What's Your Top Challenge?

By Jennifer Schramm Jan 1, 2013

Human resource professionals are dealing with a range of pressing issues—including talent management and the evolving workforce. The top three challenges HR executives expect to face during the next 10 years are:

  • Retaining and rewarding the best employees.
  • Developing the next generation of corporate leaders.
  • Creating a corporate culture that attracts the best employees.

Demographic changes may be behind some of these challenges, identified in a November 2012 survey of 487 members by the Society for Human Resource Management. The Baby Boom generation—the dominant generation in the U.S. workforce for many years—is now beginning to retire from the workforce.

HR professionals have been thinking about the implications of this for several years. But the deep recession and slow recovery helped to obscure the issue as overall hiring was subdued and retirements were delayed. Now, concern around recruiting and retaining the most valuable employees is moving back onto the front burner.

The loss of Baby Boomers to retirement will take a toll on organizations’ leadership bench. The large Millennial generation more than makes up for the numbers of Baby Boomers retiring, as it is the largest generation in U.S. history. But most Millennials are just starting their careers, and many corporate executives will be looking to workers from Generation X to fill leadership roles. This could prove challenging, since Generation X is a much smaller generation than the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

Higher technical skills and educational requirements could add to the challenge of finding qualified workers and holding onto professionals with in-demand skills: “Finding employees with the increasingly specialized skills we need” was another challenge cited.

Rising demand could lead to talent shortages and high turnover. That is one reason HR executives are so focused on creating an attractive corporate culture and why “remaining competitive in the talent marketplace” is another key challenge for the coming decade.

Other challenges HR executives identified were “creating smooth and efficient HR processes that ensure a good employee experience” and “finding the right employees in the right markets where we do business around the world.” Their biggest investment challenge will be “obtaining human capital and optimizing human capital.”

The tactics most often identified by HR professionals to meet the next decade’s human capital challenges are:

  • Providing flexible work arrangements.
  • Promoting a culture of trust, open communication and fairness.
  • Providing employees with opportunities for career advancement.
  • Offering a higher total rewards package than competitors.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to employee development.

Of course, every organization operates in its own unique context. HR professionals will therefore need to develop the right tactics to meet the challenges their organizations face.

The author is manager of the Workplace Trends and Forecasting program at SHRM.

Web Extras


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect