Top 10 priorities for HR teams in 2023

Suzanne Rouart

Written By Suzanne Rouart

13th January 2023

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Yvonne Wilcock, CEO of Empowering People Group and AdviserPlus

As we look ahead to the challenges organisations may face in 2023, it’s clear that HR must solidify its position as a strategic and business-focused function. HR leaders need to drive people strategies that build and nurture adaptable workforces to withstand the economic and employee wellbeing challenges ahead. This requires HR teams to prioritise Human Value Propositions that attract, retain, and engage employees in order to create healthier organisations.

In our recent HR Transformation Conundrum Research paper, we identified the top priorities of HR transformation as:

  • Improve employee experiences to reduce attrition
  • Empower managers to deal with day-to-day employee relations matters so HR can focus on strategy

So, how do already overstretched HR teams find the time to focus on strategy to achieve this? Find out in these “Top 10 priorities for HR in 2023”.

1. Moving from tactical to strategy

HR’s role would be a strategic one; developing recruitment, retention and engagement strategies that help to develop a resilient, agile and loyal workforce. HR leaders should be proactively embedding a culture of employee experience and focusing on how its people strategies meet long-term business goals.

However, the impact of The Great Resignation, record absenteeism and Quiet Quitting means overstretched HR teams are under ever increasing pressure and consumed in tactical delivery, so have little time to focus on strategy. To address this, the priority is to identify alternative means to manage the overwhelming amount of tactical tasks HR teams are dealing with, whether via automation or safely delegating responsibility to line managers.

By shifting their focus to strategy, HR teams can play a critical role in helping organisations navigate crises and emerge stronger on the other side.

2. Manager empowerment

Manager empowerment is a vital component in helping HR teams be more strategic. When managers are empowered, they are able to take ownership of HR-related issues and decisions within their teams, which can free up HR teams to focus on more strategic tasks.

Manager empowerment can help HR teams be more strategic through:

  • The delegation of day-to-day people management matters. By empowering managers to handle day-to-day people matter, such as managing employee performance and handling disciplinaries, HR teams can focus on more strategic duties, such as developing long-term resourcing plans and analysing trends in employee data.
  • Investment in outcomes. When managers are empowered to make HR-related decisions, they become more invested in the success of those decisions. This can help ensure that HR strategies are implemented effectively and that their outcomes are aligned with the goals of the organisation.
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration. Manager empowerment can facilitate better communication and collaboration between HR teams, line managers and employees, improving the success of people strategies.
  • Better emotional connections. By managing more employee relations issues, managers can build closer, more personal relationships with their direct reports, helping to keep them motivated and creating a stronger emotional commitment to the organisation.

Overall, building line manager capabilities to self-manage more employee relations matters will give HR teams more time to focus on the bigger picture and work more closely with managers to embed effective Human Value Propositions. HR leaders need to equip the people responsible for delivering employee experiences with the training, technology and resources to do so effectively.

3. Reducing complexity in hybrid environments

In an unpredictable recruitment market, offering flexibility is essential in order to compete for the best talent, so hybrid working looks set to stay. But it brings with it complexities that make the job of line managers and HR more challenging. Following the rapid digitalisation businesses had to undertake in response to the pandemic, organisations have quickly adopted entirely new ways of working, often without the due diligence that would usually be required for large scale change. The result is a disconnected workforce where traditional engagement tactics have to be completely reimagined.

Complex environments create barriers to success by slowing down decision-making and impeding the flow of information. As we journey into 2023 with a clearer view of the challenges hybrid working brings, HR teams need to focus on engagement strategies that help reduce complexity to improve efficiency and support the needs of the employees and the business.

Digital simplification is key to streamlining processes to make them more efficient and user-friendly. By overcoming siloed working practices,  connecting systems, and surfacing essential data insights, the steps and complexity involved in completing tasks is reduced.

4. Reimagining people-first recruitment and retention

In today’s experience culture, recruitment and onboarding experiences are vital for the engagement and retention of new recruits. If the experiences a new employee encounters in their first weeks of employment don’t match their expectations, there is a risk that they will quickly disengage and look elsewhere, resulting in a costly mis-hire.

HR teams must adopt a people-first approach to recruitment and retention that focuses on meeting the needs of both the organisation and its employees. This means ensuring that every stage of the employee lifecycle feels inclusive, engaging and helps employees feel recognised as individuals. With a more holistic and strategic approach, HR can drive the culture and shape processes to reflect the values of the company and help build emotional connections from the outset.

By reimagining people-first recruitment and retention, HR teams can create a more positive and supportive working environment and better support the long-term success of the organisation.

5. ED&I accountability to aid recession proofing

Studies in previous recessions and significant periods of change, such as Covid-19, have shown that businesses recognised as prioritising equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) were better placed to manage the impact of crises. One of the reasons cited for this was the variety of idea generation and problem-solving a diverse workforce brings to the table. Organisations that are perceived as inclusive and diverse are also more attractive to customers as they reflect the diverse communities and markets they serve.

Just as recessions don’t impact all businesses equally, they don’t impact all employees equally either, so having input into recession-proofing strategies from a diverse workforce is likely to lead to better outcomes, mitigate risks, and help improve employee experiences.

