Are HR leaders missing the opportunity to be more impactful? Too many times I see HR Leaders not having the time to stop and refocus on what really matters to their business. We expect it of other leaders but do we challenge ourselves on this enough?

This has been my observation this year as we at Tap’d talk to more and more HRDs. It also explains, I believe, why our Tap’d Solutions HR Forums have become so popular, so quickly. I personally do not think there are enough ‘true’ platforms for HRDs to come together and openly discuss some of their key challenges.

Our next Tap’d HR Forum, on the 11th October, is around “Transforming HR: The Skills and Strategies needed for 2020”. I have written this two part blog to accompany and introduce this Forum. It provides insights from current articles, media and conversations I have had with HR leaders.

From my research, I foresee the following HR challenges as we head towards 2020:

1) Finding, retaining and growing the right TALENT for the future of your business
2) Having the right SKILLS for your current business needs, to meet strategic goals
3) Increasing PRODUCTIVITY through leveraging the human elements that impact positively
4) Listening effectively to your people, feeding back to them and taking action to raise ENGAGEMENT
5) ENABLING HR to be the integrated function it needs to be

So what will be the key challenges within each of these areas that senior HR leaders will need to consider? I will tackle the first three in this blog and the remaining two in part 2 next week.


The “war” for talent seems to have been rumbling on forever (I wonder who will win? Who is fighting who anyway?). However, the ethos of an ever decreasing pool of “off-the-shelf” available top performers will carry on being in short supply. This can be due in part to Globalisation maturing. As emerging countries have now ‘emerged’ they are slowing the net flow of their best and brightest heading for the traditional “modern world”. Indeed, there is a growing flow of western professionals being lured by corporations in the East and the BRIC countries where sophisticated and modern corporations are now plentiful.

This leads into the area of diversity. If we know that traditional pipelines of talent are drying up then the concept of seeking out untapped talent should be a “no-brainer”. A great example here is the Women In Food initiative by the Compass Group UKI. By supporting women entering a male dominated world of chefs, Compass are at the forefront of creating a gender balance in their kitchens as well as refilling the decreasing pool of available chefs.

Finally, the rise of the Gig Economy means we need to challenge the concept that our senior talent need to be employees. There is a trend for those talented people with 15-20 years’ experience to start out on their own. Experience and knowledge is leaking into the world of the contractor.


The key area here is the growing gap between school leaver output and the needs of a business heading towards 2020. The UKCES report “Growth Through People” highlights this as one of its 5 key findings. This CBI and TUC report says business needs to grasp this issue and the Government needs to enable it. This is one of the key reasons the Apprenticeship Levy came into effect this year. Mercer reports that 41% of HRDs they interviewed are planning or are offering Apprenticeships.

Secondly, the manufacturing, aerospace and defence sectors are among the first to report the impending issue of mass employee retirement from the “baby boomer” generation taking knowledge with them. One defence HR professional recently explained to me the issue. “There is a difference between knowledge and information. Knowledge is that competitive advantage that cannot be written down. For example, welding is a process with an instruction manual. However to get the best weld requires the skill that is learned and, if not shared, is lost forever when that person leaves”.

The graphic above shows research by Mercer recently on the demographics of our workforce. HR Leaders need to find ways to transfer that knowledge and skills from the high number of the aging baby boomer and traditionalist generations, onwards to other workers.


Raising productivity is only achieved when you break it down into the different elements that, when acted upon, together produce an overall rise. ACAS wrote a great white paper on this 2 years ago entitled “Building Productivity in the UK”. The graphic shows the 7 “levers” that when acted upon will raise productivity.

I like this graphic as it aligns to key areas I have identified that are critical to raising productivity. These include:

  • Enabling leadership: Developing the skills of Emotional Intelligence to build trust and engage their diverse teams
  • Employee Voice: Linking your engagement strategy of listening, acting and storytelling to raise commitment
  • Workforce planning: Often forgotten as an art, creating the right space, tools and environment for collaborative team success

In 2016, the CBI produced a report “Lifting the Trophy” that looked at what scale-up businesses did to achieve high levels of productivity. Their conclusion centred around:

  • Access to talent: Lack of skills slowed potential organisation growth
  • Engaging Employees: Turnover of staff produced significant drag on productivity
  • Leadership and management skills: Give line managers the tools to deliver better staff development and succession planning at a local level

Therefore any future HR strategy around raising productivity should be Leadership capability and Employee Engagement led.


I hope you found this first part of a two part series interesting.


Selected further reading associated with this article: