HR Leaders

To be able to deliver on these priorities, a recent report from Gartner looks at the priorities of HR leaders today. They believe that there’s a need to leverage technology to manage the employee processes and experience, prioritizing the following:

  1. Building Critical Skills and Competencies for the Organization becomes a top priority to meet skill gaps and develop employees to meet organizational needs, both current and future.
  2. Organizational design and change management are of high priority if businesses are to ensure business continuity in times of crisis and not lose their momentum in growth.
  3. Building current and future bench strength becomes an imperative, with eye to inclusion, diversity and succession planning ensure adequate representation of underrepresented talent.
  4. Prepare explicit strategies for the future of work with crisis response, resilience and unaffected efficiency being the imperatives in planning hybrid workforce models which factor in remote work and role revisions necessitated by the adoption of AI.

Resigning employee experience and employee value proposition focusing on relevance, impact, and opportunity, with an eye to business priorities & goals and performance management.

Disclaimer: * While we have tried to present findings of the study as they are in the original report, in some places our interpretation and inference drawn may differ slightly from the original report. There is no intention to misrepresent the findings of the original report.

* Referred to the following survey by Gartner: Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021 – Emerging HR trends, expected challenges and next steps for CHROs and HR leaders


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As 2020 draws to an end, Gartner went to ask 800 HR leaders across industries, from 60 countries, about what they would be prioritising for 2021*. Let’s look at the top 5 of their priorities* and the underlying problems which created the need to prioritize each of them. Let’s also look at the approaches being adopted to deal with each of them.

  • Priority #1: Building Critical Skills and Competencies for the Organization

A top priority for 68% of HR leaders, it addresses the challenge of critical skill gaps to meet evolving skill needs and the need to merge skill development and learning into employee workflows. For many, reskilling of employees has always been a challenge. COVID-19 has made it even harder for HR to predict skill needs using traditional methods. Employees suddenly require more skills for every job. Some of these skills are entirely new to some of them, like creative problem solving, design thinking, using technology, managing digitization and virtual communication. Not all employees are willing to invest in acquiring the right new skills — either for their personal development or the benefit of the organization.


Gartner says that data clearly shows how there’s a year-over-year growth in the skills required for a job. More alarmingly, many of the skills listed in 2017 in an average job posting will not be listed on a job posting in 2021. The reasons for this shift in skills are not far to seek. Businesses were affected by COVID19 in myriad ways and many had to reinvent their operations. Work has gone virtual, and managers have to manage remote teams. Team sizes are truncated with people falling sick or jobs being lost. Employers are reallocating to the available hands and taking a dynamic approach to reskilling.

All impacted stakeholders need to sense the shifting skill needs and find ways to develop skills at the time of need. They can facilitate dynamic cross-organizational networks to sense shifting skill needs and also partner with HR to determine future skill needs together. They assess employees on job competencies and design reskilling based on assessment gaps and share ownership for identifying and addressing skill needs and leverage labor market data to address skill gaps. They institute targeted efforts to accelerate skilling efforts to identify and implement skill accelerators like recognizing and adapting existing resources to develop new skill solutions quickly. They also identify learning delivery opportunities that will have highest impact on application. During all this they empower employees to make timely skill decisions by creating channels for information exchange. They enable employees to make informed decisions that align their interests with organizational needs. With such a dynamic approach to reskilling, employees willingly apply up to 75% of the new skills they learn. Such organizations also find that learning begins sooner, as needs are identified faster.

  • Priority #2: Organizational Design and Change Management

This was a priority for 46% of HR leaders because they felt that their leaders and managers were not equipped to lead change, when the need arose. They were also concerned about how fatigued their employees were with all the change that was thrust upon them. They could clearly see the need for improving operational excellence and transform the business to innovate for growth and success.

Many organizations were unable to respond as quickly as conditions required, when the rigidity with which their work was designed, focusing only on efficiency. Fast changing conditions left them dealing with a lot of friction between workflows and role designs which were inflexible. Very few HR leaders were able to report that their organizations quickly responded to changing needs and changed direction based on needs or priorities. Teams were overwhelmed with the need to create processes which took too long to be approved and a rising volume of tasks without access to resources as budgets were locked and could not be tweaked.

