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HR Leaders’ Number One Priority in 2022 will be Building Critical Skills and Competencies

  • Gartner Survey Reveals HR Leaders’ Number One Priority in 2022 will be Building Critical Skills and Competencies

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Now Ranks in HR Leaders’ Top Five Priorities for the Coming Year

Nearly 60% of HR leaders reported that building critical skills and competencies will be their number one priority in 2022, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc.

The survey of more than 550 HR leaders in July 2021, found the other top HR priorities for 2022 are: organizational design and change management (48%), current and future leadership bench (45%), the future of work (42%) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) (35%).

“The shift to hybrid work, rapidly increasing turnover and heightened war for talent, and rising pressure to make progress on DEI are driving these priorities,” said Mark Whittle, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.


“Forward-thinking HR functions are closing development gaps and creating a more adaptable workforce by adopting a skills-centric approach to talent management.”


HR leaders will need to focus on the following initiatives to drive business outcomes next year:

Structuring talent management around skills, not roles

Among 339 HR leaders responding to the July survey, 47% reported not knowing what skills gaps their current employees have, while 40% said they can't develop skill development solutions fast enough to meet evolving skill needs. Gartner TalentNeuron data reveals that new skills are replacing old ones – nearly one in three skills that were needed for a job in 2018 will not be needed by 2022 – and that the average number of skills per job is increasing steadily.

“Forward-thinking HR functions are closing development gaps and creating a more adaptable workforce by adopting a skills-centric approach to talent management,” said Whittle.

Creating a positive change experience

Fifty-four percent of the 274 HR leaders surveyed by Gartner on their 2022 priorities reported that their employees are suffering from change fatigue. In fact, Gartner analysis finds that small day-to-day changes – different teammates, a new manager, small process or system shifts – are much more prevalent and 2.5 times more fatiguing to employees than big transformational changes.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” said Whittle. “Change fatigue is about more than just the volume of change, it’s also about the exertion and disruption of each experience.”

To help employees absorb change, HR must establish trust among employees, in their managers, their teammates, and their leaders. Employees with high trust have 2.6 times the capacity to absorb change. Secondly, HR must help build team cohesiveness. Teams that work well together, that listen and care for each other produce employees with almost two times the capacity to absorb change compared to employees who work in low cohesion teams.

Equipping managers to lead today

To be successful in today’s hybrid environment, where managers have dramatically less visibility into their employees’ day-to-day reality, empathy must be at the forefront. Managers who lead with empathy develop high levels of trust with their employees, create a culture of transparency and acceptance within their teams, and prioritize people over processes. They also contextualize performance and behavior – proactively asking questions and seeking information to better understand the specifics of their direct reports’ contexts.

Gartner analysis shows that managers who display high levels of empathy have three times the impact on their employees’ performance than those who display low levels of empathy.

Preparing for significant shifts in talent needs

Forty-nine percent of 238 surveyed HR leaders said they do not have an explicit future of work strategy, while one-third reported that their future of work strategy focuses exclusively on hybrid and/or remote work. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the future of work far beyond where employees are located.

“HR leaders need to determine which future of work trends have, and will alter, their organization’s strategic plans and what immediate and longer-term workforce adjustments are required as a result,” said Whittle.

After screening the future of work megatrends for relevance, impact and opportunity, HR can partner with other executive leaders to craft a holistic future of work strategy. Leaders should analyze the impact of multiple potential scenarios to identify and prepare for technological, social and labor changes that could significantly shift talent needs.

Driving employee experience in today’s hybrid workforce scenario

Of more than 200 HR leaders surveyed, 36% said they struggle to hold business leaders accountable for DEI outcomes. Gartner research reveals that the progression of underrepresented talent stalls in mid-level and senior level positions as these employees experience slower rates of promotion and worse perception of leadership potential.

Achieving desired DEI outcomes will require HR to adopt a new approach that meaningfully impacts behavior and outcomes for individual leaders. This type of consequential accountability – rather than collective accountability – is based on driving equitable talent decisions, enabling leader execution of DEI goals and requiring progress on DEI goals for any leader to advance in the organization.

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