It is essential that ED&I accountability is integrated throughout the business, so that everyone understands their role in creating an inclusive culture where all individuals can thrive. Gen-Zs entering the workforce during this unprecedented period of uncertainty have grown up in more diverse communities than previous generations. Research shows that they are unlike any other generation in terms of their acceptance of individuality and how influenced their decisions are by their demands for equality and social justice. In order to compete to attract and retain this generation of future leaders and innovators, organisations need to demonstrate a genuine, provable commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

During times of economic hardship, it is vitally important that initiatives related to equality, diversity and inclusion are not deprioritised.

6. Data-driven decision-making

Being more data-driven is top of business leaders’ agendas, but even some of the largest, most well-established organisations don’t have visibility of the right people data. Many still work from spreadsheets to interrogate their people data, and processes can be inconsistent throughout organisations, making it difficult to make informed decisions. This lack of visibility means the insights that can be gleaned into the performance of individual teams are limited, preventing the agility required to manage a modern workforce.

Monitoring and analysing the right people data can help identify risks and opportunities that may impact the success of the business. Data-driven decision-making helps avoid knee-jerk reactions and eliminates guesswork and bias in decision making. Real-time, accurate, and easily accessible people analytics enable:

  • Improved accuracy and objectivity by reducing bias and providing a factual basis for decisions.
  • Increased transparency by providing a clear record of data and analyses used to inform decisions.
  • Greater accountability by providing a record of decisions made and the reasons for them.

It may seem counterintuitive to invest in new technology as businesses focus on cost control in the current climate, but without the right tech in place to support a data-driven strategy, businesses risk making ill-informed decisions that could impact employee wellbeing, productivity and the bottom line.

7. Technology to help us be more human

When considering technology to support people empowerment strategies, it’s important to focus on how it benefits and improves the working lives of your people. As author Klaus Schwab details in his book ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, “first and foremost, these are tools made by people for people”. So, the technology we invest in should relieve the pressure on people and enable them to focus on the more human aspects of their role.

The right technology can help mitigate risk in empowering managers to do more. It should equip managers with the necessary tools to handle employee relations matters independently by providing guided journeys, knowledge portals, and risk management controls and monitoring. HR teams should identify solutions that enable managers to self-serve and effectively address employee relations, such as our empower® solution.

Don’t forget that the key to choosing the right technology solutions is to work backwards from your goals, not the other way around, so the technology doesn’t limit your success.

8. Holistic wellbeing awareness

According to The Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, 17.5 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to wellbeing-related sickness-absence. Despite an increasing emphasis on health and wellbeing in the corporate agenda, a lack of a culture of wellbeing remains a significant issue in the corporate world.

It is crucial for organisations to recognise the challenges that workforces face and to implement strategies to support employees in addressing issues that could affect their wellbeing. Such measures can help mitigate the impact of negative factors, such as the cost of living, economic uncertainty, and the demands of work.

There are several ways that organisations can support the wellbeing of employees, including:

  • Providing and regularly sign-posting resources and support for any issue that could impact an employee’s wellbeing in work
  • Promoting work-life balance
  • Fostering a positive and inclusive workplace culture

Adopting a strategic approach to employee wellbeing improves both employee health and business performance through increased productivity, attendance, retention, and improved morale. Effective line manager training is key in this effort, and promoting wellbeing throughout the organisation should be a focus.

9. Reimagining learning

Ultimately, the people strategies HR teams drive will only be as successful as the people responsible for delivering them, so effective manager training is vital to success. Building a people-empowered culture requires effective learning and development programmes that cover the entire employee lifecycle, so managers are equipped to deliver the best, consistent employee experiences in every instance.

We ask a lot of managers, but we may not adequately prepare them for the myriad people matters they may face in the modern workplace. In the HR Transformation Conundrum Research, only 22% of HR managers are cited as believing line managers are adequately trained to deal with employee relations matters. That is a startling figure when you consider the adage that employees don’t leave organisations, they leave managers. This highlights how urgently HR teams need to reimagine learning to empower managers with the right skills and confidence to effectively engage their employees.

Traditional forms of learning and development, such as one-size-fits-all courses, will no longer engage people in our fast-paced culture. More personalised and technology-enabled approaches are required to meet the needs of a time-poor workforce. This may include digital learning platforms, and bite-sized microlearning opportunities, such as videos, quizzes, or other interactive elements that can be consumed at the learners pace. More accessible and engaging learning opportunities are essential for the future of learning.

HR should also focus on creating a culture of continuous learning, where employees are encouraged to take ownership of their own development and are provided with opportunities to learn and grow in their roles.

10. Business-driven HR

People-empowerment will be at the heart of HR strategies in 2023. The objective of HR leaders should be to create business-driven HR functions that deliver people strategies aligned with business goals, building the foundations for healthier organisations.

This requires HR transformation strategies that prioritise employee experience and streamline ways of working, so that the workforce is prepared and sufficiently agile to weather the impact of economic uncertainty.

By taking a business-driven approach, HR can help ensure that the culture and values of the organisation are aligned with the overall business strategy and that the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, are in place to meet business objectives.

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