News & Insights

HR Priorities 2023

COVID-19 and the current economic climate have had a dramatic impact on the priorities for HR professionals, directors and in-house counsel in the past year.

At our annual Employment Law Seminar, this year hosted at Green Park Conference Centre in Reading, we ask HR professionals, directors and in-house counsel what their number one HR priority is for the coming year. The changing results from when we first started recording these priorities in 2020 provide some insight into the most significant workplace challenges HR professionals currently face.

The biggest priority for HR professionals this year is the recruitment and retention of employees, with 42% of attendees stating that it is their main focus for 2023. This is particularly significant as it matches the results from 2022, suggesting that the importance of a focus on recruitment and retention has not wavered since last year. Factors such as “the great resignation” and the decreasing availability of skilled workers may well have contributed to this finding.

Two of the focus points saw an increase in votes since last year. The first, restructuring and cost-cutting, increased from 8% in 2022 to 16% in 2023. This is likely to be linked to the current economic downturn in the UK, following on from the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies are increasingly having to turn to cost reduction methods, as inflation and an uncertain economic climate continue to persist.

The percentage of those who voted for improving skills and performance also increased from last year, with 29% of attendees stating that this was their top priority for 2023. This is perhaps due to HR professionals finding it increasingly difficult to find and develop talent with the most in-demand skills quickly.

The vote for changing workplace practices saw a dramatic decrease from 18% in 2022 to 3% in 2023. This may be because most employers have introduced hybrid working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that there is less of a focus required on workplace practices. Employees are increasingly keen on flexible working, but the number of flexible jobs available falls well short of that demand; a lack of focus on changing workplace practices could be considered a worrisome finding for job seekers.

Finally, the survey also recorded a reduced interest in wellbeing and mental health, from 19% in 2022 to 10% in 2023. Research by the CIPD (the professional body for people and development) has found that wellbeing and mental health are beginning to ‘slip down the business agenda’. COVID-19 continues to impact workers and should be factored into HR priorities, particularly regarding those suffering from long COVID. If employers fail to apply due attention to these issues, they run the risk of losing valuable employees at a time where there are severe skills shortages.

Our poll results demonstrate that HR priorities continue to shift, in light of the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest economic crisis. We look forward to seeing how these priorities develop throughout 2023 and to see how dramatically they have changed by the time of the next seminar, in early 2024.