Engagement top HR business priority. People data number one growth area

2 minute read

Employee experience has jumped up the HR agenda while data and analytics are no longer just ‘nice to haves’, finds new research. But some in HR are still not feeling valued by their organisation

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Helping organisations secure the best human capital within support, enablement & control functions

Sian Harrington

Engagement is the number one business priority for 2020 and, when overlaid with health and wellbeing and the development of the flexible workplace, accounts for a third of top business priorities for the year ahead, according to research by human capital specialist Leathwaite.

The company polled more than 3,000 global HR executives across a range of sectors to understand their priorities for 2020 for its 2020 Global HR Leadership Survey. Employee experience emerged as the dominant topic of conversation (see chart above), with head of EX seen as the second most likely role to be elevated to the HR leadership team in the next five years, behind head of culture. Head of diversity and inclusion (D&I) came third. Staff morale and engagement is seen as the biggest challenge over the coming year, according to 23% of respondents, followed by digitalisation at 20% and D&I at 13%.

However, in the US and mainland Europe, the role of HR chief data officer was seen as offering greatest potential for career growth. Supporting this is the fact that people data was cited as the top growth area within HR, followed by HR technology.

“While these have long been bugbears of the modern HR practitioner, the investment in both is a critical ingredient to achieve not just basic efficiencies (headcount, manual process elimination etc) but some of the tailored employee-specific initiatives companies are moving towards in areas such as benefits and wellness,” says the report.

Rank the top three fastest growing areas of HR in the next five years

Organisations are addressing the challenges of the future of work through better technology (43%) and increased flexibility (36%). However, nearly one in 10 respondents said their organisation was not addressing the issue, with UK HR leaders most likely to report this. HR directors in North America want to see better technology, while in Asia they want more flexibility.

However, HR leaders are not worried about their role being taken over by artificial intelligence in 10 years’ time. Of those who expressed slight concern or concern, 40% were HR business partners/directors and 23% sat within talent acquisition.

How worried are you about your role being taken over by artificial intelliegence?

Gender remains the top hiring priority globally where diversity is concerned, but companies are alive to the fact that true D&I goes far beyond optics. Out-of-industry hiring is the third highest priority globally (behind ethnicity) as organisations look to buy-in best practice from outside their direct marketplace.

“As companies embrace concepts such as agile, design thinking and other principles associated with the digital revolution, this is a trend that we expect to continue. In Europe and Asia, diversity-of-industry is actually the number two hiring priority, ahead of ethnicity,” says the report.

What are your organisation’s perceived priorities around diversity and inclusion hiring?

Despite the role of HR in effecting change in these areas, some in HR still feel they are not valued. Nearly three in 10 either did not feel appropriately valued or were not sure. There is a clear correlation with whom HR reports into and whether HR deliverables are understood.

Of the HR functions surveyed, 71% report into the CEO (up from 68% last year) with the COO the most common, non-CEO reporting line. The US had the highest COO reporting line, at 19%. Of those who felt valued, 72% report into the CEO, 82% feel deliverables and understood and 87% feel HR is correctly positioned.

Conversely of those who felt the HR function was not positioned correctly, only 3% reported into the CEO. A full 100% of those reporting into the COO felt HR was correctly positioned while 100% of those reporting into the general counsel and 50% of those reporting into the chief financial officer thought HR was not positioned correctly.

Being valued is clearly important to HR professionals. When asked what the three most attractive elements of a new role in HR would be if they were to leave their organisation tomorrow, value of HR came top at 27%.

What would the three most attractive elements of a new role in HR be if you were to leave your organisation tomorrow?


Published 5 March 2020
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