Executive need to listen

COLUMN | January 25, 2023 | 3 min read

​​Insights to help HR leaders navigate uncertainty in 2023

Tumultuous times provide a unique opportunity to make work better for people. Here’s how to seize it.

By Jacqui Canney, chief people officer, ServiceNow


CEOs today expect much more of their human resources (HR) teams. HR was once seen as a transactional function to process payroll and benefits, but now organizations are increasingly depending on modern, sophisticated people strategies to drive their businesses.

Over the past three years, we have responded to crisis after crisis in which HR leaders had to step up. Just as signs of stability have started to emerge, we can see new economic turbulence. The World Bank has projected that “the world may be edging toward a global recession in 2023.”

As we brace for more uncertainty, some HR teams are grappling with how to do more with less. According to the 2022 PwC Pulse Survey, 81% of executives believed there would be a recession in the next six months, and 81% of HR chiefs said they were already implementing at least one strategy to reduce or adjust the size of their workforce. Some companies are asking their HR leaders challenging questions: How can we cut costs and get more value? How can we boost employee productivity and efficiency?

In the meantime, competition for talent remains tough. People continue to reevaluate their priorities, and the talent skills gap tests all of us. Leaders are looking for HR best practices to attract and retain people with the skills to adapt to evolving business needs.

Despite the forecast, I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make work better for people. Radical shifts can supercharge growth. We can meet people where they are with flexibility, empathy, and new opportunities.

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Nobody has all the answers. But we can work together to embrace change with agile, smart, creative solutions. Below are a few key areas where HR leaders can focus to deliver for their people in 2023.

1. Skills intelligence technology will accelerate rapidly. For decades, leaders have wanted better ways to pinpoint skills that offer a competitive edge and to measure their business success. But translating the skills theory into action has been inefficient and ineffective. We see a game-changing opportunity today because technology has evolved to meet the moment. We are harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to map a skills intelligence system at scale.

2. Strengthening power skills will drive business outcomes. When we listen closely to our people, we know they want new opportunities that will help them grow themselves, their teams, and their business. Functional skills like coding and project management are vital, but power skills—like critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and creativity—open new doors, especially for upward mobility into leadership roles, more opportunities, and better compensation. From an organizational perspective, these skills translate into business outcomes, such as a better employee experience, increased productivity and efficiency, more equitable opportunities, and more diversity in the senior ranks.

3. As the role of the HR leader changes, “agility” will be our watchword. The roles of HR teams and leaders continue to change significantly as more companies understand their people are the key to business growth. Navigating this shifting landscape depends on agility, especially when it comes to finding and attracting people with the skills to drive the business. From my conversations with leaders, I know how tough it can be to filter relevant data when we are swamped with incoming information. Leaders need a single view of the enterprise, with insights, data, and tools to make smart, quick decisions.

4. The role of the manager will continue to be reinvented. As we have lived through immense changes at work, people managers have risen to the occasion. Their jobs are more difficult than ever as they juggle how to lead and inspire their teams in a hybrid world. Most important, managers are now the catalyst for employee growth and development. We need to enable managers with the right tools to succeed as they connect the business to its employees. Managers need personalized resources to keep them informed, engage with their teams, and coach their people with confidence.

5. The right technology will fuel exceptional employee experiences. We all have a deep desire to improve the employee experience. When I talk with HR leaders, I see them walking in their employees’ shoes and focusing on moments that matter. The challenge now is making the best case to invest in the employee experience when some companies are trying to cut costs. A great employee experience does not need to be expensive, and it helps boost employee productivity and efficiency. Digital solutions automate tasks and offer insights that help us predict what our people will need. In 2023, we all need to focus on supporting our people at every step of the employee journey, which can help any company gain a talent advantage.

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Author

Jacqui Canney is the chief people officer at ServiceNow.