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4 HR Priorities You Need to Focus on This New Year Employers need to focus more on creating a culture in which roles are defined and communications are open.

By Heather R. Huhman

entrepreneur daily

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The new year has begun, and with it comes the opportunity to review the biggest problems from last year and determine their solutions. In a survey by Waggl in December, business leaders, HR leaders and consultants reported their top HR priorities for 2016. Those ranged from developing leaders, improving collaboration and changing company culture to focusing more on employees.

Related: 3 HR Trends That Are Becoming Best Practices

Although priorities will vary from organization to organization, overall trends can guide decisions and help determine the biggest problems to target and fix throughout the coming year. Here are a few of the top HR issues to focus on in 2016:

1. Develop leaders at all levels.

Good leaders are hard to find, but they're critical to the success of employees and the company as a whole. That's why, in 2016, HR professionals are putting a greater emphasis on developing leaders from within the company.

Among those surveyed by Waggl, 74.1 percent identified encouraging a growth mindset or leadership at all levels as a top HR priority for 2016. In addition, HR professionals surveyed by SHRM in November 2015 named developing the next generation of organizational leaders as the top future human capital challenge.

To secure a long line of future leaders, training and development needs to start at every level. This begins with a culture of accountability and education. The implication here for employers is to invest in training opportunities, develop mentorship programs and establish other leadership-development programs.

In short, get everyone involved -- not just those who will be promoted to a leadership position later this year.

Related: Why You Need to Embrace the Big Data Trend in HR

2. Improve teamwork.

Under effective leaders are efficient teams who collaborate to complete tasks. But teams aren't communicating and working together as efficiently as they should be: Employees surveyed by Wrike in October 2015 ranked lack of collaboration and team members not pulling their weight among the top stressors at work.

Dysfunctional teamwork is one of the top HR issues, and it's no surprise that 71.6 percent of professionals surveyed by Waggl said agility, collaboration and trust were major priorities for the new year. Those surveyed by SHRM agreed that teamwork is a challenge: Creating an organizational culture where trust, open communication and fairness are emphasized and demonstrated by leaders was the top tactic professionals said was needed to meet HR challenges.

Although employers said they were interested in creating more collaborative work environments, there was a disconnect between them and their employees. So, the takeaway for employers seemed to suggest focusing on creating a culture in which roles are clearly defined, employees communicate openly and everyone on the team works together to get the job done.

Teamwork starts from the top, so get management involved to lead the charge to better collaboration.

3. Find the right talent.

HR issues aren't limited to current employees -- employers are struggling to fill talent needs, as well. Employers want top talent who will push the organization forward, but such people are tough to find. In the Waggl survey, 71.1 percent of professionals ranked finding the right, innovative talent among the top HR issues for 2016.

Although employers are looking for talent with advanced skills, most have trouble finding professionals with even the basic skills needed for open positions, a report from Burning Glass, suggested, in November 2015. On average, one in three skills requested in job postings was a baseline skill, the employer-respondents said, and gaps in these skills exist in nearly every industry.

The lesson here was that, in 2016, employers need to find a balance between recruiting for baseline and advanced skills. Instead of searching for the unrealistic professional who "can do it all," they should determine which few skills are the most important for the job and focus on them.

The recommendation here? Use pre-hire assessments and other screening tools to test the skills that matter most. Tools like CredHive allow employers to view work samples from candidates and focus on practical knowledge instead of job requirements.

4. Overhaul performance reviews.

Ineffective performance reviews have been among HR's top issues for a while -- but that doesn't mean that they're going anywhere.

Among Canadian and U.S. employers surveyed by Towers and Watson in November 2015, only 8 percent of respondents said that they had eliminated these reviews altogether. Yet, employers recognized the need for change. In the survey, 50 percent of respondents said they had changed or planned to change their annual review process in favor of more frequent interactions between employees and managers.

Those surveyed by Waggl held similar views: Some 97 percent said that listening to their employees and incorporating their ideas was critical to an organization's success. Indeed, the annual performance review doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore. Some 81 percent of employers surveyed by Towers Watson said their managers spent too little time in ongoing conversations with employees about their performance.

The lesson here is that employees want and need more feedback, and managers need more input from their team. In 2016, it will be useful to focus on facilitating ongoing conversations between employees and management about performance and goals instead of saving it all for the yearly review.

HR software, internal communication tools and other networks can all help managers accomplish these goals, by connecting better with, and listening to, their teams.

What HR issues are you looking to tackle in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: 3 of This Past Year's Worst HR Mistakes and How to Do Better

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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