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Innovation is now the top priority for a both HR and non-HR business leaders, according to the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

The organisation found that innovation has become the priority business focus for 35% of HR leaders and 32% of non-HR leaders. But cost management, talent management and boosting productivity remain top priorities for UK business leaders.

The CIPD said that new ways of working are becoming a move obvious reality for businesses in the UK, but there is concern over how HR professionals will be able to help achieve a business' priorities, like innovation. Seventy-two per cent of HR leaders believe their current strategies will help the business to achieve its goals, but just 26% of non-HR business leaders agree. And nearly a third (31%) of non-HR leaders said HR should focus on increasing diversity to help boost innovation, just 19% of HR leaders said they were.

Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “With people being at the heart of how businesses operate, HR has a significant role to play in wider organisational innovation. This requires business-wide systemic thinking and action to affect change but the good news is that we can see from the report that the appetite from non-HR business leaders for HR to drive this change is there. HR leaders need to focus on growing technological and analytical capabilities within the function, so it has the ability to meet future business requirements and really flourish in the evolving world of work.”

The report also found differing views on the use of HR analytics. When non-HR leaders were asked to describe the analytic capability in their HR department, almost 3 in 10 (28%) said they didn’t know. More than a quarter (28%) said their HR department doesn’t share their analytics with key stakeholders, compared to 12% of HR leaders who thought this. This might explain why just 14% of non-HR leaders are satisfied with the HR analytics provided to them and also why, despite over three-quarters (78%) of HR leaders saying analytics are important to HR’s ability to deliver strategic value to their organisation, less than half (49%) of non-HR business leaders agree.

Dr Miller said: “If the HR function is to truly demonstrate its value-adding qualities within the business, HR analytics are a key way in which they can move conversations from ‘I think’ to ‘I know’, and have access to data to form persuasive evidence-based arguments for people management decisions. However, our research suggests that HR professionals need to better illustrate the insights they have at their disposal to key stakeholders outside of the function, in order to show the value that they can bring to wider business objectives. What gets measured gets managed, but only if that analytical data is interpreted and the rest of the business is engaged with the results.”

You can view the full report here.