February 25, 2020

HR's biggest challenges for 2020 and how to overcome them

More than 60% of HR executives are concerned about losing talent in the next year. From the latest Human Resources Executive annual survey, here’s what else is keeping them up at night.

This year, HR executives are putting a laser focus on retaining their top talent.

Human Resource Executive’s annual survey of more than 300 HR executives at mid-to-large size companies reveals that retention is top of mind for HR leaders.

More than half of respondents cited retention as the top challenge they face today. And, according to Human Resource Executive, “combined, more than 60% of survey respondents are either extremely or very concerned about their organization losing talent over the next 12 months.”

This is a shift from past years, the HRE survey notes. The top issue over the last three years was employee engagement; last year, retaining talent tied with engagement for the top concern.

Why talent retention is a priority

According to Human Resource Executive, the survey results suggest that what’s changed over the last few years is the lower unemployment rate, which encourages job hopping.

As well, the skills economy is driving a change in priorities. From an increasing need for specific skills as companies’ tech investments grow, to building new skills to boost productivity, employers are seeing a critical need to hold on to their top talent.

Participants also highlighted the Silver Tsunami, or imminent retirement of the baby boomer demographic, as creating pressure to capture and transfer knowledge to their existing workforce.

Getting ready with succession planning

Perhaps it’s also not surprising that the next common concern for respondents is developing leaders and succession planning (around 45%).

However, while succession planning is a top concern – and one that is related to both retention and knowledge transfer – more than half of respondents said there’s no succession plan for their organization’s HR leadership role.

Human Resource Executive suggests that organizations should begin rethinking traditional succession planning in order to be better prepared for the future. HR professionals should look ahead and critically analyze the organization’s needs as they relate to accomplishing business goals. For example, will key roles change or evolve? Will there be leadership skill gaps down the line? Can responsibilities of certain roles be divided among more than one employee?

Feeling the pressure

Half of respondents said that in the last 18 months, their stress levels had increased somewhat, while 24% said they had increased dramatically.

Feedback from respondents, collected as part of the survey, provides an idea of the key contributors – many of which were related to retention – to the increasing pressure.

These include:

  • Impact of the 2020 presidential election: According to the survey, HR executives are feeling the pressure of changes that could come in the aftermath of the election, for example, potential changes federal or state laws, health care, wage policies, and reporting regulations.
  • Skills gap: One HRE survey participant said their company’s employees “must maintain capabilities and skills with the latest technologies,” highlighting the importance of providing initiatives for skills development so the workforce actually has the skills needed for the future. This is in line with Ceridian’s 2020 Future of Work Report, which found that more than 60% of leaders think their organization will experience a skills gap in the next two years.

The importance of culture and experience

Survey findings also highlighted the role of a great culture and employee experience in differentiating organizations from competitors from a recruiting and retention perspective, particularly in a tight labor market with a low unemployment rate.

This echoes findings from Ceridian’s 2020 Future of Work report, which, with at least 50% of leaders saying they struggle with recruiting because their industry isn’t seen as attractive, points to potential employer and industry branding issues.

As it stands, only 6.5% of respondents in the HRE survey said employee morale and engagement at their organization as extremely strong (and about one-third said it is strong).

Empowering employees, then, through a holistically healthy culture, is an important piece to the puzzle. Providing opportunities for learning and professional development, setting clear goals, offering creative compensation, and empowering employees with technology to foster innovation, creativity, and diversity are just some ways for organizations to get on the right track for the future of work.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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