Help Me With My Homework: What Are The Top Issues for Human Resources Today?

I’ve been a long-term member of my local SHRM Chapter – the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association – and have served on both the Staffing & Recruiting and Communications Committees in an effort learn from others, meet people and to give back to my community. If you’re not involved with your local chapter, I highly recommend it!

Recently, I also volunteered to be a part of the Strategic Planning Team for GCHRA and we’re going to spend the next several weeks developing a Plan to recommend to the Board that will provide focus to the organization in an effort to best serve its membership for the next 3 years. I’m excited about being involved and look forward to working with some super smart people in the process.

That’s where you come in! My first assignment is to come back to the Team with a list of current priorities and focus areas for Human Resources and Human Capital professionals to ensure that our committee is addressing what is important to the GCHRA membership.

As a start, I’ve pulled some data from a recent Human Resources Executive Online survey on “What’s Keeping HR Leaders Awake?”. With 1,032 responses, I think the survey results provide a good start – with the 3 biggest challenges for HR identified to be:

  1. Engagement
  2. Leadership Development
  3. Retention

But I want to know what YOU think!

  • What’s keeping you awake at night as an HR/Recruiting/Talent Management professional?
  • What are you spending the majority of your time on these days?
  • Do what’s keeping you awake and where you spend your time align?
  • Are you still looking for the roadmap to find your seat at the table? (I kid. I kid.)

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section. I have homework due this week and I want to impress the Teacher! ๐Ÿ™‚

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organizationโ€™s most valuable resource โ€“ people.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

22 thoughts on “Help Me With My Homework: What Are The Top Issues for Human Resources Today?

  1. So what is keeping me awake at night? Other than my personal insecurities and a rather lumpy mattress? Well hell, not much…but that is because the level of alcohol consumption I indulge in.

    But my top HR challenges? Well here are three (because it is my lucky number and I like the oddness):

    1) The impending skills black hole. The educational establishments aren’t providing the skills, so how the hell are we in business going to do it?

    2) The lack of post employment income for the next generation. What does that mean? Either a significant change in the demographics of the labor (I excluded the u from that word just for you) market or a complete reworking of the tax and benefit system.

    3) Who the hell is going to rewrite the employee handbook.

    OK so I kid with the last one. But then us HR folk have to have a laugh. Don’t we?

    • Thanks for adding your 2 cents HRD! I’m with you that one of the legit issues of the future is the skills gap. Many are still talking about the “War for Talent”, but I think it’s more likely a War for Skilled Talent – which we’re already experiencing, even in a poor economy.

      Good points on the income issues for the next generation too – and of course the all important Handbook should rise to the top of any Strategic Plan.

      Good luck with that mattress and those insecurities. I like your stuff if that helps with some affirmation. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Jennifer: I think the world of HR is bifurcated. There’s the HR practiced by the largest organizations in the world: the GEs, the Tata’s, the WalMarts and the HPs. They have budgets, staff, and CEO support. Then there’s the rest of HR: the non-Fortune 500 whose HR “overhead” budgets are the first to get slashed, whose staff are the first to get axed and whose CEOs can’t spell HR. The HRE survey is a really good place to start, but I’d be interested in seeing if the answers between the two groups are different. I’ll bet the smaller organizations are being kept up at night by the more tactical side of things: rising health care costs, how to do more with a smaller staff, and preparing the organization for its upcoming talent drain…

    • As usual, you’re spot on China. There are really 2 (or more) business world’s out there and while they share some similar issues, they also have many distinctly different issues when it comes to HR and Recruiting. The Generalist in a smaller company may be worried about processing information and providing answers, while the Specialist or exec in a larger company may be working on one strategic initiative for months at a time.

      Bonus points for you for using the word “bifurcated” correctly in a sentence too! We should all try to work that word into our daily conversations more.

  3. I will second the lumpy mattress as a root cause of my sleep problems. The post and responses got me thinking about this question a little differently than I had before. What keeps me up most these nights is the struggle to actually spend my time on the things that will have the greatest long-term impact on my organization (org development, change management, workforce planning, etc.). The changes driven by external factors (e.g., economy, health care reform – I’m in the health care sector and get both sides of that equation) have created a need to get into the weeds on issues that did not exist several months ago. This is not simply the doing more with less complaint, but rather doing a lot more and different things with the same resources. And, yes, there have been a few regulatory changes that have us chasing our own tails to try to figure out what our legislators actually meant when they passed legislation without any actual direction.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective as a practitioner who is dealing with both sides of healthcare reform. Legislative changes certainly top just about everyone’s lists – but you also raise a valid concern about doing more with less. Many companies are doing just that – and it’s creating or exacerbating many of the “top” issues around engagement and retention.

  4. Hi Jennifer, engagement, leadership development and retention are on my mind and they fight to get through the madness of the #trenchhr side of things. I know the other side and see the other side so does what’s on my mind and what I do each day align . . .no they do not and that keeps me awake at night too! No wonder I am so stinkin’ crabby these days!

    Having said that, SHRM meetings on #trenchHR do not engage me. What engages me is leadership, integrity, organizational processes . . .the things that make me a better professional and enable me to succeed in the face of the “#trench madness.” It’s organizational, it’s cultural, it’s brick and mortar and it is a slow evolution – one HR pro and one process improvement – at a time.

    My suggestion . .. focus on the person, focus on the profession, focus on the tools, acknowledge the challenges and discuss progress in the face of them.

    Hope you get an A+!

    • Thanks Lisa! I agree that much of the education and information provided by the professional associations supporting the HR profession is around compliance and administration. I’m with you that the more strategic stuff is what engages me, so you’re points about the challenge of managing the “must do’s” of #trenchHR with the “should do’s” of where the organization and profession are headed in the future is well taken.

