How Have CHROs' Priorities Changed Since 2015?

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It is amazing the difference that a year can make. With the end of 2016 a few short months away, sights have been set on the arrival of 2017. As end-of-year reporting and reflection begins to take place, organizational leaders are looking towards their new priorities and areas of focus for the coming work year.

Each year, in preparation for the annual CHRO Exchange that takes place in November, IQPC Exchange performs a survey to determine what HR leaders’ priorities are for the arriving year. This survey is given to senior-level HR leaders from some of the globe’s most recognizable companies.

The results of this survey give a glimpse into the agendas of these HR leaders and show what challenges they will be looking to solve within the next 24 months. It is interesting to note how dramatically some of these challenges have changed over the last year and how many others have remained equally important.

Employee engagement has clearly been on the top of many HR lists for 2016. There have been a number of articles pointing to the necessity of engaged employees and showing clear indications of how far many organizations are from achieving high levels of engagement. Topping the list in the new 2016 survey, 74% of respondents indicated that Employee Engagement is their number one priority for 2017. This is a sharp 36% increase from the 2015 survey in which only 38% of respondents indicated it to be a top priority.

Last year’s largest area of concern was succession planning (68%) which remains in the top three for this year’s respondents at 53%.  This challenge stems from the large amount of Boomers leaving the workforce while the Millennial workforce continues to grow. This issue is leaving HR leaders with a number of questions about managing the multigenerational workforce. Check out perspectives on this from Mary George Opperman, Vice President for HR andSafety Services of Cornell University and Gregg Tate, Global SVP HR of Adidas. Given this issue, it is not surprising that leadership training and development also remained in the top three with 53% citing it as a priority in 2015 and 58% citing it in 2016.

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Many of the priorities that made it into the top 10 in 2015 remain somewhat unchanged in this year’s survey.

These include:

  • 42% Branding and communications – down 6% from 48% in 2015
  • 42% Recruiting and Talent Acquisition Technologies – up 2% from 40% in 2015
  • 37% Big Data & Analytics Tools – down 8%from 45% in 2015
  • 37% Total Rewards & Incentives- down 8% from 45% in 2015

Three areas that made the top ten list this year that were either in a lower tier or not included on the 2015 survey include:

  • 37% Sourcing
  • 37% Loyalty Programs – up 7% from 30% in 2015
  • 37% Employee Surveys- up 9% from 28% in 2015

The latter of the two top ten newcomers reinforce the level of importance placed on employee engagement.

Some priorities went down a bit on the list and fell out of the top ten. Some of these include:

  • 32% Diversity & Inclusion – down 18% from 50% in 2015.
  • 26% Performance Reviews – down 14% from 40% in 2015.
  • 21% Assessments – down 32% from 53% in 2015.

The move down on the list for diversity and inclusion could be for two reasons. The first is that companies may have already found ways to effectively handle this challenge. The second is that companies may see it differently than they used to. For more light on this matter, read this interview with Lee Cheng titled The Diversity and Inclusion Program Problem.

In 2016, it has not been uncommon to see performance reviews and assessments decried as inhibitors of productivity.  With GE announcing an end to annual reviews, many other companies followed suit. Many organizations are opting to instill an environment of ongoing feedback instead. For more on why this is a vastly better route for engaging employees and encouraging productivity, read this great piece that explainsThe Importance of Ongoing Feedback.

As you can see, while many of the key priorities for HR have remained the same, the level of importance from one year to the next has changed somewhat. For more of the survey results and a snapshot of who was surveyed, download the infographics for the 2015 survey results and the new 2016 survey results.