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Less than 10% of HR functions achieve functional excellence

Only 9% of HR functions are both highly efficient and highly aligned to their organization’s needs, according to Gartner, Inc.

Post-pandemic, the scope of the HR function has drastically expanded. A 2023 February Gartner survey of 217 HR leaders found that 55% said they are getting more requests on a wider variety of topics, and 80% claim their function is facing different challenges to those they faced pre-pandemic.

“Unfortunately, today’s new world of work has not only burdened HR with new demands but increased obstacles to effectiveness,” said Piers Hudson, senior director in the Gartner HR practice.

Seventy-one percent of respondents reported that burnout among HR staff was more challenging than pre-pandemic. More than half of the HR leaders surveyed reported increased difficulty in both retaining and recruiting HR employees.

“To address these types of new demands and obstacles, most HR leaders look to restructure their function or change their internal ways of working,” said Hudson. “Unfortunately, those approaches are only marginally increasing functional excellence because they fail to recognize a shift in the role of HR in organizations.”

Transforming HR’s Role to Convener & Catalyzer
HR’s legacy has been in areas like employment policies, and administration where HR is largely the “owner and operator” of their tasks. The new demands on HR are more conflicting, interdependent and novel with no clear owners nor single right answers. To succeed in today’s environment, HR will need to continue owning their legacy tasks while becoming a “convener and catalyzer” in the organization (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: HR’s Role Expanding Beyond Its Own and Operate Tasks

As a convener, HR is best positioned to bring stakeholders together and orchestrate a framework for that group to make decisions and find solutions. HR can then catalyze these stakeholders to ideate and determine new ways of working in today’s environment.

Leading HR organizations are focusing on three improvement areas to boost their functional excellence for this convene and catalyze role:

Participatory Prioritization
HR functions today face multiple challenges to prioritization – 51% of HR leaders reported they are receiving more requests for support, and 45% said it is more difficult now to handle conflicting demands.

Participatory prioritization goes beyond internal coordination, putting into place formal mechanisms to involve non-HR stakeholders and empower HR staff, while focusing on flexible reprioritization to anticipate business demand spikes to ensure priorities are not derailed.

Business-Enabling Digitalization
Technology is increasingly integral to how HR functions deliver and is a key part of its convene and catalyze role. A January 2023 Gartner survey of 118 HR leaders revealed nearly half plan to increase investments in HR technology this year.

While digitalized processes make work easier within HR, a February 2023 Gartner survey of more than 3,500 employees found only 36% of employees feel that HR proactively looks for ways to make processes and systems more user-friendly.

Progressive HR functions are ensuring their digitalization efforts move beyond just HR-centered processes and are truly business-enabling. For this to be successful, HR needs to ensure its roadmap for digitalization is in sync with the organization’s other functions to provide a cohesive end-user experience.

Augmenting HR Expertise
Despite investing in skills development, 55% of HR leaders reported they have more issues stemming from gaps in HR employee capabilities than before the pandemic. Leading HR functions are growing internal skills while simultaneously incorporating non-HR knowledge into the function.

“HR needs to allow a more permeable movement of talent into and out of the function, yet only one-quarter of HR leaders say their staffing model allows them to bring non-HR people into HR roles,” noted Hudson. “This type of collaboration with the wider organization will help HR address the novel workforce issues they are now facing.” Gartner

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