      And I can’t imagine you being crabby. Impossible!

  5. All pain results from expectations and SHRM is no different.

    General management expects HR to be a necessary “evil” at worst or a process auditor at best. (They forget that, as in sports, recruiting, training, and planning are the key elements of success.)

    Talent acquisition and HR software both create expectations that exceed the capabilities of the two processes. In the unregulated world of recruiting, SHRM seems to have neglected its power and authority to create, develop, and recommend the consistent and standard processes that are needed in the response to workforce planning that is necessary. (Too much time is spent on benefits, inquiries, and backdoor pressures.)

    Don’t just FILL boxes. MAKE new boxes and measure your success with metrics. SHRM does not need to become just a guild. It can be a number of guilds. If you work in HR to help people, just do it well, consistently, and often. (A reputation is much stronger than a list of anecdotes.)

    • Would you be willing to come to “class” with me Milos? I think you’d really add to the discussion. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for helping me with my assignment and sharing some of the challenges ahead!

  6. Hi, Jennifer! I’ve gone from a small, private org to a global, public org and my concerns are still the same: changing health care, retention and doing more with less.
    1. Government changes in health care are a nightmare! The government makes changes that are effective immediately. Little attention is given to the processes, people and systems that makes the changes happen in real life. Few people would argue against changes to health care, but I’m going to guess that the decisions makers have little to no exerience in designing and administering a health care plan, let alone planning open enrollment!

    2. Retention of key talent is extremely important to the future of any org. Some of the complex drivers of retention include recruiting and selecting the right employee, compensation that is fair and motivates excellence, training and developing them, their direct manager and the culture of the work environment. And, it’s all relative to the individual employee. Now that’s a complex puzzle!

    3. Doing more with less can refer to reductions in HR staff, reductions in administrative/support staff, shared services, outsourcing or automating. While all of these can be improvements in productivity, it takes time to see the results.

    That being said, I have to agree with Lisa that I don’t want to go to a seminar about the 3 things that keep me up at night. I think that they keep me up at night because I know enough about them to know that there is no easy solution.

    • I think you nailed it Bonita! From an HR Generalist standpoint, the issues you raise are responsible for a great deal of frustration in the HR community today. Let’s hope we’re able to address some of these and move on to some new and different issues in the near future.

  7. The top issues facing HR to me are a little broader than the great ones listed so far on the site. Here are my top five:

    1) HR remaining relevant – This isn’t only in organizations, but as a profession. I am confident it will be relevant, but only if people start stretching boundaries and making the field evolve.

    2) HR integrated throughout the business – Being strategic isn’t enough anymore. HR needs to be a woven thread throughout all aspects of the company they’re in. You aren’t a business partner if you’re only in HR.

    3) No more silos – HR pros that continue to not be connected to other HR pros are going to disappear. The field is too broad and too complicated to just try and gut it out.

    4) Social Media – It’s something that has to be a critical tool for recruiting, research, driving culture, etc. I could go on and on here, but the key thing is that HR has to quit driving fear and embrace the forums that are vibrant now and in the future.

    5) SHRM – It’s going through a “Who am I?” phase and it will be interesting to see where it lands. My hope is that those folks who are leading in the HR arena can help it become redefined to be a true force. I know it has some serious warts right now, but I also believe in it. Just needs some passionate people to help it along . . .

    Thanks for asking about this Jen !!

    • Steve:

      As I read your post I got a little paranoid and thought that you should have put my picture next to #s 3&4. I only recently crawled out from under my SM rock and am discovering an amazing world of like-minded HR pros who I never knew existed. The SM world is a blast, and the knowledge and information sharing is humbling.

      • That is cool and encouraging !! Trust me. I was dragged into Social Media, but I am only thankful for it now !!

        • Thanks Jennifer. I welcome any feedback. I am brand new at it and it’s kind of like sending out employee communications. The message goes out and…[blank stares]. I have a lot to learn.

    • I can always count on you to add a different perspective Steve. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for adding these to the list – all very valid points! While many HR pros are having to focus heavily on the tactical and day to day activities due to staff reductions, these are some of the issues critical to the future success of the HR function and HR professionals. It’s important that we not lose focus on how to better ourselves or our profession!

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention Help Me With My Homework: What Are The Top Issues for Human Resources Today? | Unbridled Talent -- Topsy.com
  9. Hi Jennifer,

    Though my background is not HR, my experience with HR has been lackluster at best. HR needs to focus on the following three items:

    Social Media – this will allow HR to scout potential employees early and to develop a hiring strategy for future employees based on the needs of the company. In developing this strategy, the HR person needs to ask the following questions:
    – How will this prospect fit into the organization?
    – How will this prospect fill and organizational need?

    Retention – if employers have not been investing in their employees, they will loose their employees when the economy turns on. HR needs to be aware of competitive wages and benefits packages and needs to ensure that employees are being challenged and trained. This means that the HR person needs to be talking with managers and employees alike and identifying gaps in these areas and defining strategies for employee retention and this needs to be done on a regular and continuous basis.

    Value – my perception is that HR is a group of followers that react to organizational and leadership needs. HR must become proactive and provide solutions to trends before they become needs. They must define their value within the organization and sell that value to the leaders and employees alike.

    Just my two-cents. I hope you and your readers find value in my opinions. All-in-all, a very good request and insightful question.

    • Great perspective from a “non-HR” perspective Frank and of course I agree that social media strategy should be one area of focus for HR & Recruiting professionals. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You’ve also made some great points about future retention issues and HR pros defining and communicating the value of the function effectively within the organization.

      Your 2 cents were well spent!

Comments are closed.