A Growing Focus on Culture and Retention

February 4, 2022

As opposed to our annual Year in Review where we marvel at all our customers have accomplished with the BambooHR platform, we’re taking this opportunity to look back into the shared experiences of 2021’s HR Virtual Summit attendees. 

We asked our attendees—HR professionals, business owners, and managers from around the world—about a range of issues, including: 

  • The changing nature of their workforces
  • Their top areas of concern for 2022
  • Their product usage and processes

Here are the top insights from 2021.

How We Segmented Our Findings

We’ve broken down our findings by company size and industry segments. While the goals and tasks of HR are similar across these segments, we’re interested in exploring the niche experiences and needs of HR reps in small, growing, and large companies and in a variety of industries.  

Additionally, this makes it easier for you to compare notes on your own experiences this past year and pinpoint prime areas to focus on in 2022. 

Company Size

For the purposes of this survey, we zeroed in on HR experiences within these three employee count ranges:

  1. 25–75 employees
  2. 76–150 employees
  3. 151–300 employees 


While our respondents hailed from a wide range of industries, including real estate, manufacturing, entertainment, and agriculture, we’ll be drilling down on four of the largest in our survey pool:

  • Healthcare
  • Construction
  • Tech
  • Finance

A Shared Concern for the Future: Turnover

“We’re all in this together.” You’ve likely heard this phrase on repeat since 2020, but it’s true that a global pandemic has a way of uniting us in the shared experience of change. One of these shared experiences for HR is the struggle to retain employees.

Turnover Is a Top Measure of HR’s Success

It might feel like we’re starting with the bad news first, but turnover is key to understanding how engaged and purposeful your employees feel. It’s no wonder employee turnover was reported as the most common metric used to measure HR’s success at a company (67 percent), with employee engagement (45 percent) and absenteeism (26 percent) close on its heels.

Higher Turnover than Previous Years, Especially in Healthcare

Half of respondents reported higher than average turnover for 2021; however, not all the news was bad, since 39 percent also said they experienced no change in retention rates and 10 percent actually saw fewer people leave than in previous years. 

Here’s how the different segments experienced turnover last year:

25–75 employees

  • 16 percent (lowest reported turnover of all segments)

76–150 employees

  • 59 percent higher than average turnover

151–300 employees 

  • 60 percent higher than average turnover

Healthcare (highest reported turnover of any segment)

  • 63 percent higher than average turnover

Construction (lowest reported turnover of any segment)

  • 84 percent normal or lower than average turnover


  • 51 percent higher than average turnover


  • 41 percent higher than average turnover 

HR’s Growing Role and Influence

A Needed Voice in Leadership

All the company sizes we analyzed saw an uptick in HR’s role in major business decisions last year, with larger organizations (151–300 employees) experiencing the biggest increase in HR’s involvement in organizational direction. Close to half of respondents from this group said they’d been consulted by leadership more in 2021 than in previous years. 

These larger companies also employed the largest percentage of HR managers (43 percent) and were most likely to use HR software (71 percent). Comparatively, HR in the smallest segment (25–75 employees) is almost exclusively a team of one and is most likely to still rely on spreadsheets for HR data.

In-Office Work Still Common, But Hybrid Gaining Traction

Whether a lone admin wearing many hats or a team led by an HR manager, HR teams of all sizes had to contend with office closures and the tricky switch to remote work in 2020. But when some of the dust settled in 2021, it seemed that the smaller the organization, the more likely it was for it to be fully remote. As the employee count grew, so did the percentage of fully in-office workplaces, but the middle segment (76–150 employees) represented the company size that was most likely to have brought employees back into the office. 

25–75 employees

  • 17 percent fully remote 
  • 44 percent hybrid
  • 38 percent fully in-office
  • 1.5 percent other

76–150 employees

  • 9.5 percent fully remote
  • 32 percent hybrid 
  • 54 percent fully in-office 
  • 5 percent other

151–300 employees 

  • 7 percent fully remote
  • 42.5 percent hybrid
  • 42.5 percent fully in-office
  • 7 percent other

The percentage of hybrid arrangements was high across the board, which is encouraging to see as hybrid work offers the flexibility employees need to navigate and balance the pressures of work and life during an ongoing pandemic. 

HR Reporting and Software: Loved by Some, Yet to Be Embraced by Others

About Half of Respondents Report Once a Quarter

HR reporting has the potential to reveal a wealth of actionable insight on impact (how well HR strategies and initiatives are performing) and efficiency (how accurate HR’s success metrics are and how effective the system is for pulling reports in the first place). 

