5 top challenges facing HR in 2020 | What the sector says

Jess Fuhl
Last updated on 9th December 2019
3 min read

From technology to governance, culture to communications and, of course, the law.

Wherever you look in the HR world, it seems there’s something new afoot, creating new challenges – and opportunities – for HR and People teams.

We’ve spoken to a range of leading global HR and People experts to find out the big challenges they’re expecting in 2020 and, more importantly, how they’re planning to deal with them.

1. Pay reporting and transparency

While we’re still a way away from disclosing all employees’ salaries, organizations are now increasingly expected to provide gender pay gap, CEO pay ratio, and ethnicity pay gap reports.

Alan Price, Group Operations Director and HR Expert at HR consultancy Peninsula believes that pay transparency will continue to grow in importance.

“The ongoing conversation about pay creates a challenge for HR as more employees become concerned or start asking questions about their own pay levels,” he explains.

“Handling these queries or concerns inappropriately could lead to employees becoming disgruntled, raising grievances, or even leaving the company.”

Price recommends HR and People leaders focus on being open and honest about pay levels, such as introducing a transparent salary framework or banding, which can help overcome uncertainty about pay.

In addition, Price thinks it’s important to set clear objectives and schedule regular pay reviews, to reassure employees they have an appropriate place to discuss pay when they need to.

Further reading: 5 things we learnt from gender pay gap reporting in the UK

2. Leverage the C-Suite to help win the ongoing war for talent

Attracting and retaining top talent continues to be top of many HR leaders’ agendas.

Sally Cullen, an HR consultant at McLean HR, has over 20 years’ experience of working alongside some of the world’s largest global firms. She believes HR leaders need to work together with senior managers to re-write recruitment and retention strategies from start-to-finish.

By improving the connection between management and HR, she believes organizations can “initiate strategies and structures that grow value and deliver competitive advantage” in the war for talent.

Cullen uses company culture as an example – while HR and People know what it takes to attract and retain staff, senior management must be the ones to create this culture. Only by working together can the two teams achieve this joint goal.

Further reading: HR leaders, here’s what’s keeping your CEO up at night – and what to do about it

3. Shifting the focus from diversity to inclusion

The Catalyst Collective works with female business leaders to transform their organizations. In 2020, they believe HR and People teams should be focusing on moving from a culture of diversity, to one of inclusion.

As co-founder Fiona Smith explains: “Diversity changes the way an organisation looks, thinks, behaves and feels.”

However, she says, “If we just focus on diversity without developing a culture of inclusion, we may well attract a mix of people, but they will be less likely to stay.”

With that in mind, Smith advises HR professionals to look beyond the hiring process and consider instead how inclusive their organization’s culture is.

Not only is this the best way to guarantee retention, it can also act as a magnet for talent, drawing diverse applications.

Further reading: What role should HR teams play in diversity and inclusion?

4. Personalized experiences, such as employee wellbeing

Millennials, Alan Price explains, have an increasing focus on wellbeing and workplace culture.

For HR professionals, this continues to present a challenge as it removes the focus from traditional recruitment and retention factors, such as salaries, to those which are less measurable – such as work-life balance.

Price therefore recommends HR and People teams treat employees in their organizations more like individuals, rather than a collective, and personalize experiences. “An initiative one employee likes is likely to differ from the ones their colleagues want,” he explains.

“So, rather than offering general incentives, such as subsidized gym memberships, HR can take a proactive approach by focusing initiatives on tangible things.”

Price suggests picking a theme – such as improving communication or developing skills – and then allowing staff flexibility in how they utilize this benefit.

Further reading: 6 ways to use hyper-personalization to attract and retain top talent

5. Getting buy-in for HR investment

An occurring theme that arose when we asked HR leaders about challenges, was the ongoing case for HR investment.

Without a clear ROI and business case, it can sometimes be hard to get that all-important slice of budget.

Our 10-step guide ‘How to make the business case for HR investment’ sets out how to; effectively quantify and demonstrate the benefits of HR investment, influence decision makers, and structure a business case in the most compelling way possible.

Further reading: The 10-step guide to building a compelling business case for HR investment

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