HR Exec Jeff Smith Talks Top Priorities for HR in 2024 — In NewsWeekly

Jeff Smith HR
4 min readJan 12, 2024


Originally published at on January 12, 2024.

In an era where human resources is increasingly recognized as a pivotal element in any successful business, Jeff Smith, a seasoned HR executive, shares his insights on some of HR’s priorities and challenges in 2024. His extensive experience, including his time as the global head of HR for BlackRock, provides a valuable perspective on the evolving landscape of HR.

Jeff Smith identifies five critical areas that human resources leaders need to focus on in 2024:

1. Leader and Manager Development:

Emphasizing the importance of creating the right roles, incentives, and recognition for leaders, Smith notes that leader and manager development is crucial for driving strategy and culture. He points out that many successful individuals need compelling reasons to take on new responsibilities and need incentives and support when becoming managers or leaders. “Leaders need to drive change and help drive strategy and create culture,” he says.

2. HR Technology and Data Analytics:

With the tech landscape becoming increasingly complex, Smith underscores the necessity of having exceptional technology for process efficiency, governance, risk management, and data-driven decision-making. Smith says, “The technology landscape has never been more complicated, so it is not enough to just go with one of the established players without evaluation. It is critical to evaluate new technologies and make smart strategic decisions to ensure you are meeting the unique needs of your organization.”

3. Creating a Culture With Intention:

Smith highlights the challenges of fostering a desired company culture especially in a hybrid work environment. He stresses the need for clear communication, training, and incentivization that align with the desired cultural impact. “It sounds onerous, but it is not if you just develop the habit of designing things with the end in mind, on the system and culture, not just process by process,” he explains. “That means everyone in HR needs to understand the target [because] a siloed HR organization will get in the way of this.”

4. Managing Careers:

Smith sees the shift from traditional career paths to more flexible and iterative career journeys and advocates for experimentation and adaptability in career development. He says, “The evolving theme here is the phasing out of traditional linear career paths, static job descriptions, and inflexible structures and moving toward more flexible and iterative career journeys that allow people to use their skills and build. This is very hard and takes a lot of experimentation and discipline.”

5. Building the HR Talent Pool:

Acknowledging the difficulty of HR roles, Smith advises focusing on building exceptional HR teams, emphasizing the need for leaders to prioritize their own departments to ensure overall organizational success. “Don’t forget your own organization,” says the former BlackRock HR exec. “It’s very easy for HR leaders to get immersed in the needs of the board and the CEO and the businesses and not focus as much on their own organization, which is the key to getting it all done.”

Smith explains, “This is true of many heads of HR and business partners. It’s critical to step back and find the time to make sure we are doing all we can to do what we need to do for the HR organization, which is what we do for the rest of the organization.”

Insights From a Distinguished Career

Jeff Smith achieved significant milestones during his tenure as the global head of HR at BlackRock. He transformed the department to a global, impactful team involved in all aspects of talent management. Smith was instrumental in creating the Human Capital Committee, which involved respected leaders from various businesses and geographies in shaping HR practices across the company. These efforts led to HR becoming a central aspect of business strategy, directly influencing the decision-making processes at the executive level.

Smith’s background in industrial-organizational psychology has been a cornerstone of his approach to HR. He believes that being “psychologically minded” aids in understanding interpersonal dynamics and developing effective teams. This perspective has been integral to his leadership, team management, and organizational development approach.

“The other thing that is very useful that people often don’t associate with psychology is you actually have to be good at math — statistics in particular. In doing research, that helped a great deal with business,” he explains.

Jeff Smith: The Future of HR and Work

Looking ahead, Jeff Smith identifies several human resources challenges, such as balancing remote work expectations, leveraging artificial intelligence and automation, attracting top talent, and achieving diversity. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the unique needs of different generations in the workforce and the need for companies to communicate their meaningful purpose to attract and retain talent.

“Culture is everything — it is what you stand for, how you do work, what you are held accountable for, and how it feels to be somewhere,” says the former BlackRock HR executive. “Talk about it, say it out loud, then try to implement practices that create the culture you want.”

The HR exec’s approach to leadership and team dynamics emphasizes the importance of creating nonthreatening environments for team members to build relationships. “I like the energy, and I like that everyone has to figure out their roles while also dealing with and respecting each other’s personalities, opinions, and how they do things,” he says. “I also like that it is hard.”

Smith highlights the importance of empathy in team dynamics. “I always have found that (with very few extreme examples) the more people get to know each other, the more they like, appreciate, and have empathy for one another,” he says.

As businesses navigate the complexities of the modern workforce, Jeff Smith’s perspectives offer valuable guidance for HR professionals looking to make a meaningful impact in their organizations.



Jeff Smith HR

Jeff Smith is a human resources expert. Previously, he worked at BlackRock as Head of Global Human Resources.