Understanding HR Thought Leadership [+ 9 Examples and 5 Trends]

Intelligent Relations
By Intelligent Relations Team

In the dynamic landscape of human resources, HR thought leaders flourish on the frontier. 

And from that transformative terrain, they act as a beacon, illuminating paths through the intricate nexus of people, culture, and organizational success.

Now, as industries navigate unprecedented changes brought on by the pandemic, the need for pioneering insights and innovative strategies within HR becomes paramount. 

That’s because thought leadership in HR transcends conventional practices, advocating for forward-thinking approaches that foster inclusive workplaces, drive organizational agility, and harness the full potential of human capital.

From redefining talent acquisition to championing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), HR thought leaders drive change, influence policies, and nurture the environments where individuals thrive.

That’s why this article delves into the essence of HR thought leadership, exploring its significance in shaping modern workplaces and propelling businesses towards sustainable growth.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • What is HR Thought Leadership?
  • What Does HR Thought Leadership Look Like?
  • Top HR Thought Leadership Examples
  • Expected HR Trends 2024

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What is HR Thought Leadership?

Human Resources (HR) refers to the department within an organization responsible for: 

  • Managing Personnel
  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Ensuring Compliance with Labor Laws

It plays a pivotal role in fostering a healthy work environment, enhancing employee well-being, and driving organizational growth.

HR thought leadership involves industry experts and professionals who pioneer innovative strategies, advocate for change, and shape the future of HR practices. These individuals contribute original ideas, research, and insights, elevating the field through their expertise and influence.

Let’s examine some characteristics of HR thought leadership. It requires: 

  • Innovative Strategies: HR thought leaders develop cutting-edge approaches to HR challenges, embracing technology and new methodologies. 
  • Visionary Perspectives: HR thought leaders foresee future trends and drive discussions on upcoming shifts in HR practices. 
  • Community Engagement: HR thought leaders actively engage with the HR community, sharing insights through various platforms and fostering collaboration.

Want a deeper insight into thought leadership marketing? Learn more about thought leadership here: Unlocking the Power of Thought Leadership Marketing (Benefits + Best Practices)

Why HR Matters

HR departments serve many necessary functions that are essential to the successful operation of organizations. HR thought leadership is of utmost importance in not only creating, but nurturing a work environment that is conducive to positivity and productivity. 

Four reasons HR matters: 

  1. Talent Acquisition and Retention: HR professionals are crucial in recruiting and retaining top talent. They strategize to attract skilled individuals and ensure their long-term engagement within the company. 
  1. Employee Development: They oversee training programs, career development initiatives, and performance evaluations to nurture employees’ skills and growth. 
  1. Culture and Well-being: HR cultivates a positive workplace culture, focusing on employee satisfaction, mental health support, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  1. Legal Compliance: HR ensures compliance with labor laws, minimizing legal risks for the organization.

What Does HR Thought Leadership Look Like?

Now that we understand what HR thought leadership is and why HR matters, let’s explore what HR thought leadership actually looks like and what thought leaders do in five steps with examples.

1. Embrace Continuous Learning

  • HR thought leaders stay abreast of industry trends, emerging technologies, and evolving HR best practices. 
  • They engage in webinars, attend conferences, and participate in online forums like HR Exchange Network to grasp nuanced insights. 

An example of continuous learning might include things like embracing and learning new technology that enhances HR strategies or operations.

For instance, leveraging AI-driven recruitment tools like IBM’s Watson. Such tools can revolutionize talent acquisition strategies, exemplifying an embrace of cutting-edge technology.

2. Cultivate a Distinct Voice

  • The top HR thought leaders develop a unique perspective on pertinent HR issues. 
  • They establish content like a blog or contribute articles to platforms like LinkedIn Pulse. 

A good example of HR thought leadership content creation is Google’s People Operations (formerly HR). They share their experiences via their re:Work blog, showcasing innovative HR approaches and garnering industry respect through their distinct voice.

3. Foster Thoughtful Conversations

  • HR thought leadership isn’t limited to innovating and dialoguing in-house. Great HR thought leaders also initiate dialogues beyond their organization. 
  • Thought leaders host or join webinars, podcasts, or roundtable discussions on platforms like Zoom or Clubhouse. 

What does that type of HR thought leadership look like in practice?

Airbnb’s commitment to DEIA is exemplified in their HR thought leadership efforts to build belonging. Their focus on belonging in the workplace fosters meaningful conversations globally.

4. Drive Collaborative Initiatives

  • Thought leaders forge partnerships with industry peers, other industry thought leaders, or academics in the field. 
  • They collaborate on research papers, host joint events, or contribute to collective initiatives. 

The Future of Work collaboration between Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review illustrates this, exploring HR implications in an AI-driven era.

