Josh Bersin’s 9 HR areas to focus on this year

As the country struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, amid uncertain economic conditions, the challenges facing HR leaders as we settle into 2023 are more novel than usual at the start of a year—but that offers an unprecedented possibility for transformation.

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That’s according to industry analyst Josh Bersin, also a keynoter speaker at the upcoming HR Tech Conference Virtual. In an HRE webinar last week sponsored by ServiceNow, Bersin provided a comprehensive look at the 2023 mandate for HR: Ultimately, he says, this year needs to be about HR leaders preparing themselves, their leadership and their workforces for an entirely new world of work.

Here are nine key areas Bersin urged HR to pay attention to this year:

Skills: Apart from an ongoing labor shortage, Bersin says, we’re also seeing a skills shortage—and that has to be high on the 2023 priority list for HR. Among the top ways for organizations to arm themselves with the skills of the future are capability academies—which, he says, are not solely focused on upskilling employees, but also creating new networks that can bring employees and their skills together to tackle business challenges. It’s an approach, he notes, that must include deep employee listening as well as smart leveraging of technology. “You have to understand the [skills] problem before you can select the technology,” he cautions.

Learning and development: Sustainable, high-impact L&D strategies aren’t just about developing skills and capabilities—they’re also targeted to helping people grow their careers. “The practices that are driving the most impact today in L&D have to do with career growth—vertical and horizontal growth of individuals, giving people deeper skills so they can do better and more meaningful work in the jobs they’re in, and giving them the opportunity to move through roles,” Bersin explains. Currently, he sees a “huge gap” on a programmatic level between corporate-led training and actual self-directed, tailored growth experiences—and working toward the latter should be a “big priority” for HR leaders this year, he says.

Replay the full webinar here.

Talent mobility: Nearly 20 years ago, Bersin was involved in a report that advocated for “facilitated talent mobility” as a piece of the succession-management puzzle; at that time, “no one knew what we were talking about,” he says. Now, talent mobility is an “urgent, urgent issue” for HR, he says. Vendors like Gloat and Fuel50 pioneered talent management platforms years back and they have since been sweeping across the industry and, Bersin predicts, will be among the biggest new platforms in HR this year. Companies that successfully leverage these solutions see significant talent payoffs. In its work with clients including Seagate and MetLife, after deploying platforms that helped connect employees to new roles, gigs and, at times, mentors, the organizations saw productivity jump by 20%. “People who didn’t have time to do more work suddenly do have that time when they see something more interesting to do,” Bersin says.

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Hybrid work: “CEOs who have the belief that employees are all going to come back into the office someday are laboring under a delusion,” Bersin says, noting the “cat is out of the bag and not going back in” when it comes to the rise of hybrid work. This is working hand in hand with the development of new career models—no longer are employees happy to work for one company throughout their entire career. As more workers job hop, and HR can hire from anywhere, the entire skills landscape of certain cities is being reshaped, Bersin says. But, the actual practices, processes and tech tools to fuel hybrid work still aren’t quite “nailed down.” “There’s going to be a lot of interesting experimentation on this in 2023,” Bersin predicts.

See also: HR Tech Virtual: Fostering connection, community amid change

DE&I: This year, employers are going to need to step it up on DE&I—simply pursuing better metrics, and leaving that work to a head of DE&I, won’t suffice, Bersin says. Business leaders need to do a better job of understanding the full dimensions of diversity—the five generations now in the workplace, the recognition of many gender expressions, for instance—and tying their DE&I work to the broader business strategy. “A lot of CEOs will say, ‘We have a diversity initiative, and you as head of diversity within HR are going to lead it.’ That doesn’t work,” Bersin says. “Senior executives need to feel accountability for this, need to be acting on it and ensuring that all talent practices—from recruiting to pay to promotions to succession management and on and on—are being done in a diverse way.”

Employee experience: In a growth economy, as we’ve seen for years, employers are hiring at speed—but many haven’t effectively taken care of their employees, leading to a drop in EX and, thus, productivity. Now, amid a slowing economy, businesses may look to layoffs to reduce costs and up productivity—but that’s “not always the right idea,” Bersin cautions. Employers, led by HR, need to focus on a full organizational redesign this year—and it needs to be employee-focused. “The things that can create the most productivity and engagement in our companies have to do with growth, trust, training, automation, job design, mission and purpose,” Bersin says. “If you take care of those things, your revenue per employee will go up and you may not have to go through big layoffs to redeploy resources in the economy we’re in.”

Pay: In a recent survey of 800 companies, the Josh Bersin Academy found that most compensation and benefits leaders are “still living in the 1980s and ’90s,” Bersin says. For instance, just 1% of employers polled offer on-demand pay, 6% tie compensation to employee skills and 9% use social media sentiment to inform rewards strategies. “There’s a lot of opportunity to improve pay practices,” he says, noting that the actual dollar amount of salaries is just a piece of the conversation, as employees are also craving more frequent, flexible and tailored pay and rewards programs. His organization’s research also recently found that pay equity has an even greater impact on productivity than pay itself.

HR tech market: Bersin predicts spending in the market this year will either flatten or dip slightly; that doesn’t mean there won’t still be a lot of buying, but purchasers are going to be allocating their dollars to new categories, particularly as they strive to consolidate their tech stacks. He says the hot new categories to watch this year include: EX, talent marketplaces, career pathway, employee lifecycle listening, capability academies, intelligent talent acquisition suites, contract worker management, and pay and reward equity.

Role of HR: While upskilling the workforce should be a 2023 focus for people leaders, it’s also key for HR professionals to tend to their own development. If the last few years have shown employers anything about the people team, it’s that HR should no longer be looked at as an administrative or support function—and HR professionals need to have the skills to prove it. “We are a business function; we are in the supply chain of making our companies work,” Bersin says. “When you upskill yourself, your company will perform better.”

Hear more from Josh Bersin about his 2023 predictions in his keynote at the free, online HR Tech Conference Virtual, Feb. 28-March 2. Click here for more information.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at