In this post, we outline the 5 most important HR topics currently up for discussion: Diversity, equity, and inclusion; improving company culture with trust; employee wellness and well-being; sustainable work; and navigating new frontiers of AI.
If you work in HR, you know that 2023 has brought many exciting opportunities — and its fair share of challenges. Whether it’s navigating the rise of AI, seeking new and impactful ways to improve your company culture, or taking steps towards sustainable work; there’s plenty to talk about and even more to be done.
So what are the most important HR topics on the table in 2023 and beyond? Keep reading to learn more about these critical topics and what they mean for HR managers.
Table of Contents
- 1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
- 2. Improving company culture with trust
- 3. Employee wellness and well-being
- 4. Sustainable work
- 5. Navigating new frontiers of AI
- The most important HR topics for 2023: In summary
1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
Many companies have long pledged their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, with financial investment in DEI showing steady growth. In 2020, companies spent an estimated $7.5 billion dollars on DEI initiatives — a figure that is expected to reach $15.4 billion by 2026.
However, actual progress is slow. If we continue at the current rate, it will take another 151 years to close the global Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap (World Economic Forum).
At the same time, there’s still a stark lack of diversity at leadership level. In the United States, over 75% of managers are white, as are 83% at senior management level and 85% at executive level (US Census Bureau).
In 2023 and beyond, HR managers will need to think hard about how to progress from “good intent” and tokenism to actual, impactful progress.
In doing so, it will be crucial to evaluate what works and what doesn’t (learning from own experience as well as other companies), to identify inequities that exist within the company — with a strong focus on data collection and analysis — and, most importantly, to implement a plan of action that builds towards sustainable impact.
A 2023 report by McKinsey & Company identifies five key success factors that contribute to significant and scalable DEI impact. These are:
- A nuanced understanding of the root causes (with input from the target population)
- A meaningful definition of success, including setting clear and quantifiable goals
- Accountable and invested business leaders who not only model and lead the desired change, but also ensure the necessary resources are available
- Solutions designed for context — i.e., solutions that address the root causes and can be integrated into key processes and ways of working, leading to long-term impact
- Rigorous tracking and course correction, including defining KPIs and using data and feedback to inform next steps
Among the most important HR topics for this year will be making sure that DEI budgets are well spent and that the company is working towards concrete goals with a clear, actionable, and measurable plan for achieving them.
2. Improving company culture with trust
Since the pandemic, there’s been a huge focus on employee engagement, retention, and well-being — driven by trends such as the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, as well as a general realization that stressed, burned out, and otherwise unhappy employees are not good for business.
Employers and HR managers are taking much greater care and responsibility for building a positive, pleasant, and healthy company culture. As they do so, trust is becoming one of the most talked-about HR topics.
In a Great Place To Work® study, trust came out as the “magic ingredient” for creating a positive employee experience. More and more employers are realizing this and will focus on trust-building as a critical initiative for 2023 and beyond.
A specific priority will be increasing employees’ trust in leadership. Research highlights a significant “trust gap”; while 64% of executives trust their organizations, only 51% of managers and 48% of other staff can say the same.
Up for discussion among HR managers will be defining what trust actually means and how it manifests itself in workplace culture. From there, employers must consider concrete actions they can take to build trust in their own organization.
Ultimately, the onus will be on leaders to understand the role that trust plays in improving teamwork, boosting efficiency and productivity, enhancing employee engagement, and reducing stress and burnout — and make a conscious effort to nurture it.
This will include fostering transparency, promoting a healthy feedback culture, encouraging two-way communication, and creating psychological safety at work.
3. Employee wellness and well-being
Employee well-being is by no means a new HR topic, but it’s one that continues to take center stage. And for good reason: happy, healthy employees are crucial for business.
While some companies appear to be cutting back on their employee well-being efforts (including Google, who let go of their head of mental health and well-being earlier in 2023, together with many other employees on the mental health and well-being team), others aren’t shying away from the reality that employee well-being directly impacts company performance.
