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High Anxiety: What’s Keeping HR leaders up at night?

Posted By James Papiano, Thursday, September 22, 2011

Results from the Annual HRExecutive Human Resources Leaders Survey, "What's Keeping HR Up at Night” were recently released. (That's right, anxiety is a leading indicator.)

Looking at results from the last two surveys, the top challenges reported by HR executives are not surprising:

  • Ensuring an engaged and productive workforce,
  • Retention of top talent,
  • Developing leaders, and
  • Aligning people strategies to business objectives.

To address retention and productivity risks, some organizations are responding to employee requests for more communication and greater training and development opportunities. However, where organizations are unable to address their retention risks through these means, there may be a need for further study--and to my way of thinking, greater innovation.

"Innovation” is easy to say but often difficult to create, especially when organizations are facing a weak economy and uncertainty in the markets. Still, the key to innovation is good ideas, and we still produce those — even during this slow recovery.

Take, for example, a presentation from last year's HRPS Fall Forum. Trina Soske and Mark Markovitz presented a variation on executive development. In their work at IBM, they shifted away from a traditional focus on individual leaders and instead designed their program around a group of leaders. Why does it make sense? Because executives at IBM, like the rest of us, work in groups where responsibility and authority is often shared and interdependent. In this group model, the organization's strategic initiatives sit at the center of the program and development occurs within a group jointly responsible for outcomes. One of my favorite phrases from that session: "Leadership is not an individual act.”

Looking at the list of sleep-stealers from the HRE survey, a leadership program like this might be a twofer—tagging development and alignment. It could even have a positive effect on all four of these top anxiety producers.

The process for improved outcomes at the organizational level begins with good ideas. Staying current with research and pilots/experiments conducted by leading organizations is a necessity for Human Resources professionals who have to maintain a pipeline of strategic and tactical options.

Now, while I can't say for sure that attending the HRPS Fall Forum 2011 will make any of us sleep better, I do expect that we will come away with some provocative ideas to consider. The topics up for discussion this year at the Washington, DC-area event are on-point with the top anxiety-producers for HR leaders listed above:

  • Strategic Fluency and Business Alignment
  • Engagement, Retention and Corporate Culture
  • Acquisition and On-boarding
  • Leadership Development and Succession Planning

This is where the HR value chain starts: good ideas, research, and credible experiments in real life.

Tags:  executive development  HR challenges  HR planning  HRM  HRPS Fall Forum  human resources management  leadership development 

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