The 6 Biggest Concerns for CHROs in the Second Half of 2020


A lot of organizations came into 2020 with big plans around new technology, new recruiting methods and new ways to go about improving the employee experience. Those plans certainly didn’t involve moving the entire organization to remote work, layoffs, furloughs, shutdowns and new regulatory measures to comply with.

By the end of the first quarter, those priorities had changed drastically for most HR professionals and now, as hectic second half of the year is underway, priorities are shifting yet again. There is a great deal for CHROs to consider as they look toward the future, both near and short term. Here are 6 things of the most important ones that leaders will want to emerge from 2020 having either addressed or begun strategizing for.

Workforce Planning

The pandemic has sparked a rethinking around workforce planning and what happens next in terms of reskilling and career mapping for their people. Around one-third of all leaders say workforce planning is a high priority over the next 12 months in a recent report from McKinsey & Company.

READ: The Art of Career Mapping: HR’s Guide to Reskilling the Workforce

With hiring budgets in a state of flux and the future being so uncertain, the focus for many CHROs is on uncovering the skills their teams need to develop now to help the business weather the storm and come out of this crisis with a clear vision for how it will operate in a post pandemic world. Expectations have shifted and with it, so have the possibilities.

With remote work becoming more of a norm, a workforce that isn’t constrained by borders is closer to reality than ever. This can have a big impact on addressing skills shortages, diversifying cultural perspectives within the company and development of new talent acquisition strategies after the pandemic is over.

In the end, the devil is in the details and this is as good a time as any to get into those. The road to recovery is paved by the workforce planning efforts HR leaders do now, but it won’t be realized by simply envisioning a destination. HR and finance leaders within the organization have to collectively sink their teeth into where the organization is and what steps are necessary to get to where they want to go.  

Learning and Development

L&D teams suddenly find themselves at the center of the organization’s priorities. CHROs will do well to work even more closely with learning leaders to identify new skills and ensure wider access to training materials across the organization. As conversations around organizational agility and employee reskilling ramp up, the focus on L&D as a driver of business results is only going to intensify.

For CHROs and CLOs, a major consideration question to answer will be about investment and how long it can be sustained.

“Learning and development is not a “nice to have”, even more so now,” says Gabrielle Botelho, HR Director at geoscience company CGG. “Delivering capabilities for the future is one of the main functions of L&D. It’s about creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, which promotes the business growth. In the current scenario, there are many industries that are suffering with this crisis, such as retail, airlines, tourism, automotive, oil and gas, among others. For these industries, it is quite challenging to keep the investment in L&D now.”

The crisis has forced a lot of L&D content into digital systems at a rapid rate, a change that was already occurring but has now been done well ahead of initial timelines. This could present HR with an opportunity to begin collecting data on learning initiatives and effectiveness in ways that weren’t possible through in-person trainings. Understanding the right metrics around training and how it can influence skill development and organizational effectiveness will be vital going forward.

Employee Wellbeing

People are working longer hours from home and their habits are quickly changing. To keep a productive and inspired workforce, every HR team needs to be looking at employee mental health and wellbeing. The fact is, these are stressful times for everyone. A trip to the grocery store is filled with uncertainty as the supply shortages, public health and safety and the social ramifications of pandemic all weigh on people’s mind in that once trivial activity.

From day-to-day, the people that make up our organizations are experiencing a great deal of stress. CHROs should look to connect to the workforce where they can and help them find balance in their lives. Employees can hear from their managers that they should disconnect and go for a walk or take a day for their mental health, but the continuity of that messaging matters and hearing from people at the top of the organization will help a great deal to increase employee comfort levels.

There is a lot for everyone in HR to think about right now, so much so that Gallup provided a comprehensive list of tactics to help mitigate issues with employee wellbeing. From workplace to safety to employee engagement on everything from polarizing social issues that spill into the workplace to health benefits and pay adjustments, it’s down to CHROs to set the right tone within the organization to create continuity and inspire trust.

READ: The Importance of Addressing Social Issues in the Workplace


Part of the process of ensuring people their jobs aren’t at risk and helping them to be productive is steady communication from leadership. CHROs should be looking to reassure everyone within the organization of the processes and precautions the organization is adhering to in an effort to ensure everyone’s safety.

Regular communication inspires a bit of faith and should include some personal elements so that everyone is reminded of the humanity of the organization. Additionally, CHROs should remind everyone to get news from credible sources and to not spread rumor or information that may be alarming to co-workers.

Messages from leadership should occur regularly and be tailored to the audience. As this crisis goes on, those messages can change, but one thing should remain constant, their sincerity and transparency. This isn’t a PR exercise, it’s an opportunity to lay it out there for our people and CHROs shouldn’t underestimate the power of doing so.

Remote Culture

The shift to remote happened faster than it ever would have naturally do to the pandemic. But it comes at a cost as teams who had traditionally been in-person suddenly found themselves working at home among kids trying to finish the school year, pets, neighbors and a variety of other distractions. The switch has predictably upended people’s routine and typical working hours meaning companies have had to show more empathy toward the lives their employees lead outside the walls they traditionally interacted in.

While it’s tempting to want to maintain culture and in some ways, companies who had an effective culture should look to do so, it’s also important to recognize the ways in which that is impossible. Remote culture will be different, but that is okay. Work-life integration in this environment isn’t going anywhere, so the only thing that remains in question is how leaders embrace it. CHROs can set the example for lower level managers who may be struggling with things like asynchronous workflows and flexible scheduling.

While we are seeing that remote work doesn’t mean a dip in productivity, it may have other ramifications for things like innovation and cross-functionality. How those challenges are tackled comes down to culture and how leaders inspire the development of a remote first culture.

READ: Challenges and Opportunities in the Remote Workplace

Contingency Planning

The CHRO role has taken on a great deal of importance during this crisis. It’s been widely repeated that the CHRO is to this crisis what the CFO was to the Great Recession. Part of the legacy CHROs will carry out of this period is how they reacted and how they applied new strategies to the lessons they learned. For many, one of the biggest lessons was the importance of a contingency plan.

Moving forward, HR will have to plan for the possibilities the world may throw at the business more than any other department. The current social unrest, public health concerns and political climate could spin off in a variety of directions and leave the business reeling if CHROs and the teams around them don’t take contingency planning into account when making almost all of the decisions they have to make.

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