Emphasising innovation seen as key to improving business relevance, while C-suite prioritises agility

HR professionals could do more to help business leaders achieve their goals by increasing the organisational focus on innovation and building a stronger partnership between HR and the C-suite, according to a new study.

Leadership Connections 2016: HR and the C-suite driving innovation – jointly produced by Cirrus and Ipsos MORI and comprising qualitative interviews with 4,000 people – found that almost half of senior executives (49 per cent) are concerned about the innovation capabilities within their organisation.

Despite this, the majority of HR professionals surveyed (69 per cent) believe enough attention is being paid to innovation, and many think it is being over-emphasised.

A further disconnect between HR and the C-Suite was found in the attention being paid to talent management. While 45 per cent of leaders do not feel enough importance is given to this area, only 34 per cent of HR respondents think this is the case.

“One of the biggest challenges for many large organisations today is encouraging a more entrepreneurial, responsive and risk-taking mindset among all colleagues,” said Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus. 

The greatest priorities, shared by almost two-thirds of leaders, were found to be ‘making sure their companies are agile’ (65 per cent) and ‘having a shared sense of direction’ (64 per cent).

Over the next 12 months, they said they would focus on a number of HR-oriented areas: leadership development (40 per cent), talent attraction and succession planning (34 per cent), talent retention (32 per cent), performance management (27 per cent), business transformation (23 per cent), workforce upskilling (20 per cent) and cultural change (19 per cent).

In contrast to these findings, research published by Deloitte this week suggested leadership had ceased to be the most pressing concern for business leaders for the first time in three years.

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 survey, the most important issue highlighted by 92 per cent of HR and business leaders was a redesign of the organisation, although 89 per cent still rated leadership a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ issue, with almost six in 10 stating that their organisation was not ready to meet its leadership needs.

Other matters of importance included: business culture (86 per cent), employee engagement (85 per cent) and learning (84 per cent). A further 78 per cent said changing the skills of their HR organisation was a key issue.

Anne-Marie Malley, UK human capital leader at Deloitte, said: "After three years of struggling to drive employee engagement and retention, improve leadership and create an attractive company culture, executives in this year’s survey see a need to redesign the organisation itself.

“UK organisations are reinventing their internal models to innovate, compete and thrive, but many issues still remain in these areas for the foreseeable future.”