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Gartner Identifies the Top Five Priorities for HR Leaders in 2020


As 2020 approaches, HR leaders are focused on five key measures to continue driving business outcomes, according to Gartner, Inc. The priorities include: 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.

“HR leaders’ priorities for 2020 reflect the critical needs that organizations need to tackle in order to successfully operate in today’s uncertain conditions,” said Leah Johnson, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “While digital transformation has already generated skill gaps and strained leadership capabilities, we are also seeing that companies are missing the skills needed to restructure their businesses and manage the change that every organization is facing.”

In fact, Gartner research shows that only 9% of chief human resource officers agree that their organization is prepared for the future of work. In order to achieve business growth, HR leaders will need to take on the following initiatives:

Ensuring the workforce has the skills it needs for the future

Automation and digitalization are changing the skills and competencies required for success and organizations are having trouble keeping up. According to a recent Gartner survey, 46% of HR leaders report that their employees lack the skills that are necessary to drive future performance.

To ensure employees have needed skills, HR leaders should partner with business leaders to understand and maintain the proper balance of emerging, existing and legacy skill sets. HR will also need to work with managers in order to demonstrate to employees how they will grow personally by developing in-demand skills and to connect employees to skill-building opportunities beyond their existing roles.

Equipping leaders for success with ever-expanding demands

The responsibilities and expectations of leaders have expanded rapidly, however the majority of leaders are ill-equipped to take on their expanded roles. Forty-five percent of HR leaders struggle to develop effective midlevel leaders and more than one-third struggle to develop effective senior leaders.

To cultivate a strong leadership bench, HR should look to a “complementary leadership” model that partners leaders together to share responsibilities based on complementary skill sets. These leader partnerships allow each leader to specialize in core skills, develop needed skills and lead in critical areas. Gartner analysis showed leaders who use complementary leadership saw a 60% increase in their teams’ performance.

Making work easier through organization design and change management

Gartner research shows that 57% of employees encounter significant barriers in their day-to-day work. Some of these barriers likely stem from the amount of change in today’s environment — the average employee experienced 12 organizational changes in 2019, ranging from major transformations like restructuring or executive leadership transitions to more day-to-day, but still highly disruptive, changes such as moving to a new team or manager.

An open source change approach, where HR leaders involve the right employees as active participants in making and shaping change decisions, reduces the risk that employees will become fatigued by 50%, over a traditional top-down approach.

Closing the talent gap to drive digital business transformation

While nearly all organizations are focused on digitalization, 43% of HR leaders reported that their organization does not have a clear and consistent strategy for digital transformation. Organizations are also struggling on the talent front — 35% of HR leaders say they have inadequate talent to drive digital transformation.

To make real progress, HR must become a trusted driver and advisor on digital transformation by doing the following:

  1. Become experts in digital business: Collaborate with leaders to address digital goals and ensure they are consistent with the organization’s strategy.
  2. Leverage talent processes: Track employees’ skills to develop and refine the organization’s digital plans and prevent execution blind spots.
  3. Deliver functional support: Motivate HR teams to make meaningful contributions to digital business transformation and actively review HR strategies to stay consistent with the changing needs and expectations of employees and business leaders.

Achieving higher returns from investments in employee experience

Enhancing the employee experience is a key talent concern for HR leaders and organizations are investing significant resources, yet 46% of employees remain largely dissatisfied, according to a recent Gartner survey.

To increase employee experience satisfaction, organizations need to focus on not just investing in the employee experience but also shaping how employees feel about it. Organizations should manage the memory of the overall employee experience by reminding employees of positive experiences and reframing their memories of negative experiences. Gartner research shows that by incorporating a shaping approach in their employee experience strategy, organizations can improve employee satisfaction with their experience by more than 30%, driving increases in intent to stay, discretionary effort and performance.

Gartner for HR clients can learn more by attending the webinar Top 2020 Workplace Predictions on January 22, 2020.


About the Gartner HR Practice

The Gartner HR practice brings together the best, relevant content approaches across Gartner to offer individual decision makers strategic business advice on the mission-critical priorities that cut across the HR function. Additional information is available at

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT), is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and objective resource for more than 15,000 organizations in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit

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