What’s keeping HR leaders up right now? It’s not just retention

What’s keeping HR leaders up right now? It’s not just retention

Author: Jen Colletta

Any HR leader today would likely agree: Recruiting and retaining top talent is their most pressing priority. In fact, it’s a reality that has held true for several years, according to HRE’s annual What’s Keeping HR Up at Night? survey. However, as economic and market conditions change, employers aren’t as singularly challenged by recruiting and retention—which, experts say, could suggest increasing opportunities to strategize for long-term people success.

The survey of more than 350 HR leaders conducted in late 2023 found that about 36% cited recruiting and retaining key talent as their top challenge, compared to 47% last year. While making the right hiring decisions is still, far and away, HR leaders’ biggest focus, the findings suggest the pressure may be easing slightly; the 2022 survey, for instance, found that 72% of respondents were somewhat or extremely concerned about losing talent in the next year, compared to about 62% in 2023.

Mark Stelzner, founder and managing principal at IA and chair of the upcoming EPIC Conference, says recruiting and retaining talent will “always be a top priority for HR.” While the pandemic and Great Resignation largely colored HR’s recruiting and retention challenges in the last few years, today, Stelzner says, his firm is seeing leaders increasingly refine how they think about the challenge of hiring and keeping talent.

“For example, there is a material distinction between the high-volume recruiting that is needed to maintain the business versus the high-value recruiting/retention that is needed to advance or grow the business,” he says.

A slower hiring market and uncertain economy are likely among the factors fueling the slightly decreased emphasis on recruiting and retention, adds Mimi Turner, vice president of the Executive Search practice at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). However, companies seeking to be on the leading edge of recruiting and retention may also be increasingly looking at the undercurrents that help them score and keep talent in the future of work.

“Companies that will be ahead of this in 2024 are looking at things holistically,” Turner says. “They’re going to be taking a look at reskilling and the deconstruction of jobs into skills. Companies today are going to be looking to empower their current talent in ways they’ve never done before.”

Skills for the future

The survey results bear this out, suggesting that, with a less frenzied recruiting and retention focus, HR is increasingly looking to develop talent for the future of work—particularly when it comes to leadership.

Building company culture (19%) and learning and development (16%) again ranked second and third among challenges, rising 1 and 3 percentage points, respectively. These were followed by improving employee engagement and boosting manager training, the latter of which jumped a spot and increased by several percentage points.

When asked where they are spending most of their time, nearly 30% of HR leaders cited leadership development, particularly manager and supervisor training, followed by employee experience and engagement—and then recruiting. Leadership training was also the top-cited strategy for reducing turnover in the next year, with 60% of respondents saying they’re investing in this area—more so than company culture, employee listening and compensation.

A number of factors are driving HR to lean into leadership learning, says Hannah Yardley, chief people and culture officer at employee recognition software provider Achievers.

Read more.

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