Top four HR challenges for 2010

As we move into a new year, many of us are making personal resolutions or goals for 2010. I’ve created a list of the top four challenges for the HR profession for 2010.

Notice that I don’t say, “list of solution.” Given the uncertainty of the times, I don’t have the answers. Instead, I can only recognize the challenges ahead and engage in sincere discussions to find a solution that is right for our situations.


Compensation and benefits plans have always been the way firms created competitive advantage. Those days may be gone. As compensation programs, health plans and retirement plans undergo potential legislation and mandates, the way we develop and manage these programs will likely be impacted. Soon, our government will make decisions on how companies will provide health coverage for their employees. Even firms who currently offer health plans for employees may be required to change their plan design or offerings to make way for new public policies.

What about legislation on executive compensation? For companies who will be required to cap executive pay, caps may create compression issues that will make their way down the ladder. And firms not required to cap pay may feel the pressure across the board to remain competitive.

To add to the problem, there are talks that small businesses may be required to auto-enroll employees in retirement plans. Impacted businesses would find it difficult to comply as many of them don’t have HR departments to manage these plans. Human Resources leaders must become involved in these discussions, and offer a voice in the best interest of our firms. After all, we are the ones who must be advocates for our employees – and good stewards of our company’s financial resources.

The New “Talent” Challenge

The phrases “War for Talent” and “Talent Management” have become buzz phrases. I’ll give you the new one: “Talent Economists.” Human Resources leaders can no longer find talent by posting jobs on a website and they can’t manage talent through orientation sessions and goal setting.

To become “talent economists,” HR leaders must become keenly aware of the supply of talent (who’s laying off now and soon) and the demand for talent (who is hiring/when). Then, we must assess our own talent supply/demand meets the 4-P’s test. Do we have the right person for the position in the right phase of the company for the right price? If not, do we have the courage to make changes to take advantage of the great supply that’s in our marketplace now?

Organizational Dieting

I can’t go into a new year without the word “dieting”. This year, financial dieting is the way most firms have found a way to survive during these times. Furloughs, pay cuts, job sharing and layoffs have become the norm. Since greater than 50% of expenses are salaries, benefits, etc., the dieting trend will continue.

Human Resources leaders need to not only lead, but also follow –the dollar — to eliminate waste and redundancy in people programs and systems. Are our current programs valued by the business? We should work with suppliers to find the best price for our dollars. Are we paying too much for outsourced services? Is quality being sacrificed? HR leaders must also make sure that “cutting for cutting’s sake” is not the practice. In some cases, better spending and investments in people programs may lead to greater financial returns for our organizations.

Healing the Corporate Mind, Body and Soul

Corporate America has taken a hit in the last few years. Some employees have seen financial terrorism, others shun the tabloid-type behavior by executives, and many have lost faith in companies that failed to provide job security. Human Resources leaders have an opportunity to help rebuild the reputation of Corporate America by thinking of the mind, body and soul of our companies.

The mind of the company is its vision and strategy. HR leaders should drive the development, alignment and communication of the organization’s vision and hold its leadership accountable for strategic decisions. The body of the company is its internal process, programs and policies. Are they too restrictive, over-bearing – or too loose with too few controls? The soul of the organization is its culture. HR leaders have unique ability to help shape the culture into one of accountability, integrity and respect for employees.

This is my list for next year. Is your list different? Perhaps it is. But the most important thing that HR leaders can do now is talk to the executives in our firms, colleagues in our industry and employees we serve to ready the business for the challenges ahead – whatever they may be.


Bio of Susan Zimmerman, SPHR, MBA
Senior VP – Human Resources
Susan has over 20 years Human Resources management and leadership experience. She is SVP of HR for Lincoln Trust Company. Prior to Lincoln Trust Company, Susan was Senior Director of HR for Comcast Corporation, VP of Human Resources for OppenheimerFunds, Inc and HR Representative at Citicorp Information Resources. Susan is certified as a Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and is a member of the Human Resources Planning Society, (HRPS), the Rocky Mountain Planning Society (RMHRPS) and Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). She has a B.S. from the University of Arkansas and has an MBA from Colorado State University.


Categories: Management & Leadership