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Top HR issues you should be watching now


By Sandra Wiley

Regulation, collaboration, engagement, talent, training, retention, recruitment and motivation. When you hear these powerful words, what comes to mind? I hope that the area of human resources or talent development are top of mind, and I also hope they don’t come with another word – scary. This month, I hope to replace any negative connotations you might have with something that will destroy fear – knowledge. Let’s look at some of the top issues in HR right now, and how your firm should be responding.

Employee engagement

Employee engagement has made its way firmly into HR vocabulary over the last few years; however, continued work in this area is needed. A recent Gallup poll reports that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work. That is a pretty paltry number by anyone’s standards.

Firm response: Read and implement the strategies in “The Engaged Employee, 10 Initiatives for Successful Firms.”

Human resource regulations

As a profession, we are acutely tuned in to regulations that affect our accounting practice, but regulations certainly don’t stop there. Our world is changing, and so are laws that affect virtually everything we do with our team and, ultimately, your business. A few of the big-ticket items to watch in human resources are:

  • Changes to overtime rules
  • Same sex marriage/protections for LGBT individuals
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Paid sick leave
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – pursuit of workplace policies
  • Independent contractors’ increased workplace rights

Firm response: Review current policies to ensure you are in compliance. Join the Society of Human Resource Management ( and stay informed. Because this is an election year, the changes will come fast and furious, and your firm needs to be prepared to act.

Increased need for data and analytics tools

The ability to collect, process and analyze big data is becoming a crucial factor in identifying and managing the challenges of business lifecycles, including talent management. Firms that want to gain a competitive edge increasingly need to use analytics to gain data-driven insights into workforce trends and take action to refine recruitment, compensation and other performance incentives to meet employees’ evolving goals and interests.

Firm response: Create a new “talent” vision for the firm based on current, but not accessible, HR data. Determine where you are storing data today and create a wish list of the questions that you wish could be answered if you could mine the data that is sitting in your current systems. Then, research the potential solutions that could help you get those answers. While the systems may be a little tricky to find today, they will become more readily available soon. Talk to your current software providers specifically about what you want and their plans to upgrade their systems.

Need for integrated workforce management systems

It is time to upgrade your systems in the HR area of your firm. For example, for firms with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time-equivalent employees, the Affordable Care Act has transformed what was once an annual enrollment event into a monthly process of tracking and reporting extensive data. To comply with the law, personnel in tax, finance, IT, audit and HR who never had to share data before may now need to partner to help avoid costly penalties. Gathering the required data from multiple systems can present a challenge, so it will become even more important for firms to consider an integrated human capital management solution.

Firm response: Now is the time to research and make a commitment to implement a future-ready human resource management system (HRMS). This system will include the management of recruitment, performance management, learning and compensation management. A few systems to start with are Halogen, SuccessFactors, Sage HRMS, ProStaff and Silkroad.

The five-generation workforce

You read that right – five generations working side by side. HR must be prepared for the potential challenges this may bring to your firm. Sixty-seven percent of workers say that they are encountering intergenerational issues in the workplace as a result of the widening age gap. However, 39 percent of employees are concerned about losing knowledge as their older colleagues retire, implying that succession planning should top the HR agenda in 2016.

Firm response: I wish you could hear me right now singing the song “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Infusing respect into the firm by talking about the amazing things that each generation brings to the firm is the answer. Open communication, cross-generational committees, new ideas that are considered by all and recognizing the power of five generations as a positive rather than a negative are all great places to begin.

Competitive recruitment strategies

Recruitment has become an art in our profession. Firms are dealing with talent acquisition 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The competition is not about the firm across town now, it is a global fight against not only public firms but private companies that want the best and the brightest, and they are working just as hard as you are to find and retain the best talent.

Firm response: Begin your recruiting war plan with a ubiquitous vision toward branding your firm in a way that will attract amazing people. Yes, you heard that right – branding. Marketing and HR should work hand in hand to develop strategies that will attract the talent that will fit your culture. Workable and Accountingfly can help your recruiting succeed.

While this list is not exhaustive of all HR issues, it should give you a new appreciation for the issues your firm will face in the near future. Read, absorb and then take positive actions that will protect your future-ready firm.

2015.07 Sandra Wiley Headshot - Grey Background_NEWSandra Wiley, PHR, SPHR, is a shareholder and senior consultant at Boomer Consulting Inc.