As outlined in i4cp’s 2022 Priorities & Predictions report, The Talent Imperative, the ability to find and retain the skilled talent needed for the future, which has been a top concern of CEOs, CHROs, and corporate boards the past couple of years, continues to challenge employers worldwide.
This reality is viewed by 64% of the members of i4cp’s Chief Human Resource Officer Board as a continuing concern—one that poses the greatest potential to disrupt their organizations in 2023.
HR showed extraordinary leadership in helping guide their organizations through the myriad of health, geopolitical, social, and environmental crises of the past few years and will continue to be relied upon to navigate future challenges, most notably economic health (cited by 54% of CHRO Board members as a potential disruptor). Employee health and well-being is also a critical concern—especially important in times of uncertainty.
How HR leaders (and the HR function in general) responded and performed in recent years has reframed how strategic the function can be. It’s also elevated expectations among organizational leaders and other key stakeholder groups about the level of insight, guidance, and impact delivered by the HR team. Further, 80% of corporate board directors surveyed by i4cp indicated they believe that HR (as a function) will become even more strategic in the next one-to-three years.
This pressure is not lost on our CHRO Board members, who are again poised to help their organizations be best positioned to win. To do so, they outlined the following four priorities as top of mind for them in 2023:
- Staying on the talent offensive and ensuring tight alignment to organizational strategy
- Refocusing the employee value proposition and reinforcing it via a continually renovated culture
- Avoiding burnout while also building and strengthening HR’s strategic capability
- Building and rewarding ambidextrous leaders
Many HR leaders will direct their attention on hiring, development, and retention programs in anticipation of tough economic times ahead and staying competitive. These leaders will continue to reconstruct their external talent supply chains and enable greater internal talent mobility to expand access to sources of diverse skills and capabilities, while also ensuring equitable access to opportunities. They will address capability gaps by building comprehensive skills inventories of their workforces and redesign jobs to support a more intelligent workforce design.
Though hiring may slow or stop for some organizations in a down economy, talent acquisition at high-performance organizations never does. As work has been forever altered, so have employee expectations. This explains why CHROs aim to ensure that their organizations’ employee value proposition (EVP) resonates strongly, reinforced by the policies, programs, and interactions that shape employee experience.
Critical to a superior employee experience is the health of the organization’s culture. CHROs are continuing to review and renovate policies, procedures, and practices that have defined their cultures. Top companies reinforce the attributes that keep them competitive and align the mindset of leaders whose behaviors define the organization’s culture. Sustaining this requires an ongoing enterprise listening strategy to ensure that employee sentiment is heard and understood.
Emphasis on renovating and refining an organization’s culture is especially important given rapid and often unpredictable external change, which can affect corporate culture in ways that are not always immediately apparent. Ensuring the execution of strategy, while building a resilient workforce that is skilled for what’s next is a balance that leaders must master.
While caring for the culture and workforce is job number one for HR, it’s important for the function to also take care of itself. The threat of burnout within HR that i4cp warned about in last year’s Priorities & Predictions report is real, and was evident in the responses of several HR leaders in this year’s survey.
“Fatigue…the people in our field are exhausted and in high demand,” one board member noted. Another said “HR is burnt out and largely under-resourced as a function compared to others. We need to continue to upskill as business professionals.”
Compounding the requirement that HR continue to deliver in a highly strategic capacity are concerns about the capabilities needed to deliver the insights and applications that will help ensure organizational viability.
As one CHRO Board member summed it up, the challenge she foresees in the year ahead is “…maintaining the profile of HR in the room post-COVID.” This concern is validated by another board member who is most concerned with the “…inability to generate CHRO/ CPO successors due to the tension between the need to deliver strategic insights and stakeholder imperatives, and the actual backgrounds of many rising HR leaders (still very functional).”
Automation can certainly help mitigate some of this (i4cp’s research found a strong correlation between inadequate HR technology and burnout in the HR function). Technology can also ensure clarity of how all HR initiatives support key business imperatives. As we highlighted in a short video for CHROs, an important question all HR leaders should regularly ask their teams is: “does our list of HR priorities read more like a grocery list than a set of critical workstreams?” A “yes” to that question is a warning signal that burnout looms and/or the HR function has lost focus on the business.
Demonstrating empathy and facilitating a sense of meaningful connection across a distributed workforce, while also ensuring the achievement of agreed-to objectives is imperative. Ambidexterity—the ability to do two or more things equally well—is rare. One CHRO Board member spoke for many when they noted, “Raising the next generation of holistic, thoughtful, strategic, and empathetic leaders is what I believe is our biggest challenge.
For our four predictions and priorities for other human capital functions including Total Rewards, Talent Acquisition, and more, download the full 2023 Priorities & Predictions report.