The Top 10 Key Issues for HR and Management in 2018

The Top 10 Key Issues for HR and Management in 2018


In the increasingly VUCA world, HR and Management are now required to be as agile as the evolving work environment and as innovative as some of the AI companies, in order to keep up.  Recent studies, backed up by our own experience, show that the top 10 key issues facing HR and Management in the UK this year are:

  1. The War for Talent: 

With employment at a record high of 32.2 million and around 123,000 EU migrants leaving the UK in the 12 months after the Brexit vote, the war for talent remains at number one of the key challenges facing British companies.  21.2% of vacancies in some specialist roles in science and engineering remain unfilled after 3 months, added to the well-publicised 10% of vacancies remaining open in healthcare.  62% of construction firms report failure in recruiting skilled workers, from bricklayers to quantity surveyors.

The situation is exacerbated by many baby boomers retiring, not enough skilled workers coming from Generations X and Y, and by the Millennials being less interested in the more traditional roles.  Subsequently many firms are relying on freelance or contract workers, who have different needs and motivators to full-time staff, and therefore require flexible contracts and varied management styles.

85% of recruitment is now via the 3 main social media sites with over half the Millennials and Generation Y job hunters using mobile devices.  Therefore HR and Management need to create current and robust attraction and selection strategies with more of a focus on Talent Management, Talent Development and Succession Planning in order to be able to attract, retain and train the right talent.

stressed man

  1. Increased Stress and Sickness Absence: In part due to the Impact of the War for Talent on Existing Staff:

Frequently you hear the expression ‘I am doing 2 peoples jobs’ from those employees, who are left behind and still working when their colleagues have resigned, being redeployed, are on maternity leave, or long-term sick.  The average British person is now working 43.6 hours per week, with many executives working between 60 – 70 hours.  As a result sickness absence from stress and burnout is increasing with a reported 17 million days lost in 2016 at an estimated cost of £4.2 billion to the economy.  HR and Management need to continue to invest in Stress Management and Resilience Programmes and have the relevant policies and procedures in place to address employee health and well-being.

  1. Leadership Development:

Again this is ranked as one of the top issues for HR in order to ensure that the senior leadership team has the right skills to deliver the company vision and strategy.  360 Feedback Reviews and Executive Coaching continue to be in high demand, sometimes to identify and bridge a skills gap, prepare an executive for the C-suite, or support them once they are there, as ‘it’s lonely at the top’.  Today’s leaders are required to be agile and authentic; recent studies highlight the need for them to be emotionally intelligent in order to be able to identify and manage their emotions and those of their team members, be able to retrain thoughts in a more productive direction, build more effective working relationships, and be able to negotiate and influence very effectively.

team meeting

  1. Stepping Up:

Increasingly more employees are being promoted in to senior positions, sometimes without any prior assessments or ongoing support.  Research shows that almost 80% of individuals promoted internally to more senior positions feel that they don’t receive the required preparation and assistance, with just over half receiving the relevant feedback and Coaching they needed to progress well.  Just under 50% felt they had completely underestimated the issues they would encounter in their new role.  The resultant additional time to ‘step up’, added to the reduction in productivity and effectiveness also impact negatively on the bottom line; when this is multiplied through an organization, the ROI of correct assessment and development becomes evident.  Additionally new managers need to be clear on their roles and responsibilities and those of their team members, as well as the levels of decision making authority they have, the correct communication channels to manage and engage with key stakeholders, all aiming for alignment of their objectives with the vision and strategy.

  1. Establishing and Managing Diverse Teams 

The expression ‘That’s not my job’ may become consigned to the pages of history with the increasing need for employees to work in complex, virtual, global, diverse, and/or cross-functional teams.  HR is now often required to produce more flexible job adverts, with matrix management structures, project teams and collaboration being key to the success of many firms.  Managers need to ensure that they are aware of the objectives and requirements of their team members, especially if they are based in an office overseas.  Regular 1:1s via video conference can assist in maintaining engagement, managing performance and identifying any major issues.  Managing 5 Generations in the workplace also continues to be a challenge.


  1. Communication:

Communication has always been one of the main areas of development for most organizations, whether it be the communication style of their  leaders, the lack of cross-company communication regarding key messages (‘we’re always the last to know’) or the holding back of information and silo working as techniques utilised by employees to safeguard their own particular roles and responsibilities.  With the increased communication options in technology available, there is no excuse for internal comms to fall short, however, sometimes it is a simple lack of organising which derails the communication process, not a breakdown of the IM system, email, phones or VC.

  1. Leading and Managing Change:

No matter what the size, most companies will not look or feel the same a year from now.  Employees no longer stay in jobs for life, key life events and sickness impact negatively on workers and they will take time out to deal with these, unlike years ago when employees at work rarely mentioned anything related to their personal lives.  Thanks to social media, customers are more consumer savvy and will become less brand loyal if they encounter issues, and technology will keep evolving at pace, with AI set to revolutionise companies and their workforces.  Only companies whose HR and management teams embrace the changes and adapt to the new ‘industrial revolution’ and digitise will survive in the long-term.

Close-up of a clock showing the words "Time For Change". Shallow depth of field.

  1. Flexible and Remote Working:

As office space is at a premium and with traffic congestion worsening all over the UK, more employees than ever are asking to work from home, Millennials in particular, with some companies suggesting that 8.5/10 team members are now requesting to telecommute.  Widespread availability of broadband and video conferencing facilitates this in many roles and recent surveys show that productivity, morale and engagement all increase significantly with homeworking.  HR and management need to be able to adapt to the increasing number of these non-traditional working practices with managers being seen to be able to trust and empower their team members with the facility to check in using technology, but not to micromanage.  Companies who offer flexible and remote working tend to notice a rise in retention figures and a decrease in attrition.

  1. Death of the Appraisal:

Over the past few years many high profile companies have abandoned the traditional yearly appraisal system in favour of continuous performance management systems. Training is often required for managers to be able to deliver timely and ongoing positive or constructive feedback.  Having the difficult conversations is still regarded as one of the key development areas for managers.


  1. Managing Unconscious Bias:

Fuelled by the Time’s Up Movement in the US, it is expected that more sexual harassment cases will be brought against employers globally this year.  Training in how to overcome Unconscious Bias is expected to increase as HR departments prepare for a rise in complaints and a need to swiftly upskill managers to understand what is appropriate or not.


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