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2020 Priorities for Chief HR Officers

One overarching focus encompasses the top priorities of strategic chief human resources officers in the coming year: To provide their boards, CEOs, and other business leaders with data-driven insights and corresponding actions related to workforce readiness and risk. These critical insights and actions will be focused on enabling the execution of an evolving business strategy, with particular emphasis on organizational culture and capability.

So say the 28 executives who comprise the i4cp Chief HR Officer (CHRO) Board.

Recently, we asked this distinguished group to list the top priorities that their function must deliver to enable their respective enterprises to achieve their strategic imperatives in 2020.

Given the diversity of industry and organizational complexity represented by the members of this board, there were a variety of responses. However, the collective energy centered on HR’s ability to bring forth insights and corresponding strategies that address organizational readiness and risk related to culture as well as the mindsets and skillsets of its workforce and leadership. Here’s an overview:


  • Talent risk & readiness - The most common strategic initiative, cited by nearly one-half of the board members, involved talent and/or talent acquisition. This reflects the low unemployment rates in the countries and regions in which these mid- and large-size enterprises operate, coupled with the increasing need for talent with the capabilities (e.g., digital skills) firms need to power their organizations forward. Several board members also connected their organizations’ respective priorities to diversity, especially as it relates to ensuring inclusive pipelines and pathways for mid- and senior level talent. Directly connected to all of this, CHROs are also mindful of managing the perception of their organizations as sought-after places to work (i.e., their employer brand) as well as delivering an optimal employee experience. 
  • Strategy risk & readiness – For several members of the CHRO board, the focus on talent is directly linked to the shifts happening in their organization’s business model (e.g., from mechanical to digital). Thus, the need to align organizational purpose and strategy to people practices and experiences in their companies. Several others mentioned the need to completely rethink and redesign operating models to meet and support the business’ transformation plans. Several CHROs—those whose companies have M&A as a core part of their strategy—cited the need to drive the successful integration of acquisitions as a priority.
  • Leadership risk & readiness – Directly connected to the need to align with and support their organization’s evolving strategy, CHROs are also looking to address the digital gaps in leadership skills as well as drive leadership capabilities further down into the organization. With this comes the need to broaden and strengthen succession plans in order to have the right people in the right positions based on anticipation of a significant number of retirements and the need to develop and prepare leaders given the evolving nature of work at their firms (e.g., leading via influence in a leaner/flatter organization and/or leading diverse and nimble teams).


Members of the i4cp CHRO board recognize the tight connection between an organization’s culture and its ability to not only attract and retain the talent it needs, but also to successfully support its evolving business strategy. In fact, it was this board that led the charge behind the 2019 i4cp study, Culture Renovation: A Blueprint for Action. And given the number of CHROs whose organizations are currently renovating their culture to become more data-driven, innovative, agile, and/or aligned with their changing business models based on the continually evolving set of customer needs and expectations, it came as no surprise that culture was the second-most cited (following talent) among the top priorities of i4cp CHRO board members in 2020.  

The year 2020 is set to be another exciting year for the HR function with many significant changes, challenges, and opportunities, but one which both our CHRO board and i4cp are uniquely qualified to meet.