Top 5 priorities for HR Leaders in 2021

After an unprecedented year that challenged the traditional way of working, HR Leaders are focused on five key areas that will contribute to business and employee growth in 2021.

The author of this page: Deirdre Lysaght
Deirdre Lysaght, Marketing Executive Dec 21, 2020

According to a Gartner survey of over 800 HR Professionals worldwide, the top five priorities for HR leaders in 2021 were identified as;

  • Building Critical Skills and Competencies

  • Organisational Design and Change Management

  • Current and Future Leadership

  • The Future of Work

  • Employee Experience

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, HR leaders are moving away from crisis management toward focusing on what will make their organisations strong, both today and in the future, including having the right skills and competencies, building resilience and having a strong cadre of leaders,” said Mark Whittle, Vice President of Research and Advisory, Gartner HR.

Skill Building remains a Top Priority

Traditional ways of predicting skill needs are no longer effective and many employees are not developing the skills required for their own personal development or the benefit of their organisation.

It will be important for HR Professionals to understand critical skill gaps and to effectively integrate learning experiences into employee workflows. Not only is this fundamental to fostering employee growth, it’s an established business priority that can improve overall excellence, growing the business and innovating for success along the way.

Organisational Design and Change Management

From misaligned work design and rigid processes to overwhelmed teams and trapped resources, employees may suffer from work friction without organisational efficiency. Change Management can be achieved by preparing, equipping and supporting individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organisational success and outcomes.

Future-forward work design is required to ensure employees can be responsive, that is - in sync with customer needs, in a position to anticipate changes in those needs, and adapt their approach and activities accordingly. It’s up to HR leaders to adapt work design strategies to unlock responsiveness at scale across the workforce and build organisational resilience.

Cultivating Current and Future Leadership

Leading the way for organisations, as they manage change and continue to build employee skills, are effective leaders. More than one-third of HR Professionals surveyed by Gartner report that their succession management processes do not yield the right leaders at the right time. Confidence and trust in leadership is undermined by the lack of diversity. A solution to the barrier that comes from a lack of diversity is to create a growth-focused diversity network to support underrepresented talent who can lead the future of the organisation.

Planning for the Future of Work

Like many in the world of work, HR leaders are focused on the future but 62% say their organisation does not have an explicit future of work strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect on the future of work, accelerating certain trends — more employees working remotely, increased use of employee data — and creating new impacts, i.e. an organisation can distinguish themselves as a top-tier employee brand based on their crisis response.

As the future of work continues to develop, and we all find ways to adjust to life in the new normal, whether we continue to work remotely from home or on the front lines, the evolution of digital HR tools, like Dynamics 365 Human Resources, will play a crucial role in maintaining employee engagement amidst rapid changes in many industries.

Employee Experience is Essential

Amid the shift to remote work and hybrid workforce models, HR must preserve company culture and ensure employee experience keeps up with employees’ expectations and needs. Such factors as recruiting, virtual onboarding, talent development, and well-being will be top of mind for HR leaders.

One key consideration is the value proposition of the office versus other work locations. HR should leverage today’s hybrid workforce model and empower managers and employees to share ownership of location decisions, so employees can switch locations dynamically based on what environment will drive productivity and engagement.

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