- HR's role as a strategic adviser to organizational leaders is the profession's No. 1 priority this year, according to the 2021 CHRO Agenda, a report by consulting firm The Hackett Group.
- The pandemic-driven push to digital forms of work necessitates a strategic approach, the firm said. Remote work and social distancing present "unprecedented obstacles" to workplace culture, including the absence of "artifacts and rituals that reinforce culture." In addition to finding ways to connect employees, HR will need to align talent management functions — such as programs and policies promoting wellness and productivity — with business strategies.
- The report identified eight hurdles to HR transformation in 2021, pointing to HR staff skill deficiencies in analytics, emerging technologies, design thinking and other areas as the top hurdle. Overcommitment is also a concern; "HR organizations are perennially stretched thin and hard-pressed to keep pace with the multitude of priorities on their plate," The Hackett Group said.
Drastic changes in 2020 may have expedited much of the changes HR analysts had called for in recent years. Increasingly, reports suggest executives both within and outside of HR recognize the enhanced role the profession has played during the pandemic.
Specifically, the pandemic's impact on workers and their day-to-day operations have, at least in some cases, placed HR teams at the head of organizational strategy in 2021. For example, a recent survey by software firm Sage found 65% of HR leaders said their teams played a "vital role" during the pandemic. However, most of the C-suite executives surveyed by Sage said changes with HR departments driven by the pandemic "are only temporary," potentially indicating that these executives "underestimate" HR workloads, Sage said.
Technology and digital transformation figure to be an even larger part of organizational priorities in the coming years, The Hackett Group report. Research from the firm showed that deployment of robotic process automation technologies, for example, is expected to grow by 16% year-over-year in 2021, while virtual assistant or chatbot technologies are expected to grow by 11%.
But HR, together with other organizational components, needs to ensure that bias is not built into the framework of tech tools, according to a January report by law firm Hogan Lovells. The firm's survey of businesses found 76% were moderately or very concerned about potential regulatory investigations or litigation into tech failures.
As part of the movement to such tech, HR teams can "accelerate migration to cloud-hosted applications and platforms, advanced analytics tools, and smart automation," The Hackett Group said. The firm also suggested that HR help to "establish paperless processes and eliminate dependency on manual tasks."