What are the Top Issues Facing HR Executives? Our Predictions for 2019

By: Michael Burke, CEO of Talent, Rewards and Performance, Aon

Business models are changing so fast that the war for talent—both in hiring talent and retaining critical talent—is becoming more aggressive as organizations continue to face disruption. Read the article below for insight from Aon executive Michael Burke, on our predictions for the biggest challenges facing HR leaders. 

1. What are the biggest challenges facing HR leaders today as far as talent management is concerned?

When I think about 2019, I see two big factors impacting what businesses and HR leaders need to do to be successful: The first is disruption and the second is volatility. Whether it’s changes in the global economy, government shutdowns or market fluctuation—those are the things that make it difficult for business leaders to know which direction they need to go in, especially as it pertains to talent management.

Business models are changing so fast that the war for talent—both in hiring talent and retaining critical talent—is becoming more aggressive as organizations continue to face disruption.

When it comes to building the workforce for the digital age, finding people with the right skills can be a challenge. Organizations are struggling with answering, “What does great look like?” and that's where analytics can come in. The data is there, it just needs to be harvested and interpreted.

Finally, even with a clear business strategy for how to grow and survive in this complex and volatile environment, younger generations in the workforce want to understand their value and purpose of the organization they are joining. Defining the mission of the company and linking it to a greater social responsibility, or an employee’s sense of purpose, is becoming more important for organizations to be successful.

2. Where do you expect to see HR and talent management leaders focusing their attention in the coming months as they attempt to address those challenges?

While HR continues to do more with less, a top area for prioritization should be the digitalization of HR processes. With the advent of different technology applications, HR processes are becoming more standardized. There is a higher digital footprint around the processes themselves resulting in more of a consumer-grade experience—leading to a better employee experience.

Traditionally HR has played the role of being more operational and as the function continues to evolve into a strategic business partner, part of that includes being critical and accountable for the HR initiatives that are in motion at an organization.

It’s not uncommon for an HR initiative to stay in program indefinitely. On top of that, new programs and new initiatives are being added that might have higher business importance, such as pay equity, diversity and inclusion and mitigating hiring risk.

HR leaders must start showing the empirical relationship between an HR initiative and the business results the initiative is driving. An example of this is having the capability to link talent rewards to business results. Historically, analytics have been more about data validation, as opposed to using data to drive outcomes. Linking talent outcomes to real business results and being able to show direct connections between the two should be an area of focus in the year ahead.

3. What areas of employee talent management are especially ripe for innovation?

HR professionals have a surplus of data on their workforce, job candidates and rewards program. As an HR professional, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What do I do with all this data?"

That's where leading organizations are starting to tap into artificial intelligence. There is massive disruption taking place with how HR experts are looking at and interpreting people data. Artificial intelligence augmented with human judgment allows HR professionals to model the data and understand it through the lens of human expertise and use it in the right way.

Additionally, for organizations that might not be ready to tackle artificial intelligence, there are still opportunities to innovate and take a new approach to their holistic programs around talent, data and rewards. HR is still very much all about the people and there are so many core HR processes that can be re-evaluated in light of all of the macro-economic and transformation changes that are on the horizon. The worst thing you can do is to say that we’ll just continue to look at these things in isolation. Suddenly, you've waited too long and you’re unable to catch up—you've just created a big disadvantage for yourself.

To read our whitepaper on creating a workforce for the digital age, visit The Power in Your People: Why Data and Empathy are Both Needed to Drive Digital Transformation.

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