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The Big Issues Facing HR

Experts weigh in on the top trends shaping the workplace and HR.

A man sitting at a desk looking at his laptop.

Tighter labor markets, economic uncertainty and globalization are key issues that will shape the workplace and the HR profession in coming years, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Special Expertise Panels. These groups are made up of SHRM professional members charged with reporting emerging trends in areas such as ethics, global practices, HR disciplines, labor relations and technology. Throughout the past year, they have identified a wide range of challenges and notable trends, including the following:

  • Stepped-up competition for talent. As labor market conditions improve and the need for skilled and educated workers rises around the world, organizations are finding it more difficult to attract the best employees. This makes it increasingly necessary for HR to help build a strong employer brand. Smart HR professionals are highlighting cultures that incorporate the fundamentals of a great place to work, including corporate social responsibility initiatives, strong worker safety and security measures, and an overarching atmosphere of civility and respect in the workplace. The tight competition for talent is also influencing compensation and benefits strategies, immigration policies, and global relocations.

  • New developments in technology. New tools, such as talent networks, crowdsourcing and internal social networks, hold the promise of increased flexibility and productivity. But their use in supporting a virtual workforce will continue to make employee management and team building challenging.

  • A rising sense of insecurity. With new technology, data security concerns arise for both employer and employee. Companies face the threat of data breaches or risks to global supply chains. At the same time, the fear that workers may find themselves in a physically dangerous situation is also very real, as we see more incidents of workplace violence and political or social instability in places where organizations do business and have staff.

  • The impact of the economy. While economic indicators have improved in countries around the world, many organizations continue to feel a strain on their budgets. This will influence hiring strategies and other HR decisions. In addition, increased globalization and political unrest in some regions will continue to make economic uncertainty the “new normal.”

  • Demographic changes. Population changes will have a mounting impact on many aspects of employment and HR practices. These changes include the aging workforce, different generations working together, the nature of family and parental roles, and increased cultural diversity.

  • Data-driven HR practices. The growing importance of “big data” presents human resource practitioners with an opportunity—and puts them under pressure. Business leaders are increasingly demanding that HR professionals, like their colleagues in other functional areas, use metrics and in-depth analysis to both make good decisions and demonstrate the return on investment of key expenditures.

An ever-changing, complex environment can create the anxious feeling that you, as an HR professional, need to be an expert in everything. This is clearly impossible. Still, these insights from the experts help give us a broader sense of which trends are likely to have the biggest impact on the profession—and leveraging them can help you design strategic responses that make the most sense for your business.

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


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