5. Lead by Example

  • Successful thought leaders implement innovative HR practices within their organizations. Netflix’s “Seeking Excellence Culture” epitomizes this, promoting a culture of autonomy and responsibility. 
  • They demonstrate successful implementation, reinforcing their thought leadership credibility.

Pro Tip: By following these HR thought leadership steps and drawing inspiration from these examples, aspiring thought leaders can pave the way for change and shape the future of HR practices and organizational success.

If you’d like to learn more about how to measure the impact of your thought leadership efforts, check out our article: How to Measure Thought Leadership: Metrics, Strategies, and KPIs

9 Top HR Thought Leadership Examples

In the field of HR, there’s no shortage of talented and influential thought leaders. Let’s check out some top examples of people, publications, and podcasts driving the HR industry.

1. Josh Bersin

Josh Bersin is a renowned HR thought leader. His pioneering insights and transformative contributions have left an indelible mark on the industry.

The Josh Bersin Academy and The Josh Bersin Company have been pivotal in shaping modern HR strategies, emphasizing the intersection of technology, talent, and organizational culture. 

Bersin’s advocacy for data-driven decision-making has empowered organizations to optimize employee experiences, enhance performance, and foster innovation.

Plus, he’s a vocal proponent of agile HR methodologies, emphasizing adaptability and continuous learning in a rapidly evolving workplace landscape. 

Through in-depth articles, speaking engagements, and visionary guidance, Bersin has propelled the HR domain into a new era of effectiveness and human-centric practices.

josh bersin academy hr thought leadership example

2. Human Resource Executive

Founded in 1987, Human Resource Executive (HRE) remains a leading voice in HR thought leadership by delivering cutting-edge insights and fostering progressive dialogues.

This esteemed media outlet continually drives HR practices forward through its thought-provoking articles, expert analyses, and coverage of industry trends. 

Their platform serves as a catalyst for innovation and offers a comprehensive view of:

  • Emerging Technologies
  • Talent Management Strategies
  • Workplace Dynamics

HRE plays an instrumental role in shaping the modern HR landscape by spotlighting groundbreaking practices and facilitating knowledge exchange among HR professionals.

human resources executive hr thought leadership website

3. HR Happy Hour

Hosted by Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane, HR Happy Hour launched in 2009. It’s the longest-running HR and HCM (Human Capital Management) podcast and Internet radio show. 

Through engaging interviews and discussions, the podcast explores pivotal HR topics, from emerging technologies to evolving workplace cultures. Its inclusive approach welcomes diverse perspectives, enriching professionals with innovative strategies and practical insights. 

This platform’s unique blend of expertise and authenticity has empowered HR practitioners worldwide, fostering a community-driven ethos that emphasizes continuous learning, agility, and human-centric practices. 

HR Happy Hour continues to influence industry evolution with HR thought leadership that champions collaboration and knowledge exchange among HR enthusiasts globally.

hr happy hour podcast hr thought leadership example

4. Patty McCord

Patty McCord’s transformative influence on the HR industry is unparalleled.

As the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, her “freedom and responsibility” culture blueprint revolutionized HR practices worldwide. 

McCord’s HR thought leadership efforts emphasize candid communication, fostering high-performance teams, and eradicating outdated policies reshaped organizational dynamics.

Her influential work challenged traditional HR norms, advocating for agile, adaptable workplaces built on trust and accountability. 

Through her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, speaking engagements, and consulting, McCord continues to inspire HR professionals globally.

She urges future leaders to rethink conventional HR paradigms and embrace progressive strategies with a focus on driving organizational success through empowered and engaged teams.

5. HR Bartender

In the HR world, HR Bartender stands as a pivotal force. Created by HR professional and consultant Sharlyn Lauby, it offers a wealth of expertise and practical guidance.

Through HR thought leadership efforts that include articles and resources, this influential platform provides insightful perspectives on various HR facets, from talent management to workplace culture.

Known for its accessible and engaging content, HR Bartender fosters continuous learning through actionable advice and best practices. Its emphasis on the human aspect of HR — coupled with technological integration — equips HR professionals with the tools needed to navigate modern workplace challenges. 

HR Bartender continues to elevate industry standards, by nurturing a community of learning and innovation and empowering practitioners with valuable, strategic knowledge.

hr bartender hr thought leadership example

6. The Tim Sackett Project

The Tim Sackett Project stands as a trailblazing platform in the HR sphere. It challenges norms and drives industry evolution. Renowned for its candid and thought-provoking content, this influential blog delves into critical HR topics with a blend of humor and expertise. 

