Detailing HR's Top Two Concerns in 2005

January 1, 1996
According to the yearly survey by the Human Resource Institute at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, the top two concerns for 2005 will be the skill level of the work force and managing change. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

Skill level of the work force.
Just as you can look at a glass as either half full or half empty, you can look at the two biggest human resources concerns of the future as either exciting or terrifying. No matter how you look at it, the year 2005 will bring with it much change. Whether you're ready to deal with the two biggest issues of tomorrow may depend on how you plan for them today.

HR managers are saying that skill level of the work force will be their top issue in 2005. Will your work force have the right skills in the workplace of tomorrow? "Even as HR professionals make lists of the skills and core competencies their workers need today, they know in their hearts they're going to be different tomorrow because changes are happening so fast," says Jay Jamrog, director of research for the Human Resource Institute at Eckerd College.

HR managers are worried that technology is deskilling 75% of the population. "There's a big concern that the half-life of skills is getting shorter and shorter because technology will replace a lot of people," says Jamrog. He says the half-life of skills will be between one to three years by 2005. How do you cope? Continuous training. While jobs and skills may become obsolete, it isn't a good tactic to let people's skills lapse.

And you may need to do a better job of work-force planning. "I think work-force planning is an area of need in the future—how to manage the work force toward the skills and competencies that are going to be needed to accomplish the strategies that have been designed by the business," says Bob Lutz, director of HR planning and information systems for White Plains, New York-based Texaco Inc. Sometimes you have to look back to look ahead. Stay on top of it and your business will prosper.

Managing change.
Managing change is the second big topic for 2005. "Of course you have to manage change, but if you're always picking up the pieces after the change occurs, and just managing it, you'll always be behind the eight ball," says Jamrog. The more innovative companies are looking for ways to not only manage change but also to influence and control it to create an organization that's change-sensitive—as described in Peter M. Senge's "The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization."

That's the approach Dallas-based Texas Instruments Inc. has taken. "Being able to manage change effectively and quickly is by far the biggest challenge we face from a people point of view," says Chuck Nielson, vice president human resources. "Our No. 2 challenge is creating an environment in which people love to learn." Although the company mandates that people must take a minimum of 40 hours of training a year, the harder part is getting them to enjoy it.

The keys will be empowerment and ease of knowledge transference. If you can get employees to take the initiative to learn, you're halfway there. If you make it easy for them to pick up the knowledge and skills, you'll likely be home free.

Personnel Journal, January 1996, Vol. 75, No. 1, p. 36.