HR Houdini: How human resource managers handle latest workforce trends

The last five years have been quite a century for people who work in human resources.

At least that must be how it feels to those who chose the profession. So much uncertainty, talent shortages, a pandemic, generational shifts, high expectations, technology, and the pace of change, just to name a few.

As MRA listens to the voice of its nearly 4,000 members throughout the Midwest, here is what we are hearing, with insights included.

Succession planning

Employers are more concerned than ever about building a life cycle of talent that prepares the organization for departures, plans for replacements, and builds bench strength. As a result, companies now are identifying every key position, developing emerging leaders’ programs and ensuring a backup is identified and prepared for not just the C-suite positions, but every critical role.

Generational diversity

There could be six generations in the workplace if you have a few from the Greatest Generation still working and a few Gen Alphas in their first jobs as high school students.

That brings an incredibly wide variety of experiences into your business. And, we are at a generational tipping point as well. Gen Z and Millennials are on the cusp of outnumbering Baby Boomers and Gen X. And they bring with them different experiences and different ways of doing business.

Employers are working on developing mentoring programs, reverse mentoring programs, and purposefully creating cross-generational opportunities to access the strength of the generational diversity.


Expectations of the new talent pool of employees may not be in line with employers’ reality, and that makes the total rewards offering complicated. The last few years shook up the compensation market and many changes were made. As the dust settles, companies are spending more time understanding what employees truly value and what motivates them. Under the premise that a benefit is not a benefit unless the employee sees it as a benefit, offering a total rewards package that provides what your employees value is becoming key to employee retention and satisfaction.

Flexibility/remote work

Workplace flexibility almost has become a nonnegotiable for talent looking to build a career and maintain work-life balance. And that is a challenge. Building a policy that is fair and defensible, having data to support your decisions, knowing what your employees want, and being open-minded to thinking differently are keys to success.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) will disrupt your organization faster, and as much as any technology we have ever known. Identifying and understanding where the high impact areas for AI are in your business could lead to efficiencies, innovation, process improvements and new products and services.

To get there, companies are developing user policies and guide rails for employees to understand how to use AI safely and responsibly. They are putting someone or some department in charge of leading the efforts, and they are narrowing their initial efforts to definable and achievable purposes

Employee experience

The last five years represent an incredible shift in the employer-employee balance. The demographics of the Midwest favor the employee, and that will not end anytime soon. Accepting that fact will help develop strategies that make for a better employee experience.

Communicating more, through a variety of channels, quicker and more transparently is critical to employee buy-in. In addition, personalization of employee interactions through rewards, learning and development, and communication methods can go a long way toward making each employee feel unique.

Employee engagement

Employee movement between employers is more prevalent than ever and the “Employers of Choice” know how to engage their employees. They are engaging Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to bring workers together to talk about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Our changing demographics require a better understanding of our fellow workers. Companies are collecting more data and getting more feedback from employees on the culture of the business and what makes it a great place to work.


A company’s ability to adapt quickly will determine its survival. The teaching of change management is on the rise as employers equip everyone in the operation for this new reality. By having a staff that understands the hills and valleys that come with any major — or even minor — change, disruption can be minimized and opportunities maximized.

Those are a few things on the minds of human resource professionals throughout the Midwest. I think you’ll agree, the last five years have been quite a century.

• Jim Morgan is vice president of business development and workforce strategies for Midwest-based MRA.

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