Each year brings its own challenges for HR to face, from increasing competition in talent management to changes in employment law.
While it’s impossible to account for all of these in your HR strategy, you can build valuable CIPD guidance and best practice into your plan to cover many of the most disruptive challenges.
In this article, we’ll be taking you through the ways that you can foresee and account for universal challenges.
We’ll be using theories and in-depth learning from our CIPD Level 7 Diploma in HR Management. If you’d like to learn more about how these can equip you or your team with essential HR skills, then check out our CIPD courses.
Recruitment & Talent Management
In the UK, we’re facing some unique challenges in the coming year, largely prompted by looming Brexit and the uncertainty it poses for EU nationals working in the UK. HR professionals must be following the best possible resourcing practices and using innovative retention strategies to alleviate the threat posed by this uncertainty.
These best practices should be built into your strategy…
Long- and short-term talent and succession planning
Succession planning can be a difficult task to approach, as you’re effectively planning for the departure of a colleague. This may be because they’ve handed in their notice and are ready to leave within the next month, or because you’re creating a long-term plan for what should happen if a senior member of staff leaves.
In the long term, successful HR practitioners should identify potential successors and move them laterally to allow them to gain experience. While there's always a chance that they may leave before their development is complete and they have the chance to take over, this is less likely if they realise they're being groomed for a top spot.
Succession planning should effectively mitigate the risk of having to move an unskilled or unprepared member of staff into a key role - or having to source a potentially tricky external candidate in a short space of time.
Resourcing new talent is also changing thanks to new trends and technology. While advertising jobs on social media may once have seemed unprofessional, this is where many talented applicants look for work. If you’re not reaching out to this audience with your resourcing strategies, then you may be missing out.
Finding the most appropriate resourcing strategy is a process in itself. There’s no one size fits all approach, either for every employer or for every role. For roles with very specific requirements, you may want to post on an industry-based job board or publication. Although the scope of candidates is narrower, the quality and suitability of applicants will likely be higher.
When filling a niche role, advertising on social media or on more general job boards may create additional work for HR with a larger volume of applications to work through.
Talent management strategies
Talent management is an area in which HR professionals must take an active lead. This isn’t a passive process; without due care and work, even the best employees can become demotivated due to a lack of talent management.
Talent management is a broad spectrum, but it should form a critical part of any successful HR strategy. Armstrong (2009) provides the following performance and potential grid to group the talent that you need to identify:
This considers the current performance and the potential of four key groups. Employees identified to be rising stars can quickly be fast-tracked through your talent management system and pushed towards better positions.
Queries and core managers require more development, which will be a personal, tailored plan with the goal of reaching further opportunities.
As new hires join the business, you should funnel them through the same system to ensure that all employees are receiving the same level of support. Leave yourself room for flexibility within this process to develop those that perhaps need more work or motivation to succeed.
Building a diverse workforce is also a key challenge for HR, with more focus than ever placed on inclusivity. This is beneficial for employees and employers alike, as you bring new skills, experience and talent that may otherwise have been alienated.
Studies have shown that diverse businesses are more likely to be profitable and successful. This is part of a growing body of knowledge, which increasingly indicates the link between diversity and success for businesses.
As existing gender pay gap reporting and a push for ethnicity pay gap reporting impact the workplace, employers must take conscious steps to strive for equality.
This is particularly important for executive and board level positions which are typically dominated by white male employees, as representation should be consistent across all levels.
Building strong teams with diverse members requires the implementation of new D&I strategies. These can include appointing a D&I officer, tracking diversity KPIs, training people at all levels on unconscious bias (like Google's re:Work unbiasing programme) or even creating employee networks at larger companies.
D&I initiatives must apply to recruitment, onboarding and day-to-day working life to be effective. To reap the rewards of a diverse workforce, HR practitioners should craft strategies that drive continual improvement.
Flexible working initiatives
Staff members want their work to be flexible, with many reporting that this is a deciding factor in whether they apply to (or accept) a job.
Plus, employers are often seeking flexibility too. We live in a 24-hour society, so HR professionals face more diverse recruitment tasks.
Roles with unusual working hours can be difficult to fill, but with a degree of flexibility these can become attractive. Customer facing roles can be particularly tricky to give a degree of flexibility to, but there are ways in which this can be done.
For example, imagine you require a night shift customer service representative, a position that has been created as a response to customer demand and the fact that your competitors offer a 24-hour helpdesk. Allowing the person in this role to work from home, select the hours that they want to work, or even share the hours with another candidate makes the role much more likely to be filled.
This solution balances the need for an available customer contact with the quality of the role that is offered. With additional flexibility perks, the role fits around the employee’s life – rather than the other way around.
Staff retention strategies
Finding the right talent is only half the battle, as you also have to retain those rising stars that are the lifeblood of the business. If they’re good for your organisation, then they may also be sought after by other organisations, particularly if they have some big achievements under their belts.
Training can be a major incentive to retain staff, as Richard Branson said:
“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t have to.”
With large scale strategies, implementation must be planned well in advance. If you’re planning to bring in a new tool or system, then you need to build in time for teaching and integration.
Employment Relations Policies
The policies that you use to manage employee relations should also be addressed within the overall strategy. Organisation-level processes should be laid out to ensure that consistent values are held throughout the business.
These should be regularly updated, as HR must change with the times to support the entire organisation and workforce. This could be managing a high turnover rate, change management, or even redundancies.
While these are hypothetical, your strategy should prepare for any eventuality. Part of the role of HR is to present a cool and collected contact, even during times of chaos within teams or the larger organisation. For this reason, your strategy should contain these plans, whether you think they will be needed or not.
Total Reward Management
Rewards and compensation are more than just the final figure that makes up the employee’s salary. More and more, we’re seeing companies using perks to attract and retain their talent.
It’s important to be aware of the market that exists within your field, industry and location. To reward staff adequately, you must understand what else is out there should they want to go further afield.
Other companies that represent competition for your skilled members of staff should be where you start. Take time to research what they offer their employees, then create a package that makes your workplace more desirable.
The total reward doesn’t have to cost the company more money. Non-monetary benefits are also part of a great employee experience; these can include flexible working, employee recognition schemes, regular reviews and additional time off for big life events.
We’re increasingly moving towards a world in which employees expect to be able to work flexibly and receive regular bonuses from their employer. This trend is only likely to continue in the coming years. If your employer is still stuck in the past and don’t offer these perks to their staff, then you may experience a higher turnover.
Learning & Talent Development
Covering skills gaps is becoming a trickier task for HR, with the right workers in short supply across many industries. It’s therefore absolutely essential to grow the talent that you have in-house over the course of the strategy.
Identifying the right members of staff for future development can be boiled down to key competencies and factors that you look for.
Annual reviews can be a good way to broach the conversation about what the employee wants in the future and how you can fulfil that within the company. Recognition is also key; if you use employee led schemes and nominations you’ll come to understand which employees should be nurtured most.
This constant identification and selection process gives high performers recognition, while also giving other members of staff something to strive for.
Drill down into the type of training and development that’s suitable for the employee, are they earmarked for management or could they use more knowledge of the field?
Developing leaders can be a time-consuming process but hiring from within ensures you’re getting a manager with the right values, at the right time and with the right salary. Inheriting management roles is common, but you want to recognise and upskill these employees with formal training to improve their efficacy.
Operating within the boundaries of the law may seem like a no brainer, but employment law is never quite so straightforward. Keeping abreast of workplace legislation and changing requirements should also be factored into an effective strategy.
This may mean that you build in time on a regular basis to review current legislation and be aware of upcoming shifts in the legal landscape.
Awareness is just part of the necessary process, as you must also be ready to implement new practices where this would be required. Creating a flowchart of which people should be made aware of these shifts and then gives you a linear process to follow, which makes it less likely that anything will be left out.
Employment tribunals have also changed quite recently and are now free for the aggrieved employee, leading to a rapid uptake in this kind of legal action. HR partners must be ready to act and create a defence should this happen.
This means that you should have a paper trail of when information was imparted, lists of key witnesses and transparent documentation. This is effectively the shield for the company. If you can’t prove that meetings about performance were had before dismissal for example, then this is a massive chink in the company’s armour.
No matter how trusted an employee is or how unlikely they are to seek legal action, every step in the process must be documented. Impress this upon line managers too; they shouldn’t be having meetings about progress or health and safety seminars without documentation.
Organisational Design and Development
HR is also a strategic partner within the business. As such, we should ensure that the organisational design and development syncs with the company goals.
The role of HR can often be misunderstood by other executives. To bring home your impact on the bottom line you should be on board with organisational development.
Understanding and supporting the goals of the business will also play into your strategy, whether these goals are growth, customer satisfaction or introducing new services. These long-term goals require HR intervention to bring on new staff, initiatives and programmes to make them a reality.
We hope that this information will start you on your way to creating that perfect HR strategy. Our CIPD courses cover these elements in greater detail to give you a full understanding of the modules. Then, you can factor this into your full HR strategy to drive organisational change.