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The Sleepless Nights of HR Leaders

Today’s business landscape is more dynamic than ever. Organisations face continuous disruption and must adapt quickly to stay competitive. This creates both hurdles and opportunities for HR leaders tasked with driving organisational success.

To gain insights into the priorities and challenges facing HR professionals, Udder conducted research in partnership with Talent Table and Talent Tech Solutions, surveying Chief People Officers, HR Directors, Talent Acquisition leaders, and their peer groups across Australia and New Zealand.

The goal was to uncover the strategic focuses and pain points for HR leaders in key areas, including:

  • Top priorities for driving organisational success
  • Most valuable and usable HR research topics
  • Areas requiring further research
  • Skill gaps need to be addressed
  • Key challenges keeping HR leaders up at night

The findings provide a fascinating glimpse into the world of HR leadership during a turbulent time. They highlight the importance of talent management, employee engagement, developing adaptability and resilience, and leveraging research and technology.

This comprehensive blog will explore the critical insights uncovered through Udder’s timely research. These findings empower HR professionals to align strategies, optimise initiatives, and foster a thriving workforce. They provide a roadmap for overcoming hurdles and capitalising on opportunities.

Let’s dive in and unpack the critical priorities and challenges facing HR leaders today!

Top Strategic Priorities for HR Leaders

The research uncovered several top strategic priorities for HR professionals seeking to drive organisational success. These provide key focus areas for HR leaders looking to navigate obstacles and capitalise on opportunities.

Talent Shortages

Talent shortages remain a pressing concern, with 75% of respondents identifying this as a priority. In an increasingly competitive talent landscape, organisations are struggling to attract and retain top talent across functions. HR leaders must implement proactive recruitment strategies and talent pipelines to mitigate skill gaps. Initiatives like employer branding, candidate experience enhancement, and leveraging technology for hiring can help secure top talent.

Recharging Employee Engagement

Creating a positive and thriving work environment is vital for boosting engagement and productivity. 63% of respondents highlighted this as a priority. HR leaders should foster a supportive culture, provide learning/development opportunities, and recognise employee contributions. Regular feedback sessions and performance management optimisation can also strengthen engagement.

Enhancing HR Systems and Processes

Efficient and streamlined HR systems play a crucial role in organisational success. 63% of respondents emphasised enhancing HR systems and processes. HR leaders should adopt digital platforms, automation tools, and integrated HR suites to reduce manual tasks and improve data-driven decision-making. This creates positive employee experiences and frees up strategic focus.

Building Wellbeing and Resilience

With 58% of respondents prioritising wellbeing and resilience, organisations recognise the impact of employee health on productivity and retention. HR leaders should promote work-life balance, implement mental health support, and create inclusive work environments. Comprehensive well-being programmes catering to diverse needs are essential.

Reskilling and Upskilling

58% of respondents highlighted reskilling/upskilling as a priority, indicating the need for continuous learning. HR leaders should invest in development programmes, on-the-job training, and a culture of learning. Aligning skills with business goals will help employees adapt to changing needs.

Reviewing and Realigning Culture

A strong organisational culture drives engagement and success. 46% of respondents emphasised reviewing and realigning culture. HR leaders must re-examine values, foster inclusion, break down silos, and nurture innovation and collaboration. This creates a cohesive environment even amid uncertainty.

Most Valuable Research Topics

The research also highlighted the topics HR professionals find most valuable and usable. These provide insights into areas of focus for HR research efforts.


As a top priority, recruitment emerged as the most valuable research area, with 63% of respondents citing this. HR leaders are particularly interested in research around innovative sourcing strategies, candidate experience enhancement, diversity/inclusion initiatives, and leveraging technology for efficient hiring processes.


With 42% of respondents indicating its value, onboarding proves to be a crucial research topic. HR leaders seek insights into best practices for onboarding, including pre-boarding activities, personalised employee experiences, mentorship programmes, and technology to streamline onboarding.

Learning & Development

Effective L&D is critical for nurturing talent and organisational success. 38% of respondents emphasised its research value. HR leaders need insights into impactful training design and digital learning platforms, nurturing a culture of continuous learning, and aligning development with business objectives.

HR Technology

HR technology enables process streamlining, data-driven decisions, and employee experience improvement. 42% of respondents highlighted its research value. HR leaders seek insights into HR tech innovations like AI-powered analytics, blockchain systems, automation, and integrated HR suites.


