Shift in business strategy creates significant opportunities for HR

Innovation has become the leading business priority for HR and other business leaders for the first time, according to the CIPD/Workday HR Outlook leaders’ survey.

The survey revealed that 35 per cent of HR and 32 per cent of other business leaders consider innovation to be their top business strategy as employers increasingly recognise the need to think creatively and change the way they work. 

Cost management, talent management and boosting productivity also continue to be key priorities for HR and non-HR leaders, the survey showed.

However, this broad consensus on strategic goals did not translate into how this would be delivered. Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of HR leaders said that their current people strategy will help the organisation achieve its future priorities but only 26 per cent of other business leaders shared this view. 

This difference in intentions between HR and non-HR leaders was evident in one specific area known for driving innovation – diversity. Almost a third (31 per cent) of non-HR business leaders believe HR should be focusing on diversity to help boost innovative thinking but only 19 per cent of HR leaders said they were.

To remedy this, the CIPD recommended that HR professionals look at ways to innovate within their own function, which will help them remain relevant. It also urged HR to "be more visible" in demonstrating how it enables workplace evolution.

And the imperative for increasing visibility was particularly evident for HR analytics. A substantial percentage (28 per cent) of non-HR leaders reported that they didn’t know if their HR department had any analytics capability. The same proportion (28 per cent) said HR does not share its analytics data with key stakeholders. But in contrast only 12 per cent of HR leaders admitted a lack of clarity around their own people analytics or agreed that the function failed to disseminate data.

Dr Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser, said: “At a strategic level, HR and non-HR leaders are evidently aligned on goals, but our survey highlights clear areas of opportunity for better collaboration and communication between HR and other functions.

“With people being at the heart of how businesses operate, HR has a significant role to play in wider organisational innovation. This requires business-wide systemic thinking and action to affect change but the good news is that we can see from the report that the appetite from non-HR business leaders for HR to drive this change is there. HR leaders need to focus on growing technological and analytical capabilities within the function, so it has the ability to meet future business requirements and really flourish in the evolving world of work.”

Commenting on the low visibility that HR analytics has among business leaders, Miller added: “Our research suggests that HR professionals need to better illustrate the insights they have at their disposal to key stakeholders outside of the function, to show the value that they can bring to wider business objectives. What gets measured gets managed, but only if that analytical data is interpreted and the rest of the business is engaged with the results.”

Karen Minicozzi, VP HCM product strategy at Workday EMEA, added: “It is great to see the appetite for HR analytics continues to increase, as it reinforces the need for innovation to help HR leaders drive better decision making across their organisations and raise their strategic contribution to achieve broader business goals.”

The survey was conducted with a representative sample of 143 senior HR leaders and 152 senior non-HR leaders by YouGov between 30 October and 23 November 2015.