Skills Are HR’s Biggest Post-COVID Priority

Driven by changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, human resources leaders have a full plate of priorities going into 2021. Topping their list is building the critical skills and competencies employees need to be successful at their job.

“Traditional ways of predicting skill needs aren’t working,” says the global research and consulting firm Gartner. “Employees need more skills for every job, and many of those skills are new.”

Presented in HR Leaders Priorities for 2021, an international survey of some 800 HR leaders, 36% of whom are CHROs, Gartner found reskilling the workforce was by far the most important issue for HR professionals. Almost 7-in-10 listed skills and competencies as their most important priority far exceeding the 46% who saw organizational design and change management as a top priority.

That training new skills should have emerged as such a critical issue is hardly surprising given that three-in-10 learning and development specialists said more than 40% of their workforce needs new skills because of COVID. In fact the rate at which the need for new skills just to do the same job is growing so fast that 31% of the HR leaders say they can’t create skill development solutions fast enough.

Leadership and the way the organization is structured are challenges both to the reskilling of the workforce – 36% admitted they don’t even know what skill gaps exist – and to the agility organizations need to be successful.

“Work design, focused for years on efficiency, has left many organizations with rigid structures, workflows, role design and networks that don’t meet today’s needs or flex with fast-changing conditions,” Gartner says. Citing another, smaller survey, Gartner said only 19% of HR leaders are confident their workforce can effectively shift direction to meet changing needs or priorities.

One reason: “Our managers aren’t equipped to lead change,” the Gartner survey found. A second reason: “Our leaders aren’t equipped to lead change,” 28% said.

Gartner identified three other priorities shared by the largest percentages of the HR respondents:

HR priorities - blog.jpg
  • Current and future bench strength (44%): “Our leadership bench is not diverse.”
  • Future of work (32%): “We do not have an explicit future of work strategy.”
  • Employee experience (28%): “Our employee engagement and employee experience strategies.”

Gartner says that in the post-COVID world, where remote work is common, disruption is to be expected and the expectations of employers have changed, it will be up to HR “to develop and evolve critical managerial and leadership roles and responsibilities, new organization structures and virtual HR strategies.”

HR leaders, concludes Gartner, “must navigate the new realities of the labor market to meet their talent needs and the expectation of their employers.”

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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