Today’s human resources leaders face a unique and fluid environment when it comes to hiring and managing an organization’s workforce. In our fast-paced business/technology world and a changing job market, what new challenges face HR departments in 2018? Here are seven challenges facing human resources professionals in the year ahead:
According to a recent XpertHR survey, one of the top challenges of 2018 will be recruiting. Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, a career development consultancy firm, agrees.
“The battle for top talent is going to become more fierce as the number of retiring baby boomers far outstrips new skilled entrants into the workforce,” he says. “HR is going to have to take the lead in building strategies and initiatives to have the best talent mix in their organizations.”
As Hollywood has shown us in late 2017, sexual harassment in the workplace is far more commonplace than many realize. As workers may become more comfortable voicing complaints about workplace sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, HR departments will need to find a way to ensure they educate their workforces on exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, says Lisa Barrington, a workplace and employment strategy coach and public speaker with over 25 years of experience. “HR needs to design significantly [improved] training related to what sexual harassment is and isn’t,” she says. “The online ‘read this, watch this, take this quiz’ programs aren’t working. Experiential training is much more effective.”
In addition, HR departments will be challenged to establish and follow clear guidelines that support their sensitive and neutral handling of all such complaints and subsequent investigations.
The role of human resources departments is evolving along with the business environment, challenging HR leaders to show their department’s value to their organizations. To raise their profile from support department to a strategic and C-suite suitable partner, Barrington says it’s particularly important to assess risk regarding each human resources issue – and also to make clear and actionable recommendations.
“For HR to be a true strategic partner to the C-Suite, they must, like all other C-Suite members, balance risk,” she says. “It is not okay for HR to say ‘don’t do this’ or ‘we can’t do this because we can get sued’. They should be assessing the risk with each action — or inaction –and providing guidance on how to mitigate risk.”
Perhaps never before have companies been so aware of the need for not only cross-functional departments, but also organizational teams that include members from different generations.
“Many organizations are working to create teams of employees who combine not only a range of specific business functions, but also different generations of workers — Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, and Baby Boomers,” says Rick Lepsinger of leadership development firm On Point Consulting. “The appeal of these cross-functional and cross-generational teams is that they combine a diverse array of viewpoints on a single team – which can have a positive impact for innovation.”
Yet this may not be as easy as it sounds. “Building cross-functional teams requires organizations to clarify roles, responsibilities and decision authority, create effective communication between team members, and to set priorities so every team member can work better across the boundaries of their individual business units,” says Lepsinger. This requires human resources professionals to address job descriptions, organizational charts, communication policies and to set goals in keeping with the multi-functional strategy driving today’s companies.
As Lepsinger points out, cross-generational teams give organizations a chance to have their younger employees interact with and learn from their older, more experienced counterparts to gain the benefits of their experience. However, establishing these teams takes time and effort, requiring creativity from HR teams.
“Finding an effective strategy for enabling teams to work better across organizational and physical boundaries is the key to success here,” says Lepsinger.
Although it may not come as a surprise, the need to buckle down and prioritize succession planning as baby boomers retire will sharpen in 2018. This has a trickle-down effect on everything from recruiting to training and leadership identification within organizations.
“The massive numbers of highly experienced and skilled workers leaving the workforce are widening the gap that organizations are already facing between their available pool of talent and their needs-inhibiting growth,” says Lepsinger. He says to counter the brain drain of massive retirement by their most experienced personnel, many organizations focus on succession management strategies to create a funnel of replacement personnel to take over for workers exiting the workforce.
“Some organizations have successfully leveraged cross-generational teams (coupled with mentoring programs) as a part of their succession management strategies so that future leaders can take over from their predecessors with less disruption,” says Lepsinger.
If you haven’t yet noticed, technology has permeated almost every human-resources-related process out there. In fact, “people analytics” was noted as one of 2017’s top “human capital” trends in a Human Resources Today article.
From automating offer letters and analyzing feedback from interviewers to onboarding new recruits, learning and managing fast-evolving technology continues challenge for HR people everywhere. And a recent Sierra-Cedar survey found that HR professionals will soon see even more customized HR technology as competition between technology vendors heats up.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of business-related apps out there, Lepsinger suggests selecting programs based on your HR goals.
“Organizational development experts can use these mobile apps to help implement and guide change in their organizations. For example, team collaboration apps can be useful for communicating and enacting both organization-wide and subsystem changes quickly.”
Lepsinger also suggests using these apps to collect data on overall progress towards change goals, such as tracking incremental improvements in productivity and/or identifying the percentage of employees who have completed a specific online training course.
Today’s workers want the option of something other than a 9-to-5 office job. According to a recent McKinsey research report, 20-30% of the world’s working age population works with some sort of “independent” work arrangement. Flextime, compressed workweeks, job-sharing, and telecommuting are just some of the non-traditional work arrangements on the rise, and there’s little doubt they’re challenging traditional HR responsibilities. These may include:
Yet to attract the best candidates, Kimer says non-traditional work arrangements are important to an organization’s success going forward. “There needs to be a mix in building innovative strategies like job sharing or part-time work for mature workers en route to retirement, and optimal use of off-shore and non-USA work forces,” he says.
It’s an exciting time to work in HR. While the challenges are many, prioritizing and focusing on your department and organizational goals can help you better succeed through 2018 and beyond.