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What's keeping HR up at night?

Conference survey reveals top issues and challenges facing delegates

By Brian Kreissl

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was hoping to share some of the results of a survey we conducted at the Thomson Reuters booth at this year’s HRPA Annual Conference and Tradeshow in Toronto. As part of a promotion and contest we were running,‎ we asked conference delegates a few questions to help us with product development and marketing.

In particular, we asked them what they saw as being the most important issues and challenges facing HR at the moment. The top three answers were talent management/succession planning, wellness/work-life balance and technology use/social media‎.

In addition to a list of challenges they could choose from, we allowed delegates to identify their own specific challenges under the “other” category. However, very few indicated anything beyond the specific list we provided.

While I’m not a mind reader, it is apparent that talent management and succession planning issues are top of mind for many HR practitioners and organizations. Some of the reasons for this relate to demographic concerns, lack of “bench strength” in many organizations with respect to succession candidates who are ready to step into senior leadership roles and the fact that many organizations have slashed their training and development budgets.

Wellness and work-life balance issues are increasingly important given today’s hectic work environment and tough economic climate with employees having to do more with less. There are also major challenges related to the erosion of the boundary between our work and home lives due to the proliferation of modern technology – particularly smart phones.

Technology also creates challenges for organizations in relation to social media. This applies with respect to non-business use of social media in the workplace, inappropriate disclosures of confidential business information and disparaging comments that have a negative impact on the organization. It is also challenging for many employers to determine how best to leverage social media for legitimate business purposes.

Recruitment challenges, employee engagement and doing more with less

In addition to the first question, we also asked delegates what, if anything, is currently “keeping them up at night.” As expected, delegates’ answers to this question were extremely varied – particularly because the answers were in free form text.

Aside from the same three issues identified in the answers to the first question – all of which were echoed in the answers to the second question – a few recurring themes were recruitment challenges, employee engagement and having to do more with less. Nevertheless, several delegates had slightly different perspectives, even where they identified the same basic themes.

Specific challenges relating to recruitment included attracting quality talent, being able to find local candidates and matching the right candidates to vacancies. One delegate simply mentioned “the war for talent” – which now appears to be heating up again – at least in Eastern Canada (time will tell just how much of an impact the recent drop in oil prices will have on the economy of Western Canada).

Employee engagement has been an obvious concern over the past few years given declining global employee engagement scores. Some of the reasons behind the decline in employee engagement scores likely relate to increased workloads, fewer promotional opportunities and more people staying put in their current jobs due to the poor economy and reduced budgets for the types of programs that typically engage employees. 

Several delegates mentioned challenges relating to being required to do more with less. While quite a few people in a row used those exact words – which leads me to believe those people were together – that doesn’t necessarily negate that belief or mean those people aren’t experiencing such pressures.

Other delegates mentioned their workload, which is really the same issue. Several people also mentioned their lack of work-life balance, echoing one of the top themes identified in the answers to the first question.

Clearly, many HR professionals are feeling somewhat squeezed right now. No doubt these are challenging times for HR.

It is my job as product development manager to help develop innovative products and solutions to help make HR practitioners’ lives easier. Because of that, I am always interested in hearing from readers who have ideas for new products – or who would be interested in writing for us.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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