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Looking Ahead: Top Challenges for HR in 2010

Posted by Aaron Green  December 21, 2009 05:00 PM

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Looking ahead to 2010, here's what I am hearing from HR professionals about what will be the top staffing challenges in the year to come:

1. Retention
Even if they aren't happy in their jobs, many employees have been sticking around and riding out the recession. There are reasons employees have stayed put: they fear that being the "last one in" at a new company means they'll be the "first to go" if that employer has to make job cuts, they may be concerned about the financial stability of a prospective employer, and there's a general attitude that the "devil you know beats the devil you don't" mentality. Once the employment climate improves, many employees will look to leave their jobs. This pent up desire to leave will create real problems for employers who don't manage properly. HR and senior management teams should have their retention plans and hiring plans in place now to combat the challenges this issue will present in 2010.

2. Doing more with less
Many organizations have cut their HR budgets substantially. As companies start to grow again, there are simply fewer resources to handle HR duties. Already, some Human Resources teams are overwhelmed with the process of finding new employees - they just don't have the staff to handle the workload required to properly recruit, screen and hire while keeping up with other key HR priorities.

3. Changes in Benefits
In response to the recession and the financial pressures it brought, many companies cut employee benefits in 2009 which resulted in some bad will among employees. As employees assess benefits in 2010 they will be reminded of the benefit cuts. HR professionals will need to be actively involved in managing benefits, communicating with employees to minimize bad will, and looking for new and creative ways to improve their company's benefits package in a cost effective way.

4. A tightening labor market for certain positions
Recent reports cite Boston as among the best cities for managerial-level job seekers. In fact, although the national unemployment rate is about 10 percent, the unemployment rate for workers with a college degree is about half that. Recruiters and hiring managers who are looking for mid-career level professional talent have a closing window of opportunity to hire before facing decreased candidate availability.

5. Speed to hire
Before the recession better companies were conditioned to respond quickly to desirable candidates. To beat the competition they had the right mindset and the right systems to prevent top prospects from slipping away. Over the past year, organizations that were hiring had the luxury of not having to move quickly and could draw out the hiring process. In 2010 companies will need to move more quickly in order to land the best candidates, as highly qualified candidates are beginning to have employment choices again.

6. Promoting from within
For many companies the recession created a situation where there were less promotion opportunities. Employees were willing to accept the fate of a slower career path because they wanted to be a team player and help the company, or maybe they were simply happy to keep their job during a nasty recession. In 2010, with economic conditions improved, employees who are ready will be anxious to be promoted. Better employers will be focusing on performance assessments to see who's ready to move up and will be preparing employees with feedback on what they need to do to get promoted. Get the conversation going - talking about their future with the company helps employees feel more engaged and contributes to retention efforts.

7. Flexibility
While change is a constant in the world today, 2009 was by any standard an exceptional year for human resource professionals. For many organizations 2010 will bring just as much change. For companies that made adjustments to restore or ensure financial stability, that change may take the form of new initiatives to support growth or adapt to the newly shaped organization. Some companies may still require strategic organizational changes or cost cutting in order to compete. To excel in 2010, HR will need flexibility; plans developed at the beginning of the year might need to change quickly to capitalize on opportunities that avail themselves during the year.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group  and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at (617) 250-1000.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.