Engagement is Still the Issue

Friday, March 10, 2017
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Some things never seem to change.

Each year, Human Resource Executive® asks readers to participate in our annual "What's Keeping HR Up at Night?" survey, a poll designed to help us get a handle on the issues that are currently causing HR leaders the most stress.

This year, we find -- as we have for the past three years -- that keeping employees engaged and productive remains the No. 1 task that keeps HR professionals tossing and turning.

When asked to name the three biggest HR challenges facing their organization today, 34 percent of this year's 305 respondents cited maintaining employee engagement and productivity, followed by attracting and retaining diverse talent (27 percent) and developing leaders (26 percent).

When a company can't keep its employees happy, those employees start to leave in large numbers. Employers remain painfully aware of this reality. When asked to rate their concern over losing talent in the next 12 months, with 5 being "extremely" concerned, 63 percent classified their level of concern as a 5 or a 4.

"The annual employee survey is no longer enough" to help organizations understand what drives employee engagement, says Adam Zuckerman, a Chicago-based employee insights practice leader at Willis Towers Watson.

"Instead, most large companies today are actively supplementing annual 'deep-dive' surveys with more ongoing, continuous input from employees through shorter, more focused pulse surveys, as well as [conducting] regular surveying of employees as they join and leave the organization."

Indeed, it's not as if employers and HR leaders are sitting on their hands while talented workers walk out on them, as evidenced by the 38 percent of respondents counting "employee relations" as one of the three areas in which they're currently spending the majority of their time. Twenty-eight percent said the same about talent management and leadership development, respectively, with another 23 percent putting employee engagement in their top three.

Succession planning, on the other hand, seems to be something HR leaders aren't devoting as much energy to. For example, 63 percent of respondents told HRE their organizations have no succession plan in place for the CHRO position.

While HR leaders could play a role in lowering that number, there are, as always, factors beyond CHROs' control that are also contributing to their stress levels.

Compliance with the Affordable Care Act remains an issue, as it has since the ACA's enactment in 2010.

With a new president taking office this past January, we asked readers what areas of legislative and regulatory policy they would like to see new administration prioritize. Not surprisingly, 74 percent said "healthcare," outpacing the next-most frequent answer, "wage and hour," by nearly 40 percentage points.

Employers are primarily looking for the new administration to address Affordable Care Act reporting requirements and escalating health-insurance costs, says Jim O'Connor, CEO of CBIZ Employee Services Organization.

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"There's a huge administrative burden that comes along with ACA compliance, and employers would like to see the administration eliminate the reporting requirements altogether."

Additionally, "employers are hoping the new administration will solve the dilemma of continually increasing healthcare costs in our country," he says. "Healthcare remains too expensive and something needs to be done to combat this trend."  

See the charts:

Is there a succession plan in place for the HR leadership role in your organization?

What do you consider to be the three biggest HR challenges being faced by your organization today?

What areas of national legislative and regulatory policy would you like to see the incoming Trump administration put at the top of its priority list?

In which of the following areas are you currently spending the majority of your time?

How concerned are you about losing talent over the next 12 months?


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