So what’s new in 2023?
In the midst and immediate wake of the pandemic, HR managers were compelled to acknowledge employee mental health and take measures to address the alarming rates of stress and burnout. Now, a few years on, HR managers are expanding their focus. Mental health continues to be a top priority, but other facets of well-being are coming into play, too.
For example, more employers are leaning into flexible work by trialing the four-day week and/or offering remote or hybrid set-ups.
Financial wellness is also garnering attention. Research finds that 72% of employees are stressed about their finances (up from 65% in the previous year) and that financial wellness support is one of the most sought-after corporate benefits. At the same time, a Bank of America study found that 97% of employers feel responsible for their employees’ financial wellness. As such, increasing financial support and providing financial education will be a hot HR topic going forward.
In general, 2023 will see a continuation and refinement of HR’s focus on employee well-being. HR managers will be looking to take a more holistic approach, asking themselves: How can we nurture employee wellness beyond addressing burnout and offering flexibility?
4. Sustainable work
Sustainable work is about creating an environment that enables people to stay in work for a long period of time. In this context, “environment’ relates to both the workplace and society at large.
From a HR manager’s perspective, sustainable work is critical as it impacts both employee well-being and business performance. It also ties in with the increasing focus on employee learning and development. In fact, many of the most important HR topics lead back to sustainable work in some way.
In 2023 and beyond, HR managers will take several steps towards sustainable work. First, they’ll place greater emphasis on individual growth, helping their employees remain employable. This includes providing opportunities to learn, upskill, and progress within the company.
They will also approach professional development from a business perspective, leveraging it as a way to close skills gaps and nurture internal mobility. This boosts employee engagement and retention, while also helping to increase productivity, cut costs, and generally grow a sustainable, future-proof business.
Ultimately, the question HR managers will be asking is: How can we ensure a sustainable, high-quality way of working that fosters long-term engagement?
5. Navigating new frontiers of AI
Ever since the launch of ChatGPT at the end of 2022, it’s been impossible to ignore that the once looming “rise of AI” is very much here and now.
There’s plenty of buzz around how AI can automate routine tasks, as well as its potential to transform the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process. And it’s not just buzz — the adoption of AI technology is high among HR managers. In Eightfold AI’s 2022 Talent Survey, 78% of HR leaders said they were already using AI for employee records management, while 73% were using it for recruitment and hiring, and 72% were using it for performance management.
So far, the discussion has focused largely on finding the best AI-driven tools and identifying the areas of HR that can benefit the most. Now, attention must shift to recognizing and managing the potential dangers.
One of the biggest concerns regarding AI for HR is the issue of bias. Despite reports that AI can help reduce bias in the hiring process, there’s evidence to suggest that it may in fact amplify it. This is one example of how AI may create more problems than it solves.
HR managers must ensure that they’re using AI ethically and responsibly, and that their time-saving tools aren’t doing more harm than good. The challenge lies in striking a balance — and, perhaps most importantly, always relying on your uniquely human ability to understand emotion and practice empathy.
HR is, after all, a people-first discipline. As the rise of AI continues, HR managers must strive to keep it that way.
The most important HR topics for 2023: In summary
HR managers have much to contend with in 2023 and beyond. To summarize, the most important HR topics up for discussion will be:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion — How do we move from intent to impactful progress?
- Improving company culture with trust — How can we cultivate trust in the leadership team and the organization as a whole?
- Employee wellness — How do we expand our approach to include different facets of employee well-being, including flexible work and financial health?
- Sustainable work — How do we create an environment that enables our employees to learn, develop, and remain engaged in work for the long-term?
- Navigating the rise of AI — How do we leverage AI for good while being aware of the potential dangers?
So, what next? We recommend exploring each of these topics in more detail — focusing on how you can leverage them to improve your company culture while also getting ahead of their associated challenges. And, for more workplace news and hot HR topics, check out the five most important HR trends for 2023 and beyond.