Tim Sackett’s insightful commentary on talent acquisition, leadership, and HR technology offers a fresh perspective and encourages practitioners to embrace innovation and disruptive thinking. Through his writings and keynote speaking engagements, Sackett inspires HR professionals to rethink conventional strategies and promotes a culture of agility, inclusivity, and forward-thinking approaches. 

The Tim Sackett Project remains a catalyst for change, empowering HR enthusiasts with actionable insights and strategies to thrive in the evolving workplace landscape.

tim sackett project hr thought leadership example

7. Laszlo Bock

Laszlo Bock’s impact on the HR landscape is profound, marked by his transformative tenure as Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations. His data-driven approach revolutionized HR practices and continues to promote evidence-based decision-making and a culture of innovation. 

His advocacy for talent development, inclusive workplaces, and employee well-being set new benchmarks, influencing global HR strategies. His book Work Rules!, and his other HR thought leadership efforts, continues to shape progressive HR methodologies, transparency, and autonomy. 

Bock’s relentless pursuit of redefining HR norms, paired with his commitment to humanizing the workplace, cements his legacy as a pioneering figure in modern HR practices.

8. The HR Digest

As an influential publication shaping the HR landscape, The HR Digest is known for its comprehensive coverage and insightful articles. It serves as a reservoir of knowledge for HR professionals worldwide. 

it fosters continuous learning and development within the HR community with a focus on:

  • HR Thought Leadership
  • Emerging HR Trends 
  • HR Best Practices
  • Success Stories

The platform’s commitment to DEI issues, alongside its spotlight on innovative HR strategies and technology, empowers practitioners to navigate evolving workplace challenges. 

By offering a blend of expert opinions and practical advice, The HR Digest remains an invaluable resource that drives excellence and innovation in the HR industry.

hr digest thought leadership example

9. #WorkTrends with Meghan M. Biro

#WorkTrends with Meghan Biro is a popular podcast + Twitter chat that shines as a beacon in the HR industry. The podcast’s insights foster inclusive discussions and HR thought leadership. 

Through compelling podcast episodes, informative Twitter chats, and articles, this dynamic platform addresses pivotal HR topics from remote work to employee experience. Biro’s engaging interviews with industry leaders and experts facilitate a diverse exchange of ideas, empowering HR professionals with actionable insights and strategies. 

By championing agility, diversity, and future-oriented practices, #WorkTrends cultivates a global community of HR enthusiasts. Its commitment to exploring the evolving workforce landscape continually shapes and elevates HR practices.

Want to see a full list of HR publications and blogs for PR outreach in 2024? Check out our article: Top HR Publications and HR Blogs Roundup [2024 Edition]

5 Expected HR Trends 2024

A big part of successful thought leadership is the ability to forecast future trends and gauge the trajectory of your industry as you simultaneously guide it.

Let’s take a peek into 2024 at some expected HR trends that are right around the corner.

1. Remote Work Evolution

  • Hybrid Work: Continued evolution of hybrid work setups blending remote and office-based work. 
  • Virtual Employee Engagement: Enhanced tools and strategies for engaging remote teams.

2. AI Integration in HR

  • AI in Recruitment: AI-driven tools for efficient candidate screening and selection processes. 
  • Employee Experience: AI applications to enhance employee experience and well-being.

3. Skills Development and Learning

  • Continuous Learning: Focus on upskilling and reskilling to adapt to changing job requirements. 
  • Personalized Learning Paths: Tailored learning experiences for individual employee growth.

4. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

  • Holistic DEI Strategies: Companies emphasizing diverse hiring and fostering inclusive workplaces. 
  • Data-Driven DEI Initiatives: Use of analytics to measure and improve diversity initiatives.

5. HR Tech Advancements

  • Integrated HR Platforms: Continued integration of HR tech solutions for streamlined processes. 
  • Blockchain in HR: Potential applications of blockchain for secure data management in HR.

Already investing in blockchain HR? Then you might want to learn more about blockchain thought leadership. Read more here: Blockchain Thought Leadership: 9 Key Players Shaping the Game


HR thought leadership encompasses innovative strategies and insights that redefine HR practices. It emphasizes the importance of talent, culture, and compliance within organizations. 

Leading HR thought leaders, newsletters, podcasts, and expected trends for 2024 indicate a continued evolution towards more dynamic, tech-integrated, and people-centric HR strategies.

They are instrumental in shaping the future of work by: 

  • Fostering Innovation
  • Driving Positive Organizational Cultures
  • Adapting to Evolving Workforce Needs

As we look toward 2024, the industry is set to embrace technological advancements, prioritize employee well-being, and further refine strategies to navigate the evolving landscape of work.

Ready to get started on your own HR thought leadership strategy? Let us help! Simply book a free consultation with us and we will help you build a strategy that will set you apart in the industry.