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HR's Top Five Priorities for 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Mathew French

28 January 2020

Every year at this time, HR software companies across the globe publish blogs about HR trends for the coming year (and beyond). Some blogs list up to 25 trends to keep your eye on, but who has time to stay on top of a list that long in this day and age? If you apply the 80/20 rule to a list that totals 25, you really only need to focus on 5 trends or priorities. And more importantly, you need to choose the top 5 things that matter most to your business. In our first HR Blog for 2020, we're going to explore Gartner's perspective on the top 5 priorities for HR leaders in 2020. These are derived from Gartner's 2020 Future of HR Survey, which polled HR leaders to assess their priorities and expected challenges in 2020 and beyond.

If you aren't aware of who Gartner are, they've developed a reputation as one of the most respected organisations on the planet for forward-thinking insights, verified peer-driven research, and robust metrics and data. They provide tools and programs to help you turn strategy into decisions, and execute for measurable results. They've built their business on offering personal guidance to help organisations large and small to focus on the issues and opportunities that truly matter. Let's examine Gartner's assessment of the top 5 priorities for HR leaders in 2020 and beyond.

Develop Critical Skills and Competencies

The future of work is being completely transformed in the context of who does what work and how work gets done (think about a combination of the gig economy, new skills, workforce ageing, diversity, artificial intelligence and data). The skills and competencies required for this evolution will continue to evolve. However, Gartner believes that HR executives will need to partner with the business and iterate to maintain an appropriate balance of the emerging, existing and legacy skill sets needed to drive the business as it transforms. Navigating the human-automation collaboration well will either make or break businesses as the technology revolution continues. Competition is also fierce for critical talent segments, and the challenge of attracting (and retaining) such talent will is likely to persist.

Gartner research indicates that 46% of HR leaders report that their employees lack the skills that are necessary to drive future performance.

Gartner's recommendation - Connect learners to skills needed for their success — and that of the organisation:

  • Take a market-driven, predictive approach to identifying skill needs, forging a closer connection between employees and the market.

  • Challenge employees to be “more.”

  • Connect employees to skill-building opportunities beyond their roles.

Current and Future Bench Strength

HR has historically filled the leadership pipeline with potential successors for specific positions or roles, but that approach won't work with the demands of today’s uncertain, rapidly changing workplace (and general) socio-political environment. Leaders don’t feel confident in their ability to lead the organisation into the future, and leadership roles are going to keep changing — and change significantly — as organisations are forced to evolve to keep up with the nature and pace of that change.

45% of HR leaders struggle to develop effective mid-level leaders and more than 33% struggle to develop effective senior leaders.

Gartner's recommendation - Pair complementary leaders to share responsibilities:

  • Equip leaders to understand their strengths and weaknesses in context, not against standardised organisation wide metrics.

  • Develop leaders’ learning for practical use.

  • Create quality leader partnerships that enable each leader to specialise in core skills, develop needed skills and lead in critical areas.

Gartner Top 5 HR Priorities 2020 Leadership

Organisational Design and Change Management

Organisational structures are often poorly mapped to workflows and networks, especially as operating models are transformed on multiple fronts. Organisational effectiveness is frequently misaligned with enterprise priorities and inadequately measures the quality and prevalence of planning and goal setting, as well as the outcomes. Driving change through organisational (re)design and then managing that change effectively are key drivers of success.

Gartner research illustrates that approximately 57% of employees encounter significant barriers in their day-to-day work.

Gartner's recommendation - Adopt an open-source approach to change management:

  • Involve employees to co-create change strategy.

  • Shift ownership of change planning to employees to create personal change implementation plans.

  • Talk, don’t tell.

Driving Digital Business Transformation

CEOs are broadly pursuing both digitisation and digitalisation efforts as part of their digital transformation. But as organisations seek to achieve digital business efficiencies at scale and monetise their efforts, it’s often difficult to discern exactly what to prioritise. HR leaders need to understand exactly what the change in business scope and scale will look like — and what the talent implications of those changes will be. The needs will be different, for example, if an organisation is pursuing a major new digital business opportunity in an adjacent market versus placing multiple bets on different scenarios.

Gartner indicates that 43% of HR leaders say their organisation does not have a clear and consistent strategy for digital transformation.

Gartner's recommendation - Be a trusted digital transformation driver and advisor:

  • Become a digital business expert.

  • Be a talent architect.

  • Make HR more agile.

Employee Experience

Organisations are increasingly investing in tactics to improve satisfaction around the employee experience. New offerings and support run the gamut from employee-facing technology upgrades to employee onboarding updates and more flexible work hours to expanded parental leave. Despite these improvements employees still remain largely dissatisfied, which is why HR leaders will need to continue to focus on employee engagement.

Gartner's recommendation - Increase employee experience satisfaction:

  • Calibrate employees’ expectations for the employee experience.

  • Empower employees to tailor their day-to-day experiences,.

  • Manage the memory of the employee experience rather than simply responding quickly to an experience.

You can access Gartner's full report on Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2020 here.

Interested in discovering more of Gartner's most popular HR content? Here's a list of the top 5 HR articles they published on 'smarter with Gartner' last year:

If these top 5 priorities are not enough and you want to examine a longer list of HR statistics, metrics and trends, then take a look at our most popular White Paper from 2019.

White Paper: HR Metrics, Statistics & Trends

Topics: HR Change Management, HR organisational design, Employee Engagement, hr leaders, Digital transformation, HR blog, Employee onboarding

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