According to a recent Accenture report, “89% of CEOs say the CHRO should play a central role in driving long-term profitable growth.” I couldn’t agree more. The role of the HR leader has changed radically—we’ve earned a seat at the table where the most important decisions are made.
With that opportunity comes more responsibility. To seize this moment, HR leaders must reimagine the HR function and focus on the skills that will unlock success.
That’s why I constantly meet with business leaders and CHROs to share what works—our knowledge, capabilities and solutions—and anticipate what our people and organizations need to thrive. I’m always inspired by the energy, optimism and empathy that CHROs and the next generation of HR leaders have for their people.
Here are six key realities HR leaders should keep in mind as they strategize for 2024, based on my conversations across industries.
HR leaders are talking about using talent as a business lever to drive growth, even as headlines spotlight how many companies are cutting costs. To succeed, we need to design people-led, tech-enabled transformations. A winning talent strategy aligns workforce skills, culture and goals with business objectives. By attracting, developing and retaining top talent, CHROs empower their organizations to stay agile, innovate and thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.
It also means HR leaders are developing their own leadership capabilities for the future—from building trust to applying a product mindset. And across the workforce, CHROs must identify and develop the unique set of leadership capabilities to prioritize—or deprioritize—to drive their company’s success.
2. HR leaders must confront the growing mental health crisis with compassion.
As people continue to navigate radical changes in their lives—from return-to-work policies to caring for their loved ones—reports show that U.S. EEOC disability claims related to mental health conditions are rising. HR leaders need to open up honest conversations about wellbeing in the workplace. We also need standardized metrics and frameworks to provide world-class mental health resources for our people.
It’s a C-suite responsibility to lead the charge, and it starts by supporting frank, sometimes difficult, conversations about mental health. But it can’t stop there—we must also establish company-wide, accessible policies and programs.
See also: 4 must-haves for an effective mental health strategy
3. Generative AI is a catalyst to spark growth.
Generative AI is reshaping the foundation of business strategy. “By 2030, activities that account for up to 30% of hours currently worked across the U.S. economy could be automated—a trend accelerated by generative AI,” according to McKinsey. From my perspective, the key to AI is a winning talent strategy. We need to help our employees know how to leverage generative AI responsibly in their roles and prepare them for the future of work.
We need to chart a vision for generative AI to show our people this new technology will not replace jobs, but it will change their experience. It will free employees from tactical tasks and allow them to do uniquely human things like create, experiment and innovate. We’re in the early innings, so we must sharpen our own understanding of generative AI. And we need to work closely with our technology teams to map strategic, predictive and proactive solutions.
4. HR leaders must accelerate progress on diversity, equity and inclusion.
We must ensure our commitment to DEI is a moral imperative, not just a program. We also need to demonstrate the tremendous business case for prioritizing DEI. For example, companies with the most ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams are likely to outperform less diverse companies by 36% in profitability, according to McKinsey. And organizations with the most gender-diverse leadership teams outperform the least diverse by 25% in profitability.
DEI drives innovation, efficiency and success. We should focus on building trust and fostering a culture in which all people feel safe, welcomed, celebrated and championed. And we should power our strategies with data, analytics and insights to create real change and build meaningful momentum.
5. HR leaders are eager to make the shift to skills-based organizations.
HR leaders have talked about upskilling and reskilling for decades, but the conversation often ends in frustration: Skills management has always been fragmented into databases and processes that didn’t work together. Employees want more learning and development opportunities, but they’re often difficult to find. Technology and AI have finally evolved to close the talent gap, and HR leaders are eager to build sophisticated skills strategies with these tools. We’re doubling down on skills intelligence at ServiceNow, underpinned by AI, to help employees grow their careers in equitable and dynamic ways, which can supercharge business success.
While AI may feel like an abstract idea, the benefits are clear. If leaders can break everything down into a set of skills—and use AI to match skills to roles, trainings and opportunities—they can customize learning journeys to help employees build their best careers.
6. HR leaders must navigate an increasingly unpredictable political climate.
Across the world, the political and policy landscape is as complex as ever. People are increasingly divided along ideological lines. Trends in media and online disinformation fuel polarization. Companies and business leaders are under the microscope. Government actions have enormous consequences for HR leaders, such as recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action, religious accommodations and overtime rules.
This landscape will become even more unpredictable—from a heated U.S. presidential race in 2024 to the turbulence and violence from ongoing and emerging conflicts around the globe. HR leaders must understand the impact of government actions and navigate political uncertainty, particularly when it comes to high-impact issues for HR, such as efforts to regulate generative AI and DEI programs. This means working with experts and leaders across functions to analyze impact and map the way forward. It also means standing by our values and using our voices to support, protect and champion our people.
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