Work needs to be redesigned to be more flexible and enable employees to be more responsive. Future-forward processes need to factor in customer needs and possible disruption caused by change. There’s a need to choose flexibility over efficiency and build the ability to anticipate changes with the ability to adapt their approach and activities in a suitable manner. HR leaders need to be focused on building organizational resilience.

As organizations shift from designing for efficiency to designing for flexibility, the aim would be to reduce work friction and reset misaligned work design to reduce friction. This would unlock resources to boost organizational capacity. It would build the required resilience in organizational processes and reduce the stress on the teams. As it improves resource mobility, resourcing decisions could move closer to the end user. Processes acquire the much-needed flexibility to eliminate permission roadblocks while work is designed to prioritise effort.

  • Priority #3: Current and Future Bench Strength

Most of the HR leaders surveyed were concerned about the lack of diversity in their leadership bench, their lack of adequate succession management processes and the lack of a strong mid-level managerial cadre. Current and future bench strength is critical to top business priorities because 56% of employees surveyed clearly said they did not trust their organization’s leaders and managers to navigate a crisis well. The lack of diversity in the leadership is seen to have undermined people’s confidence and trust in leadership. Gartner’s data proves the lack of diversity among the leadership of U.S. companies, by showing that 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.

Gartner considers that the primary barriers to lack of advancement of under-represented talent lie in how the paths and steps to career advancement are unclear. Senior leaders stay aloof and fail to act as role models, and there is scant career support at workplaces and no mentoring. Creating opportunities for networking becomes a huge HR imperative. It is a great way to provide support for employees. Networks also need to build diversity in role, skill level and experience — and promote involvement from senior leaders. Growth-focused diversity networks need to be intentionally promoted. Only then we can support underrepresented talent. Everyone knows how beneficial diversity proves to an organization as a whole.

  • Priority #4: Future of Work

According to Gartner, HR leaders feel the need to have an explicit strategy for the future of work. They want to easily modify their talent strategies to align with changes in the market. Apart from the lasting impact of COVID-19 on strategic goals and plan, the adjustments required needed to be addressed. Some of the HR leaders felt the need to address the displacement of workers, on account of the adoption of AI and automation. Remote work has become a way of life with some organizations planning to stay on course, even when the pandemic ends. There’s a wider usage and acceptance of contingent workers. Resilience and crisis response have become imperatives along with efficiency.

Trends in HR are leaning towards strategic planning to face different scenarios. Many organizations are stressing on relevance, impact, and opportunity. More of them are focusing on employee experience, while attention to diversity and inclusion went up. Organizations are working to communicate their employee value proposition (EVP) through the employee experience they offer. Gartner couldn’t offer a correlation between HR priorities and business priorities. Most organizations find that employee experience varies by location. As they design their new remote work and hybrid workforce model, they need to focus on preserving a company culture and meet employees’ needs and expectations. In doing so, they need to clearly determine the value proposition of the office against other work locations.


  • Priority #5: Employee Experience

As the number of employees working remotely increases, employers are working to build workforce models which tackle the adverse impact, if any, of remote work on employee experience

Hybrid workforce models provide an opportunity for employers, managers, and employees to share ownership of location decisions. A common expectation here is that employees can switch locations dynamically. The choice depends on what they believe makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity, engagement and returns. By supporting and enabling this approach throughout the employee life cycle, organizations improve employee experience. The increase in remote work promises to expand expanded career options and improve employee experience and well-being.

Organizations are innovating to adjust EVP, by the following actions:

  • Identifying the areas of improvement in the current offerings.
  • Modifying sourcing and attraction strategies to employment branding strategies
  • Offering tailored experiences to new recruits and employees.
  • Revising performance goals to replace direct observation by focusing on outcomes to determine compensation,rewards, and recognition
  • Manage a hybrid workforce well and ensuring parity.
  • Using technology to improve communications, collaboration, and connectivity between employees.
  • Offering virtual learning solutions and updating talent management practices to develop strategic talent pipelines in a hybrid environment.

As HR gears up to work with hybrid workforces, they need an effective hybrid workforce model to build a new organization structure and implement HR strategies virtually. While efficiency remains the core consideration for organizations, they need to also build in resilience and be able to survive disruptions and thrive in spite of them. Building a diverse workforce becomes a need of the hour while social responsibility and concern for employee wellbeing become the hallmarks of any employee value proposition, offered by an organization.

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