Where Can HR Make the Biggest Business Impact?

This year, HR leaders looking to boost their organization’s bottom lines are focusing on three critical initiatives: building critical skills and competencies, strengthening the company’s current and future leadership bench, and improving the employee experience.

That’s according to the results of the Gartner 2019 Future of HR Survey, in which responses from 843 HR leaders reveal HR professionals need to stay focused on HR fundamentals that drive business success, says Leah Johnson, a vice president at Gartner.

“There’s nothing totally out of left field that suddenly needs to be on HR’s radar screen that’s never been there before,” she says. “This isn’t just about what’s important to HR, but ultimately, where can HR have the biggest impact on the business.”


These HR leaders, she says, identified the initiatives against the backdrop of four larger global workforce trends: the hot labor market, digital transformation, social and political changes, and declining discretionary effort.

The common thread between these initiatives, Johnson says, is ineffective managers and leaders, which she adds is the biggest barrier to building critical skills and competencies. She points to other Gartner research that finds 48 percent of HR leaders believed their managers were not effectively developing employees. Among the reasons, she explains, is that many managers don’t know how to manage people or don’t like the role. She says HR needs to develop “Connector” managers who act as performance coaches that connect “the right people and resources at the right time”.

Likewise, in order to build the strength of the leadership bench, Johnson says, HR must dive deeper into the business to better understand its strategy and develop a real-time, dynamic view of its needs in different parts of the organization.


Since current leadership roles are expected to significantly change within the next five years, she says, succession management, leadership development and the process for developing and managing high- potential employees must also be revamped in the near future. This coincides with other Gartner research that finds 47 percent of HR leaders say that their organization struggles to develop effective leaders, 45 percent say their leadership bench lacked diversity, and 45 percent say that their succession-management processes failed to produce the right leaders at the right time.

Meanwhile, Johnson says, some HR leaders develop false assumptions about what employees expect in terms of their work experience, which causes a big disconnect.

“They think about the employee experience in neat buckets like recruiting, onboarding or development as opposed to from the employee’s eyes,” she says. “That’s what HR needs to get into – how are employees feeing about the work experience and what do they value, not what do they need.”

While tackling these initiatives, Johnson encourages HR leaders to solicit help from others throughout their organization. By listening to coworkers, she says, “some of these challenges that seem so big can really be effectively addressed.”

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