Gartner HR Survey Finds 52% of Organizations Business Operations Continuing at Reduced LevelA Gartner, Inc. survey of 172 HR leaders found that 52% reported their organization’s business operations are continuing at a reduced level due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the same survey, 40% of 146 respondents reported optimizing costs as the business priority that has changed the most since early this year.


To address these issues and best support the business, HR leaders are adjusting their priorities for the remainder of 2020. In December 2019, the top five HR priorities for 2020 were: building critical skills and competencies, strengthening the current and future leadership bench, incorporating organizational design and change management, driving digital business transformation, and enhancing employee experience.Gartner survey of 160 HR leaders found that while the top five priorities have not changed, the order and – more importantly – the lens through which organisations must view the priorities have which include:

1. Future of Work

Leaders need to consider the predictions for what the future of work will look like and assess the likelihood of each trend impacting the organisation.

“For many, if not all, organisations the 3-year strategic plan may be gone and planning is occurring quarterly,” says Brian Kropp, Distinguished Vice President, Gartner. “Perhaps most importantly, understanding the future of work is about understanding the permanent workplace shifts post-COVID.

2. Critical skills and competency development

In a recent Gartner survey of 113 learning and development leaders, 71% said that more than 40% of their workforce has needed new skills due to changes to work brought on by COVID-19.

To adopt a more dynamic approach to managing shifting skill needs, HR leaders should first identify areas of the organization with significant changes in priorities and related changes in skill needs. Next, the roles and projects that need support should be broken into individual skills and outcomes. Learning and development leaders can partner with managers to upskill a select cohort of motivated and influential employees to provide personalized learning support to colleagues.

Finally, foster internal movement across the organization by engaging employees to gauge their skills, goals and points of confusion around organizational skill needs.

3. Organisational design and change management

Gartner research shows that successful change management outcomes require a shift away from the traditional cascading of initiatives down from senior leaders to employees. More productive is open source change involving employees directly. The probability of change success increases by as much as 24 percentage points with the open-source approach.

“To achieve an open source change culture, HR needs to help managers and leaders create two-way dialogues that acknowledge the reality that change is difficult and then listen to employees’ reactions,” says Mark Whittle, Vice President, Advisory, Gartner.

Adopting open source change management can positively affect several talent outcomes, including employee engagement, intent to stay and discretionary effort.

4. Employee experience

The pandemic and fallout have changed the focus of employee experience to sustaining the performance and engagement of a distributed workforce — where some employees work fully remote or partially remote and others at the workplace.

5. Current and future leadership

Organizations need resilient leaders more than ever. To foster resilience, leaders need support at the personal, team and institutional levels.

Personally, HR must work with leaders to identify skill gaps and create leader-to-leader partnerships that give them opportunities to help each other by pairing those with complementary skills.

In a remote work environment, employees are 3.5 times more likely to collaborate with five or more teams than when in the office. Leaders need to learn how to better lead during ambiguity, how to identify and secure needed resources for their teams, and how to better connect their teams and direct reports with others to develop skills and get more resources.

From an institutional standpoint, HR needs to ensure that performance management objectives reflect and reward leaders who efficiently connect teams to the right resources. Leaders must also be empowered and encouraged to dynamically adjust annual goals and review all workflows to align to the right priorities.