What's Keeping HR Staff Up at Night?: Guest Opinion
When asked recently what HR’s two primary challenges are, the issues that quickly come to mind as an HR practitioner and strategic thinker are navigating through the stormy sea of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, and talent management.
Employees are looking to HR professionals for direction. In fact, nearly 100% of employees expect to receive information and education related to healthcare reform from their employers. However, only 13% of companies think educating their employees about healthcare reform is an important issue. At the same time, executives are counting on HR to make informed decisions to drive business results. Together, these two challenges, healthcare and talent management, seem to be constantly intertwined and are enough to keep your HR people up at night.
The ACA is law with deadlines looming. This fundamental change is likely one of the biggest challenges we will face in our careers coupled with the fact that the employee benefits marketplace has become increasingly complex and competitive. The central questions that need to be addressed are, what is your organization’s current strategic view of benefits and HR, what are today’s human capital management priorities, what is the role of your benefits program, why do you spend money on benefits and what do you want to accomplish with your benefits program over the next 3–5 years?
At a strategic level, the primary concern of CEOs and boards of directors is optimizing the money spent on benefits to attract and retain workforce talent. In many organizations, HR has been viewed as a “tactical function” as compared to a “business partner” of other departments within the enterprise. Advancing HR and transforming this discipline to one that proactively advances business strategy is a major focus of forward thinking CEOs.
From an ACA and benefit perspective, the cost of the total rewards package and controlling the expenses associated with the total rewards package remain important issues. For several years this central issue topped the list of primary employer concerns. Today, however, cost reduction and containment has been eclipsed by the need for talent management. It’s not a people shortage, it’s a talent shortage.
The war for talent is real. The pressure is on for HR strategists to rebuild their workforce and grow their business in the new normal of continued pressure on cost control, employee engagement at an all-time low and unprecedented talent shortages. Evidence shows that the American skills gap is getting worse. According to a March 2013 survey conducted by SHRM, 66% of organizations that are currently hiring fulltime staff said they are having a difficult time recruiting for specific job openings, up sharply from 52% in 2011. The most common skills gaps persist in English proficiency (writing, speaking and reading) and mathematics. The shortage of qualified employees as well as motivating and retaining existing employees is the leading priority for a majority of organizations.
So, what are the solutions? Develop a strategic plan that facilitates a process that you embark upon jointly with a trusted adviser to help guide you and your organization through the healthcare maze. Use a proven strategic planning process to explore the business and human capital management issues of your organization. To overcome the skills gap and attract qualified talent in this highly competitive marketplace, HR professionals recommend enhancing healthcare benefits and touting retirement savings and planning perks.
HR is continuing to be a major strategic partner in premier organizations today. To help organizations transition through the many organizational challenges and changes, HR people today must not only be flexible, agile and multi-task oriented, but must possess new skills such as behavioral psychology, strategic planning, communication, metrics analysis, marketing and sales to be most effective in their respective organizations.
Cathy Hulsey is vice president of human resources and contract management at EPL Inc.
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