Overall, the majority of our HR respondents (48 percent) recognize the value of HR analytics and report on their impact at least once a quarter, with 18 percent reporting annually or less frequently than that. But many organizations are missing out—16 percent of our total respondents admitted that HR at their organization never report on impact.

It can be a daunting task to collate relevant HR analytics, and depending on the system, incredibly onerous for HR when there’s already so much to do. When you consider that 18 percent of our respondents still track employee records with spreadsheets and paper records, it seems safe to conclude that the hurdles of paper processes and lack of reporting tools naturally hinder an organization’s willingness and ability to parse HR analytics.

Why Do Many Big Companies Miss Out on Reporting Insights?

Reporting is an important HR function to put in motion no matter your company size, but for larger companies, company and employee data becomes increasingly significant as it becomes more abundant. In light of the findings above, we were surprised to discover that the company size segment most likely to use HR software (companies with 151 to 300 employees) also had a significant percentage of HR revealing that they never report on impact.

Twenty-one percent of our respondents with 151 to 300 employees don’t take advantage of reporting at all, the highest percentage of any company size segment. While this was also the segment most likely to report on impact once a month—35 percent versus 19 percent (76–150 employees) and 14 percent (25–75 employees)—our findings suggest if an organization doesn’t set a reporting precedent early on, it will only find it harder to begin as it grows.

Failing to implement HR analytics is a missed opportunity that can have negative repercussions on everything that leads to the bottom line, from employee morale to time-to-hire rates, but it’s a missed opportunity that can be remedied with the right software and processes. 

HR Reporting and Software Use Across Industries

Healthcare Lags in Reporting, Makes Most Use of Hiring Features

Based on our survey results, HR in healthcare is the least likely to report, with 19 percent saying that they never report on impact. They’re also the second most likely to use paper records for HR data and most likely to use a manual onboarding checklist. Each of these trends suggest that HR in healthcare is struggling to rise above paperwork and manual processes, which automatically makes overall data analysis more difficult.

Understandably due to the pandemic, HR in healthcare reported the highest 2021 turnover of any segment in our survey, and put the highest value on hiring features. It seems safe to conclude that the Great Resignation is hitting healthcare harder than average. 

Construction Still Relies on Paper, Wants More Customizable HRIS

Twenty-eight percent of construction respondents report once a quarter, but they’re the least likely to use HR software or software integrations. They’re the most likely to:

  • Use paper records for HR data
  • Report insufficient customizability if they do use an HRIS
  • Measure employee experience by asking around the office instead of conducting surveys

These trends are consistent with the general sentiment shared by many HR pros in construction: the notion that they are “behind the times” in terms of their HR processes, employee experience, and company culture initiatives. 

Tech Leads in HR Software Adoption, Wants More Functionality

HR in tech is most likely to use HR software (86 percent), especially for onboarding, and to report on HR impact more than once a month (30 percent). Our tech respondents were also the most likely to use payroll software from BambooHR and eNPS surveys to measure employee satisfaction. 

These findings show the tech sector leading the charge in terms of cutting-edge HR, so it comes as no surprise that they were also the most likely to cite a lack of functionality as their biggest HRIS pain point. HR in tech want to solve issues and simplify their workflows with top technology, and they’re increasingly choosy in what has become a highly saturated HRIS market.

Finance Second in HR Software Adoption, Wants More Payroll and Reporting

Our finance respondents are the most likely to report once a quarter (29 percent), and they’re second only to tech in their likelihood to use an HRIS (82 percent). They’re also the most likely segment to have two or more integrations.

With the top pain points for finance as a lack of payroll support and reporting functionality, HR in finance appears to closely mirror many of the trends that we see in the tech space, particularly in regard to a higher demand for cutting-edge HR software and strategic integrations.  

Ambitiously Looking to the Future

Thousands of HR professionals joined us at HR Virtual Summit 2021 to further the impact of HR in business and the employee experience. Their concerns and initiatives going into 2022 peak with “employees” and “retention” but also include “hiring” and “culture,” words that likely echo your own concerns as you embark on a brand new year.

We also asked our survey respondents to share in a few sentences just what they envision for their careers going forward—65 percent answered that their aspirations were to continue in HR or to become an executive to achieve even greater impact in their HR role. Despite the rigors and hurdles of the past few years, HR professionals continue forward, seasoned and motivated to drive individual, employee, and organizational success. 

For more data on the HR Journey Through 2021, download the full infographic.  

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Rebekah Cuevas

Rebekah Cuevas is obsessed with empowering the “human” in human resources. As a next-gen, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ author and editor with over a decade of B2C, B2B, and creative writing experience, she connects HR pros to impactful HR solutions through research-driven narrative with a special interest in promoting DEI initiatives that build stronger, safer, and more profitable workplaces for all.