One thing certain about the year that lies ahead is uncertainty. A new Associated Press survey suggests that economic recovery will be unpredictable in 2011. The A.P. study also predicts that the unemployment rate will stay stubbornly high over the next two years with hopes of it inching down by the end of 2011. While the economy does show signs of gaining momentum, how robust will it be? And how confidently can management move forward in strategic decision making? Three Ceridian leaders share their thoughts on key HR-related issues that will prevail in 2011.  

Overview of issues facing HR professionals in 2011

One thing certain about the year that lies ahead is uncertainty. A new Associated Press survey suggests that economic recovery will be unpredictable in 2011. The A.P. study also predicts that the unemployment rate will stay stubbornly high over the next two years with hopes of it inching down by the end of 2011. While the economy does show signs of gaining momentum, how robust will it be? And how confidently can management move forward in strategic decision making? Three Ceridian leaders share their thoughts on key HR-related issues that will prevail in 2011. 

 

Jim O'Connell, Ceridian's executive consultant in Washington, D.C.

jim-oconnell.jpg"We are now in an extraordinary period of time for the US and global economy -- about where things are going, not just in the United States but globally. The benchmarks we have relied upon in the past about normal economic cycles are now uncertain, and that's important from an HR and an organization perspective. People aren't going to bank on assumptions that the economy will bounce back in six months. Risk avoidance and a hesitation to make long-term commitments characterize business decisions. Additionally, economic uncertainly will continue to hamstring hiring. Employers will rely more on temporary help and employees working longer hours. 

"HR leaders also are uncertain about health care reform. What will the new law do in respect to benefit costs? Health care reform advocates tell us it will bend the cost curve down. But might it bend the cost curve up? From an HR perspective, it's difficult to know whether the individual mandate will continue or be struck down by the courts. For HR reps, trying to understand all of the phases of the reform law and when they take effect is particularly challenging. We may be on the cusp of the greatest period of innovation in the design and management of employee health benefits since the 1950s. Because of health care reform and an uncertain economy, HR leaders will innovate to get better control over of health benefits costs. We are only now tapping into new technologies to help employees manage their health, have access to information, adopt more healthy habits and life choices, and make healthy decisions, thus containing their health costs. Consumer-directed health, wellness and employee engagement will be essential building blocks of health benefits cost containment. 

"HR professionals need to be plugged into their organization's short- and long-range planning processes. They need to be at the table with senior leadership and stay informed regarding changes in health care reform, immigration policy, retirement policy and regulatory compliance." 

 

Jon Passman, Ceridian vice president of marketing

jon-passman.jpg"Market data shows that there will be a very high demand for technology solutions around talent management and workforce management. We will see a significant expansion of that in the coming year. 

"In a professional services based business, where people are a large component of the solution to the customer, you want to manage your people effectively. This is true even in a world of high unemployment rates. You want to keep your employees happy and growing, and this will also enhance your solution to your customer. In addition, organizations still face high turnover in high unemployment times. Talent management will continue to be of great importance for businesses. 

"Productivity is another area that HR leaders need to address. Companies that have cut staff have fewer people to do the job but need them to be more productive. Scheduling optimization and tools will be important solutions to help employers improve the productivity of their workforce. Workforce management applications also will become more critical in helping employers in measuring workforce performance and metrics. 

"HR departments will leverage social media more than ever. LinkedIn is a major element of recruiting and finding job candidates today. Reporting and business intelligence also provide better ways to get data from various data sources, which enables organizations to make better strategic decisions. People are a high cost in organizations. To remain competitive, you need data to help analyze and manage those costs." 

 

Tina Swanson, Ceridian vice president of marketing

tina-swanson.jpg"There's an unprecedented amount of change occurring in the workplace right now because of health care reform and other mandates, and companies are strapped for resources and time. Ceridian continues to listen to the voice of our customers. We've reached out to other companies in various industries to get their thoughts on the biggest industry challenges and what they're looking for. For example, clients in the retail sector have told us that they want solutions that provide a buying experience that matches consumer expectations, optimizes workforce productivity, controls labor costs and mitigates compliance risks. The current economic conditions result in lower personal income and less consumer confidence, which will continue to cause a widespread impact on the retail industry. Retail businesses who tap into workforce management solutions can compete more effectively in the marketplace during the economic downturn. 

"Ceridian's research shows that our clients in the financial and professional services industry want HR solutions that address a number of industry drivers. As the economy remains unstable, organizations will need to turn to solutions that enable them to recruit and retain top talent, mitigate risk, reduce and control costs, and provide visibility into workforce expenditures. Additionally, organizations in the manufacturing sector are facing a number of key challenges. Drivers affecting this sector include a constantly changing employee base, labor cost management, dealing with manual paper forms, manually managed systems that lead to incorrect records, and unions and overtime. 

"Regardless of industry, organizations will require flexible HR solutions that are tailored to their needs in order to navigate successfully through the uncertain waters of 2011 and beyond."