Global HR Outlook Q3 2020


As we work through the third quarter of 2020, while we are not seeing life returning to ‘normal’ we are witnessing the HR profession normalize as the firefighting phase of the COVID-19 pandemic winds down and companies start to build plans for the future. Many progressive employers are now taking the opportunity to build and shape tomorrow’s leadership teams which can champion new ways of working while measuring and managing performance, employee engagement, and culture.

Over the past few months, Human Resources leaders have been front and center, transitioning their workforces from physical to virtual; and for some, from virtual back to the office again. This overall experience has created an opportunity for HR to showcase its broader agility, business understanding, and capability.

We have been seeing a notable increase in demand for transformative, analytical, and agile HR business partners. Often in senior leadership roles, these business partnering mandates work with the CEO and senior executives to steer organizations into the new world of work and accelerate their workforce transformation agendas. We are also seeing needs for organizational development capability particularly in a project capacity as organizations digitize, refine their operating models, and incorporate the new ways of working.

Linked to this transformational skillset, progressive organizations will continue to strengthen their HR analytics and HR technology teams. HR shared services is also being scrutinized. More efficiency will be required, but generally not at the expense of the user experience. We believe the future will see more investment in technology and a reshaping of global business services in general, including HR.

HR leaders managing workplace health and safety are enhancing strategies and revamping capability.  This is another area where we will continue to see organizations adding resources and depleting the already under-pressure talent pool as they strive to ensure ‘safety first’ is central to business continuity management.

Talent acquisition continues to rapidly evolve. For some organizations, the talent pool has become much broader for creatively minded sourcing teams. There are already organizations which are taking advantage and being early adopters, offering talent working from home opportunities that have not been on offer before. We are also noticing a trend towards more HR business partners moving into talent acquisition. HR and business leaders are calling out for stronger and more credible partnership to help grow their markets and become more competitive. HR business partners are increasingly being sourced to lead TA functions, with the expectation that they can quickly build credibility within the business, understand key people and business drivers and link new talent to bottom-line performance.

Talent acquisition leaders are adding executive recruiters to their teams. This is not only to work more closely with business leaders internally but also to foster closer relationships with search partners. This is with a longer-term approach to developing key executive talent pipelines and an understanding of how to attract these individuals.

The high-profile D&I / DEI function is evolving and there is recognition from business and HR leaders that more action needs to be taken to keep driving this important issue. The source of talent into this area is starting to broaden with an acceptance that new ideas from HRBPs, Talent, and Analytics leaders might bring something different to the table. Notably, diverse talent is in high demand. And by diverse we are not necessarily using its broadest definition. Gender and ethnicity are the two major gears for change.

Even against the backdrop of COVID-related impacts, 2020 has seen a consistent need for global total rewards leaders who are able to harmonize, innovate and excel in areas of executive compensation, recognition programs and wellness offerings.

Finally, as we consider ‘what’s next’, we believe it is fair to say that employees and boards will long remember how their HR and business leadership coped with COVID-19 and the social justice movements of 2020. This has created pockets of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. We expect this will create some market movement within senior HR circles in the coming months.


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