The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.

I was reviewing some old files and happened to come across an article on HR Trends for 2002, that appeared in a January 8, 2002 issue of HRNext. This got me focused on the “FUTURE” by looking at the past. I feel it is important for all HR professionals to keep up on trends. You need to be a “futurist” of sorts, and I would like to be one for real. So the next three blog posts will be focused on trends and the future. Today’s post will discuss the first half of HRNext’s 2002 article and how those trends are playing today. Tomorrow’s post will discuss the second half of the article. Then Wednesday I will take my own stab what will be happening in HR after January 1, 2009.

So back to 2002. Here is trend #1 from HRNext.
HR More Important, Strategic. In the midst of an ongoing recession, companies will need more than ever to pay close attention to the bottom line. As a large portion of any company’s expenses is related to personnel, HR departments will be asked to play a more strategic and prominent role in company decisions. HR managers will be asked to closely align HR to company objectives. “

This is an “oh-so-familiar” refrain. I am not sure how successfully we have accomplished this in the past 7 years. We still preach this, we still write articles about this and we all hope that this has occurred but I am not sure we have progressed too much beyond this hope. It is however as important today as it was in a 2002 recession. Hopefully the years of teaching this in class has had an impact and HR is functioning on a strategic level. It certainly does point out the importance of paying attention to the economy as part of environmental scanning. I think I will put Paul Krugman’s column on my reading list.

Trend #2
Staff reductions and other cost containment. As companies layoff employees, leave positions unfilled and make other cost reductions to try and stay afloat during the economic recession, it will be up to the HR department to implement the reductions, assist terminated employees and keep the retained workforce motivated and content. HR mangers will be asked to contribute ideas on how the company can continue to minimize expenses.

Well this has not changed! I don’t really see this as a trend but as an ongoing duty of HR. I do believe that the recent meltdown will make this permanent part of all managment practices. Keeping staff trimmed yet motivated and retained regardless of how “fat” the times are.

Trend #3
Containing the cost of health care benefits. (I abbreviated this one.)

When will this not be a trend??? “Nuff said.”

Trend #4
Workplace security and safety. Everyone is taking this issue very seriously since Sept. 11, as company leaders realize they will need more than a simple evacuation plan in place. HR managers will be developing thorough plans and policies designed to keep employees safe and the workplace secure. Workplace violence will also continue to be a concern.

In the days that followed Sept. 11, 2001 this was a major concern. Today the terrorism aspect of work safety has diminished, but workplace violence and domestic violence spilling into the workplace has increased. This is an area the HR needs to be continually vigilant to. Violence to female employees often comes from their home life and will often have an impact on other employees as well. It points out the importance of a good EAP.

Trend #5
Leave issues. FMLA continues to be a concern to HR managers, as companies try to make do with fewer employees. Also, military leave issues are top-of-mind in many companies, as the war on terrorism continues and more employees are called to serve.

This has not changed much since 2002 either. FMLA continues to be difficult to deal with as the law gets new definitions and amendments. With the loosening of the rules surrounding the ADA there will be an impact on FMLA leaves.

As you can see, 2008 looks alot like 2002. Tomorrow the remaining Trends of 2002.

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