More than half (52%) of HR leaders survey by Gartner in June reported their organisation’s business operations are continuing at a reduced level due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of the same survey, 40% of 146 respondents reported optimising costs as the business priority that has changed the most since January 2020.

“Many organisations have entered the recovery phase and are focused on stabilising the business and restarting activity,” says Mark Whittle, vice-president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “HR leaders will play a critical role during this period.

“However, they continue to face uncertainty around several key issues, including equipping leaders to manage remote teams over the long haul, preserving company culture with a more remote workforce, and engaging workers in a cost-constrained environment.”

To address these issues and best support the business, HR leaders are adjusting their priorities for the remainder of 2020.

In December 2019, the top five HR priorities for 2020 were: building critical skills and competencies, strengthening the current and future leadership bench, incorporating organizational design and change management, driving digital business transformation, and enhancing employee experience.

A May 11 Gartner survey of 160 HR leaders found that while the top five priorities have not changed, the order and – more importantly – the lens through which organisations must view the priorities have:

* Future of Work

* Critical Skills and Competency Development

* Org Design and Change Management

* Employee Experience

* Current and Future Leadership

To successfully navigate today’s new normal, CHROs and senior HR leaders must address each of these priorities:

Future of Work

Leaders need to consider the predictions for what the future of work will look like and assess the likelihood of each trend impacting the organisation.

“Business leaders are planning for entirely new scenarios,” says Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “For many, if not all organizations, the three-year strategic plan may be gone and planning is occurring quarterly.

“Perhaps most importantly, understanding the future of work is about understanding the permanent workplace shifts post-Covid.”

Critical Skills and Competency Development

“According to a recent Gartner survey of 113 learning and development leaders, 71% said that more than 40% of their workforce has had to use new skills as a result of changes to work due to Covid-19,” says Whittle.

To adopt a more dynamic approach to managing shifting skills needs, HR leaders should focus on three actions:

* Identify areas of the organisation with significant changes in priorities and related changes in skill needs. Then break roles and projects that need support into individual skills and outcomes.

* Upskill a select cohort of motivated and influential employees to provide personalised learning support to colleagues.

* Foster internal movement across the organization by engaging employees to gauge their skills, goals, and points of confusion around organisational skill needs.

Organisational Design and Change Management

Gartner research shows that successful change management outcomes require a shift from top down change led by senior leaders and communicated down to employees, to open source change where employees are involved in designing change processes.

In fact, when organizations use an open source change strategy, the probability of change success increases by as much as 24 percentage points.

To achieve an open source change culture, HR needs to help managers and leaders create two-way dialogues that acknowledge the reality that change is difficult and then listen to employees’ reactions.

Adopting open source change management can increase employee engagement by as much as 38 percentage points and intent to stay by as much as 46 percentage points.

Employee Experience

The pandemic and fallout has changed the focus of employee experience to sustaining the performance and engagement of a hybrid workforce – some employees working fully remote or partially remote and others at the workplace.

To gauge employee experience during the disruption, there are three questions HR must answer:

* Organisational Trust: To what extent do our employees believe we really value people and are ensuring their well-being?

* Commitment to Coworkers: How are employees collaborating with and learning from team members?

* The Right Capabilities: Are we helping employees get the skills and tools and resources they need to be successful in this disruption and new normal?

Current and Future Leadership

Organisations need resilient leaders more than ever. To foster resilience, HR needs to support leaders at the personal, team and institutional levels:

* Personal: Identify leaders’ skills gaps and create leader-to-leader partnerships that give them opportunities to help each other by pairing those with complementary skills.

* Team: In a remote work environment, employees are 3.5 times more likely to collaborate with five or more teams than when in the office. Leaders need to learn how to better lead during ambiguity, how to identify and secure needed resources for their teams, and how to better connect their teams and direct reports with others to develop skills and get more resources.

* Institutional: HR needs to ensure performance management objectives reflect and reward leaders that efficiently connect teams to the right resources. Leaders must also be empowered and encouraged to dynamically adjust annual goals and review all workflows to align to the right priorities.