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Top Priorities for HR Leaders

2021 sees important shifts in the way an organization operates. HR Leaders are, more than ever, having new priorities. In the survey of Gartner, building critical skills and competencies tops the list. Many other HR leaders also prioritize workforce and work (re)design, leadership and employee experience - as well as navigating ongoing shifts in work trends.


1/ Building critical skills and competencies

Not knowing the skills gap, not being able to integrate learning into employee workflows or to create skills development solutions fast enough are some of the main challenges HR Leaders face today. With the pandemic going on, the task of reskilling is getting harder than ever before. According to "2020 Gartner Shifting Skills Survey for HR Executives", 33% of the skills that were present in an average job posting in 2017 won’t be needed by 2021. The challenge is on!


What's first needed now is a skill sensing network, where companies facilitate cross-organizational networks to sense upcoming skills shifting. Next, companies need to level up their ability to implement skills accelerators at the time of need. Finally, promote transparency. Provide employees with clear and relevant information to make timely decisions.


2/ Organizational design and change management

Today's fast changing conditions of work require a much more flexible approach to work design, as compared to the past when rigid structure of workflow and role design are prominent. Unfortunately, only 19% of HR Leaders believe that their workforce can effectively respond to the changing priorities, as "2020 Gartner Workforce Responsiveness Survey for HR Leaders" suggests.


When it comes to the question of new imperatives, future-forward work design is recommended. Clarifying priorities, encouraging flexibility, and making adjustments along the way are the steps necessary to unlock responsiveness and adaptability.


3/ Current and future bench strength

Leadership lacks diversity, and it is a crucial matter today. "Only 10% of senior-level corporate positions are held by a woman from a racial or ethnic minority and only 18% by a man from a minority segment.", such classic examples of the problem as illustrated by Gartner TalentNeuron™ data. You may wonder what the barriers are. Well, unclear career path, lack of exposure to senior leaders and lack of mentors are the determinants, according to 2020 Gartner Advancing Underrepresented Talent Survey.


Now that the problem is detected, what's next? Promoting networking is the key, supposedly. Intentionally creating a network catering to the growth of individuals by including diverse roles, levels and experiences will yield benefits. This way, network members have exposure to all levels of leaders, including senior leaders who can act as mentors and support advancement.


4/ Future of work

Covid 19 (again, we know!) has made a lasting impact on the pre-pandemic strategic goals. The challenge of HR Leaders now is to define to what extent these goals are altered, what actions and long-term adjustments need to be made in response to the changes.


New imperative here is to anticipate and identify trends that are relevant to the future of business. A model of 3 screens to test for the growth potential is adapted, in which the first one is "relevance screen", where corporates sort global megatrends into the ones relevant to their business, say 40 trends. Next is "impact screen" where they assess the impact of those trends, and choose, say, 12 trends that are having huge influence on how the organization operates. Last one is "opportunity screen", where corporates screen out a few trends they can take advantage of. That way we have, for example, 6 innovation spheres to adjust goals and plans accordingly.


5/ Employee Experience

The shift of employees to remote work has put HR Leaders to the question of aligning corporate culture with employee experience, now that the office is no longer the only place work is done.


To enhance employee experience, organizations should take remote work into consideration for the entire employee journey. In particular, try implementing virtual onboarding, focusing on employee well being, adjusting compensation and rewards, integrating technology into the communication channel, or encouraging virtual learning opportunities.


*Information is based on Gartner for HR - Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021.

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