5 Priorities for HR and the Future of Work

By Paul Bergeron, SHRM, July 2023

Executives must make decisions about what their company's priorities should be, and HR leaders can—and should—influence those decisions.

"Be influential, not just an influencer," said Vivian Hairston Blade, president and CEO of Experts in Growth Leadership Consulting in Kentucky, during her session "Future of Work: Five Non-Negotiable Priorities for HR's Agenda" on June 12 at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2023 (SHRM23) in Las Vegas.

"Right now, we're seeing unique factors impacting companies' thought processes, such as high inflation, global economic uncertainty, decisions by the Federal Reserve [and] unsettled geopolitical situations, and all are affecting operations," Blade said.

In their long-term planning, HR teams and their companies should focus on these five strategic priorities, she said.

1. HR's value creation cannot be shortchanged.

"With world-class HR at the table, companies are significantly more likely to perform, such as 4.5 times more revenue growth, 5.5 times more profitability than their peers, and six times the innovation," Blade said, citing consultant Josh Bersin.

"Human capital implications exist in all facets of your business," she continued. "Ensure that HR has a seat at the table and an influential voice on the front end of discussions and decisions."

2. Leaders' effectiveness will likely determine a company's success or failure.

The DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2023 showed that critical gaps persist in skills leaders will need for the future:

In identifying and developing talent, 65 percent of leaders say it's crucial to develop this skill, but only 24 percent have received any training in it.

When it comes to strategic thinking, 70 percent say it's crucial and 30 percent have received training.

Decision-making prioritization is valuable, according to 63 percent of leaders, and 30 percent have received training.

Managing successful change is important, according to 63 percent of leaders, but only 29 percent can capably implement it.

Some 61 percent of leaders say influencing others is an important ability, but only 28 percent have the skills to do so.

"Implement a common human-centric leadership model using a multi-disciplined development approach across your leadership pipeline," Blade said. "Equip leadership teams to operate in high-value-creating partnerships in this dynamic growth environment."

3. Disruption is creating enterprise vulnerabilities as employers confront the future of work.

In many positions, 85 percent of the job's requirements wouldn't have existed before 2020, Blade estimated. Gig work is growing significantly, and more workplaces are shifting to hybrid work models that blend in-person and remote work.

"The war for talent is taking on greater importance, given the rise of the gig economy and artificial intelligence and its applications such as ChatGPT," Blade said. "Future-of-work reinvention must lead with a human-centric design that drives significant value for both talent and business outcomes."

She encouraged HR professionals to reimagine roles and workplace culture to meet dynamic market and business needs, as well as evolving technical capabilities and talent needs.

4. Companies must provide a consistent, positive talent life cycle experience that supports the workforce's shifting expectations.

Many employees are not planning long futures with their employers. For example, 24 percent of people think it will be normal to work for an employer for no more than two years; 44 percent say they're thinking about their career path in months, not years; and 58 percent say they'd leave their jobs for one they were less interested in if it offered a higher salary, according to Korn Ferry.

"Reconsider the traditional employee life cycle to include the varying needs of a dynamic and diverse talent pool," Blade said. "Engage talent in reimagining and redesigning their workplace and career experiences."

She encouraged HR professionals to cultivate potential talent pipelines and help applicants and employees build connection and engagement with their employers' purpose, values, culture and people.

"By embodying a human-centric, caring experience that builds belonging and empowers personal growth, you can create fulfilling pathways to add value through meaningful work experiences," Blade said.

"Finally, deliver honorable closure of employment, project or contract relationship so that you can earn willing and eager advocacy across the life cycle."

5. Resilience and agility are paramount.

Seventy percent of business leaders surveyed by Bain and Company say they're experiencing significant digital disruption, and 85 percent of them believe this disruption will either maintain its pace or accelerate over the next five years.

"Resilience and the ability to adapt quickly to change and ongoing disruption are essential for businesses to thrive," Blade said. "Invest in developing resilience across your enterprise at individual, team and organizational levels."

SHRM is the world's largest HR association, with nearly 325000 members dedicated to creating better workplaces.The Society for Human Resource Management is a professional human resources membership association headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.