With 42% of respondents emphasising its value, well-being remains a critical research area. HR leaders need insights into promoting work-life balance, mental health support, diversity/inclusion, and designing comprehensive well-being programmes tailored to diverse workforce needs.

Areas Needing More Research

While the above topics prove valuable, areas still require further research to provide HR leaders with more robust insights and recommendations.


Retention was highlighted by 54% of respondents as needing more research, indicating organisations still face challenges retaining top talent. Further studies could explore the impact of culture, growth opportunities, rewards programmes, flexible work arrangements, and stay interviews on improving retention.

Workforce Planning

With 46% of respondents emphasising its research need, workforce planning remains crucial. Further exploration around succession planning, talent forecasting, leveraging analytics, and the impact of remote work and demographic shifts would provide valuable workforce insights.


Despite existing research, 42% of respondents still called for more recruitment-focused studies. Future research could examine innovative sourcing strategies, remote hiring trends, candidate experience enhancement, and the role of AI in streamlining hiring.

Learning & Development

29% of respondents indicated the need for more learning and development research. Further studies could examine effective learning methodologies, personalised development, nurturing a culture of learning, and exploring technologies like VR and AR for elevating training.

HR leaders recognise these areas require ongoing research to deepen understanding, benchmark progress, and provide evidence-based recommendations. While foundational research exists, new studies reflecting current challenges, technologies, and future trends are invaluable in guiding HR strategy and optimising people initiatives.

Addressing Skills Gaps

The research revealed insights into the most needed skills for organisations today and the most common skills missing in the workforce.

Needed Skills

Adaptability emerged as the most needed skill, reflecting the importance of quickly embracing change and pivoting strategies. Resilience follows, indicating the demand for mental fortitude and overcoming challenges. Specialist technical skills and data analysis also ranked highly, emphasising the need for specific expertise and data-driven decision-making. Customer experience and leadership rounded out the top needed skills.

Missing Skills

Collaboration and communication topped the missing skills list, highlighting deficits in teamwork and interpersonal effectiveness. Leadership also appeared here, indicating challenges in guiding teams strategically. Data analysis reflected a gap between demand and existing capabilities. Resilience was again emphasised, showing organisations often lack this critical skill.

Organisations can gain clarity on focus areas by comparing the needed and missing skills. Fostering adaptability and resilience is crucial for navigating change. Enhancing collaboration and communication builds cohesive teams and productivity. Developing leadership and data analysis skills at all levels empowers sound decision-making. Analysing and addressing these gaps equips organisations for future success.

Key Challenges Keeping HR Leaders Up At Night

The research also uncovered the top challenges identified by HR leaders that demand focus and solutions.

Retaining and Upskilling Talent

33% of respondents highlighted retaining and developing talent as a pressing issue. Organisations struggle with losing top performers and providing growth opportunities. HR leaders need to prioritise engagement initiatives, career development, mentoring programmes and continuous learning.

Improving the Talent Acquisition Journey

29% of respondents emphasised enhancing recruitment and hiring processes as a challenge. HR leaders should strengthen employer brands, streamline application tracking, improve candidate experience, and incorporate data-driven decision-making.

HR Technology Developments

13% of respondents pointed to keeping up with HR technology as a challenge. Adopting user-friendly integrated HR platforms is critical for automating tasks, generating insights, and optimising performance management.

By proactively addressing these challenges around retention, recruitment, and technology, HR leaders can drive organisational success. Supporting talent growth, optimising hiring, and leveraging HR tech are key focus areas requiring investment and strategy. Tackling these concerns will strengthen organisations for future agility and resilience.


The extensive research conducted by Udder in partnership with Talent Table and Talent Tech Solutions provides invaluable insights for HR leaders seeking to drive organisational success.

The findings reveal key focus areas for HR professionals, including:

  • Implementing talent acquisition and retention strategies to mitigate skill shortages
  • Driving employee engagement through culture, learning, and performance management
  • Adopting integrated HR technology to streamline systems and processes
  • Fostering adaptability, resilience, collaboration, and leadership capabilities
  • Enhancing recruitment, retention, and HR tech to address pressing challenges

This research makes clear that in today’s ever-evolving landscape, HR leaders play an integral role in navigating obstacles and capitalising on opportunities.

By leveraging these insights to align strategies, optimise initiatives, and address gaps, HR professionals can positively impact employee experiences and business outcomes.

We encourage you to access the full research report here for deeper insights and recommendations.

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