SHRM Goes Live to Address Trends, Challenges Facing HR


By Kathy Gurchiek December 10, 2015

Shifts in workplace demographics, the loss of middle-skill jobs and emerging new models for global engagement are among the trends and challenges that will affect the critical role HR plays in finding, developing and keeping talent.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) tackled those issues during “SHRM Live,” SHRM’s first-ever virtual event on Dec. 9. The program included presentations on the evolution of work and the worker, legislative and regulatory developments, and HR competencies, as well as a panel discussion.

“Given where business is now, and where it’s headed, HR has no option except to lead,” said Henry G. “Hank” Jackson, SHRM president and CEO, at the start of the program. “Our job is the most critical aspect of business. Finding, developing and keeping talent—that’s our job. The stage is set for us to play a leading role in our organizations.” HR must “focus on outcomes, not activities,” he added.

Workplace Trends, Challenges

The use of talent analytics for a competitive advantage will be the focus for HR in 2016, said Mark J. Schmit, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SHRM Foundation executive director. Talent shortages will continue to grow globally, requiring that HR becomes the provider of human capital analytics that are needed for making strategic business decisions.

He looked at five key trends facing HR business leaders—based on SHRM research released for the event—and how HR professionals can prepare for them:

  • Shifts in demographics, including the growth of a multigenerational workforce. Learn to recruit globally and become familiar with immigration rules, offer more options for flexible work programs, and identify strategies for critical demographic groups in your organization.
  • Loss of mid-level jobs as technology requires different, higher-level skills. Better educate employees about where the organization is heading and what skills they will need in the future, and invest in training programs to upskill the middle-skill employees who are getting squeezed.
  • The skills gap—a disconnect between educational standards and organizational demand. Partner with learning institutions to better prepare future employees, and retain employees who have skill gaps.
  • Eroding physical barriers to work and the increased globalization of business. Develop staff and leaders to better manage remote working, and adjust engagement and retention strategies in global markets to fit local customs and cultures.
  • The emergence of new models of work. Before creating a new position, for example, experiment with breaking the job into a series of tasks that could be outsourced.

“HR will need to prepare for these coming changes,” Schmit said. That could include helping leaders to better manage remote work arrangements and investing in training programs for mid-skill employees, joining your local workforce development board, and forming an employer coalition that can support training initiatives.

Public Policy

Mike P. Aitken, SHRM’s vice president of government affairs, gave an overview of legislative and regulatory developments and touched on such key issues as the Affordable Care Act, immigration and the proposed Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rule changes.

Mandated paid leave continues to be a focus of Congress and advocacy groups, and several states—California, Connecticut and Massachusetts—have enacted paid-sick-leave requirements while others have paid-family-leave insurance programs, Aitken said.

He noted SHRM’s role as a leading advocate on many HR-related issues before Congress and the executive branch, such as workplace flexibility, compensation equity, the National Labor Relations Board’s so-called ambush regulations and FLSA overtime regulations.

HR Competencies

The event also focused on how HR professionals can be problem-solvers who are ready for the changes ahead.

“Be an active listener; engage with business professionals in other disciplines so you can think about those issues as you’re developing your own competencies,” said Debra J. Cohen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, senior vice president of knowledge development at SHRM.

She and Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, vice president of research at SHRM, also discussed the importance of building HR competencies to find, keep and develop talent.

The key competencies that will be needed in the future start with business acumen, they explained. Develop business acumen and HR technological expertise, Cohen said, and focus on active learning experiences and experiential competency approaches.

“HR is not just a soft science. We’re a hard science, and we’ve got to look at what the research is telling us,” she said. “HR education is changing, and it’s changing on the basis of [SHRM’s] competency model,” Cohen pointed out, noting that nearly 400 programs at 300 colleges and universities worldwide use SHRM’s HR curriculum guidelines.

She noted that knowing the business as well as knowing HR—and critically evaluating programs, policies and strategies—are among HR competencies that will be in greatest demand over the next 10 years.

Responding to an audience member’s question about how to engage a workplace that has a vast demographic spread, Cohen emphasized the importance of talking to employees at all levels in order to tailor benefits to the workforce.

A key panel discussion topic during the final segment was the importance of understanding your organization’s workforce and stakeholders to align HR processes to meet the organization’s goals and objectives. Bettina A. Deynes, SHRM-SCP, SHRM’s vice president of HR and diversity, related how, in a previous job, she undertook that alignment on a regular basis, cascading it to all levels of the organization so employees would understand the impact they had on its success.

“Put competencies in place to make it a business project, not an HR project,” she said, replying to an audience member who asked how to develop competencies and on-the-job training that results in making HR more effective.

Training should extend to emergency preparedness, including responding to workplace violence.

“What is the plan?” she asked. She suggested that HR professionals contact their local law enforcement agencies for guidance and implement a training program for current and new employees.

“It’s not something you file away and never revisit, and it reinforces the importance of the HR professional in being a business leader,” she said.

BambooHR sponsored the interactive, 2-hour event that was presented in segments of 20 to 25 minutes and included polling audience members virtually. SHRM also took questions and comments via social media, including one from Susan R. Meisinger, retired SHRM president and CEO, who relayed how proud she was of SHRM and this initiative.

The program was streamed live from SHRM headquarters in Alexandria, Va., and will be available on-demand.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.


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