As we launched the new Johns Hopkins Human Capital Development Lab this month in Washington, D.C., we asked 300 CHROs about their priorities for the year ahead. While there are many competing priorities for many executives and several unique situations by industry and location (e.g. union strikes, climate disasters, etc.), we found a clear pattern of priorities with global firms.
Topping the list of CHRO's current priorities is the Future of Work coupled with all the implications that come with the challenges associated with managing variations in work modalities. The future of work also refers to how work is likely to shift amid digitisation and other emerging trends and how organisations and individuals can best prepare for these changes. Addressing organisational culture with the modality and digital shifts continues to be a concern. Of the respondents, 68.2% indicated work design and process in the future and the impact on workplace culture is one of their top priorities.
Second on the list for CHROs is the Development of Human Capital for the future needs of the organisation. More than half of the respondents (54.5%) identified the need to reskill existing talents and redefine the future competencies needed for the workforce. Coupled with the development of skills, is a need to address wellbeing at work as an enabler of future capability and performance.
Given the shifts in work arrangements and the continued adoption of advanced digital technologies, many organisations anticipate a future need for transformation of business operations. Recent workplace studies suggest that by understanding the forces driving transformation in the workplace and the skills and resources that will be needed to succeed in the coming years, businesses and workers alike can position themselves for success in a rapidly evolving world.
Third on the priority list is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in organisations. AI will continue to play an important role in the growth and future of organisations across industries. More than one-third (38.4%) of those surveyed mentioned AI-human teaming as both a concern and an opportunity. The rapid rise in AI awareness and use spawned by ChatGPT has raised new questions regarding ethics, governance, and integration inside organisations and those that they serve. It seems that HR leaders are often in the key role to help navigate these new challenges.
Understandably, the disruptive nature of the future of work and the promise of AI are capturing the attention of business executives today. Yet, this also raises more questions about the planning needed to help human capital leaders prepare for what may lie ahead in the future.
What is also noteworthy is what did not make the top of the list. While many organisations and CHROs in locations around the world are working on sustainability goals and ESG efforts, this did not surface as a priority for this US-based group. Perhaps this is because ESG measurement and efforts are already in place in many large organisations, or due to the nature of the role of the CHRO relative to other C-Suite executives. In addition, ESG received considerable attention in the past few years, resulting in a loose consensus among companies across industries that taking care of the environment and being mindful of social and governance issues are good for business. As a result, people leaders are taking a greater interest in unresolved issues related to the future of work and AI integration.
This snapshot of priorities provides good insight into not only the focus of CHROs but also the capabilities needed for HR professionals. With more focus on the digital and AI developments in organisations along with the people-centric needs related to culture and wellbeing create a dichotomy of needs across disciplines. In addition to the need to prepare HR departments for the coming change, challenges are a future demand for developing organisational leaders with the capabilities to navigate technology integration while also addressing human capital needs in multiple ways and modalities.
While the current priorities for CHROs may not be surprising, the rapid pace of changes may create organisational issues that may create a sense of urgency for HR leaders' efforts to prepare for the coming disruption.