Aging Workforce, Global Mobility Among Top HR Challenges

By Jennifer Schramm May 1, 2014
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​Changing demographics, relocation patterns and the globalization of business will be among the key trends influencing the workplace in the next five to 10 years, according to Evolution of Work and the Worker, the first in a series of reports by the SHRM Foundation in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In wealthier, developed countries, the ratio of retired workers will grow more quickly relative to the remaining working population, putting stress on social programs aimed at supporting the elderly. In response, many countries are raising their retirement age to keep older people working longer.

By contrast, some countries will be more focused on the struggles of their youth population. The report forecasts that large numbers of unemployed young people will contribute to instability and political unrest.

A critical concern is that young people who have been shut out of the workforce for too long will form a kind of “lost generation” that never gets a foothold in the job market. That would represent a huge wasted resource for employers and nations.

Employers that draw on the skills of older workers while cultivating the next generation of talent will be in the best position to overcome these impending demographic challenges. At the same time, the rapid expansion of educational opportunities in developing countries will lead to a more competitive and more educated global workforce.

The effect of global migration patterns—including the movement of workers from country to country as well as from one area within a country to another (for example, rural to urban)—will also be significant. In fact, attracting the most skilled and educated immigrants will be “the next great war for talent” played out at the international level, the report says. In this context, employers are expected to take on a much greater role in shaping migration laws in the countries where they do business.

Other key trends include a decline in both employer and employee loyalty to one another, the growth of the service sector in developing nations, and the influence of new technology.

So what does this mean for HR? As the workplace evolves, HR professionals will be challenged to:

Adapt to a rapidly changing profile of the average worker.

  • Understand the subtleties of workers’ qualifications.
  • Retain and engage a changing workforce.
  • Align technology best practices to global management strategies.
  • Manage the risks of a global operation.

Hire and retain talent while lowering labor costs.

These challenges are already familiar to the experienced HR professional, but the report suggests they will become even more complex in the years ahead and will demand more attention and innovation from governments, organizations and business leaders.

Jennifer Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.

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