A Publication of WTVP

What do the following 10 phrases have in common?

Did you think these sound like the issues we're facing in central Illinois? If so, you're partially correct. While these are definitely trends seen locally, they're also the top 10 work place concerns identified in a national survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. The 170 senior human resource professionals polled were asked to rank the relative importance of 83 trends on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being unimportant and 5 necessitating a radical restructuring of the HR field.

While this particular poll was conducted in 2002, more recent polls read much the same, which makes this survey all the more telling in that these trends are coming to fruition. The more important issue is that these are still the most pressing issues facing employers of all sizes. No one is insulated from the effects of these trends. So what are you doing to effectively pre-empt these trends from negatively impacting your organization? As I reviewed the findings of the study, change and dealing with change were underlying themes throughout their discoveries.

The results of the poll seemed to indicate that the impact of technology is foremost on the minds of human resource professionals. Whether fostering communication with employees, protection of intellectual property, or electronic monitoring of employees, technology will play an integral role in the workplace. This could well mean that HR professionals will need to become at least familiar with the vast array of technologies available for human resources policies.

The Watson Wyatt Human Capital Index, a study measuring the effect of specific HR practices on shareholder value, found that when technology was implemented for the purpose of enhancing employee communication, it actually had a negative effect on shareholder value. In contrast, companies that adopted HR technologies with goals of improving service to employees and managers, achieving cost reductions, or increasing transaction accuracy or integrity saw an increase in shareholder value of as much as 6.5 percent.

Rising health care costs, of course, are on everyone's mind, as our aging workforce sees the need for better prescription drug coverage and long-term care insurance, while employers dread spiraling costs. With the recent passage of the Medicare Reform Act, the prescription drug plan and the health savings account provisions will both have a very positive impact for employers in finding solutions for providing benefits without breaking the bank.

The conversion to an information/service economy, the inevitable long-term labor shortage due to demographic changes, and greater demand for skilled workers will all affect talent management and could lead to highly customized employee relationships. Why should you care? Retaining talented workers is the most economically viable option for companies to maintain productivity and achieve competitive advantage.

According to Lily Guthrie of the Office of the Future, to proactively deal with labor supply shortages, companies should implement programs that prolong the working life of older workers: flexible hours, financial benefits, reducing workloads through the use of part-time or part-year schedules, and job sharing. Mentoring would transfer knowledge from more experienced workers to younger, less skilled workers. Another option is for companies to enhance their public image by getting involved in school-to-work and worker-student mentoring programs.

Finally, the focus on safety and security will lead to greater HR involvement in physical and cyber security, such as the use of biometrics and electronic monitoring hardware and software.

As a business owner, you may be thinking these problems are for the bigger guys. As an HR professional, you may know these issues are going to impact your organization, your profession, and maybe even you personally. But what can you do about it?

First of all, stay informed. It's more important than ever to be aware and knowledgeable of what is going on around you. Focus not only on what's happening in your world, but also within your organization, your community, your state, your industry, and the nation. Also, ask yourself how these trends impact you, the organization, or the profession, to what degree, and what can you do about it.

Look at the 10 issues and ask yourself if you're prepared to deal with the changes ahead. IBI