The society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently conducted a survey of human resource managers, asking them what they see as being the top human resource challenges they currently confront. The results of the survey are certainly interesting and point to a strong consensus regarding the issues identified. Interestingly, the three challenges that topped the list are interrelated, and addressing one will impact on the others. Here are the Top HR challenges 2016:
Maintaining high levels of employee engagement
38% of managers rated building and maintaining employee engagement as being the most important of the current issues in human resource management Fostering engagement is not just good for employees who will be provided with all the reasons they need to love their jobs and enjoy their work – it’s also good for organizations. After all, engaged employees are more productive, more likely to stay in their jobs, more innovative, and make companies measurably more profitable.
There’s no denying that this will be an enormous challenge. After all, Gallup found that only 29% of employees show active engagement in their work. For HR managers, this means a lot of work on the ‘10 C’s of engagement’. These could be summed up as connecting and communicating effectively with employees, offering attractive career options, providing incentives and recognition that motivate employees, creating opportunities for consultation and collaboration, ensuring that employees can have confidence in highly credible managers, and allowing workers control over how clearly communicated outcomes are reached. That’s quite a mouthful, and there’s no denying that meeting these challenges will take creative thinking, careful diplomacy and a good HR strategy – they certainly represent a broad spectrum of human resources issues.
Developing new leaders
The new generation of leaders must inspire and empower. For too long, ‘command and control’ leadership has been the style most often adopted. Kai Peters, co-author of ‘Steward Leadership a Maturational Perspective’ says that stewardship is the way forward for business leadership today.
To a certain extent, this challenge matches that of building and maintaining employee engagement. In order to achieve engagement, employees need to feel that they can respect their management, be proud of their organizations and want to be part of building and improving it. The steward leader has goals that relate to the sustainability of the organization and the wellbeing of others, including employees and society in general. Peters notes that this kind of leadership requires a natural predisposition towards attempting the unconventional as well as the ability to be flexible. It is also clear that the mind-set that matches this model is that of the highly engaged employee who has grown into leadership.
Putting the organization, the team, and the community ahead of oneself, thinking creatively, and being open to new ideas, are all indicators of engagement, and in turn foster engagement among the employees that the leader works with. HR directors will need to be alert in order to spot promising candidates, and will have to focus strongly on their further career development.
Competitive compensation and talent retention
Although these two elements may appear to be the same thing, there are subtle differences. Yes, if compensation is not competitive, employees will leave organizations and take jobs in positions where compensation is competitive, but talent retention isn’t only about remuneration. If people are not happy and engaged (here comes ‘engagement’ again) in their jobs, if they don’t feel like respected members of a team, they will move on, taking positions where they feel they have greater opportunities for personal development and self-expression.
On the other hand, if compensation is market-related, and employees feel as if they ‘belong’ in their jobs, they will think twice about moving on to ‘greener pastures’ even when the compensation they are offered in a new post is marginally better than what they are currently receiving. After all, why should they want to leave a job that they love and where they have opportunities for performance-based advancement in exchange for a slightly better-paying position in an organization they have no reason to feel loyalty towards and do not know?
From an HR manager’s perspective, employee retention begins with hiring the right people and offering the right compensation and rewards. From there on, the factors that promote employee retention closely match those that foster engagement.
Inter-related issues and results
Are we confronting some interesting human resource challenges in 2016?
We certainly are! But at least we will be able to address all three of the major factors identified in the survey with every employee engagement strategy we implement. By the looks of things, a focus on engagement is spot-on, since it will also help us to develop new leaders and retain valuable staff. In the analysis, it’s hard to disagree with the opinion of the 38% of HR managers who felt strongly that the challenges of human resource management can be summed up as ‘Engagement, engagement, engagement’. HR professionals need to define HR priorities and set the HR agenda.
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