A new study outlines the different ways HR’s business priorities will change over the next decade – especially accounting for the challenges that this year has thrown at businesses, including COVID-19.

The Institute of Leadership and Management have released research which identifies the different ways HR professionals believe that HR’s priorities will change in the future.

The majority of leaders and managers (33 per cent) stated their belief that innovation will become the most important priority over the next five to 10 years. They also predict that innovation will become even more important than saving money.

This is particularly important for certain sectors including third sector and private sector organisations. In specific, almost half (43 per cent) of leaders from third sector organisations and almost two-fifths of private sector organisations (38 per cent) said innovation will become a key business priority in the future.

Another key concern in the future will be compassionate leadership, according to businesses. As it stands, over a third (34 per cent) of leaders within third sector organisations believe they already place people above profit.

However, the private sector sees this as an emerging priority over the next decade. A fifth of the leaders (20 per cent) at private sector organisations predicted that valuing their staff would become their most important priority over the next five to ten years.

An additional focus for many companies over the next decade is environmental responsibility, owing to the impending threat of climate change and global warming. Worryingly, as of now, only 2 per cent of businesses overall stated that this was a key priority.

However, over the next decade, this figure is expected to jump to 8 per cent overall. Leaders from public sector organisations were most likely to state this will be a priority in the future with 10 per cent agreeing.

Interestingly, something which is forecast to become less important over the next decade is ensuring compliance with rules and procedures. Overall, this was a key focus for over a quarter of leaders (26 per cent) in 2020. However, when considering how this was going to change in the future, only 10 per cent of leaders across all sectors believed this would remain an important priority, highlighting the stringent legal rules around COVID-19 may be impacting organisations significantly this year.

Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy and Standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said:

The new normal suggests a freedom to do things differently. During 2020 we’ve seen many businesses adapting brilliantly in response to the extraordinary challenges of this year; look at those organisations who are still in business having rapidly shifted to remote working despite previously resisting it. That experience of doing things differently and, anecdotally, successfully, seems to have instilled a confidence in many organisations about their resilience and capacity to be agile. So the predicted move away from compliance, and innovation becoming the number one priority for many, isn’t surprising.

We’ve heard many calls for a more compassionate style of management, a greater acceptance of bringing one’s whole self to work – and it seems our working relationships are finally beginning to change. Those well documented shifts in how we relate to people when we’re able to see their full selves in their homes – being interrupted by dogs, children and deliveries – have reminded us about the importance of looking after each other, supporting our colleagues’ mental health and being more understanding of others’ situations. This has never been more important than it has this year and is set to become a greater priority.

*These findings were taken from The Institute of Leadership & Management’s report ‘Future Trends in Leadership & Management: Shifting Priorities’.  The body surveyed 625 leaders and managers in an online survey during August 2020.