3 Top HR Challenges, Plus 3 Crucial First Steps for HR Leaders

The ADP jobs report for January 2020 showed an increase in 291,000 private sector jobs over December 2019. This hiring surge demonstrates businesses' confidence in the economy, but may also leave some organizations worried they're missing out on top talent. Looking ahead for the remainder of the first year of the decade, human resources professionals report focusing on three areas of growth and challenges: talent management, mental health, and diversity. 

Talent Management

A recent study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed over half of responding HR professionals (53%) rank employee recruitment as a "very important" challenge they will face over the next three to five years. Retention is also a top concern, considering the voluntary quit rate is at its highest point in 15 years (2.3%). 

Julia Johnson, director of organizational performance at Wipfli, recommends building brand recognition and networking relationships as two effective recruitment strategies. "Share the benefits of working at the bank and in the community," she said. Another technique is to carry business cards inviting people who have the right "spark" and level of customer service to call for an interview. It's also important to identify and weed out any employees whose behavior may create a toxic environment that drives top performers away, Johnson said.

As Gallup's recent book It's the Manager highlights, one of the best retention strategies for any company is to ensure managers are equipped to succeed. "Too often successful individual contributors are promoted into positions of management without the benefit of participating in leadership development training," Johnson said. "HR leaders need to create the business case for growing and developing managers." That means making development a strategic priority and putting it in the budget.

Crucial first step: Start measuring your culture. "Culture has a tremendous impact on your ability to retain employees," said Johnson. "In the absence of understanding and managing your culture, it will manage you. The best way to gain that understanding is to measure it." Johnson defines organizational culture as "the way employees are expected to do things." She further describes culture as shared behavioral norms that enable employees to fit in with other members of the team. Wipfli utilizes the Organizational Inventory® when working with client to measure culture. While there are other tools on the market, this is a top-notch tool that provides robust information and insight. If change is needed, it must be led from the top-down, and HR plays an important role. "In order to evolve the culture to the desired state, HR leaders must create shared learning and mutual expectations," Johnson said. "A bank must define its desired culture, identify and align the levers of change, and monitor, support, recognize, and celebrate culture transitions."

Mental Health

In 2016, 18.3% of U.S. adults experienced a mental health disorder and nearly three-quarters (71%) suffered from at least one symptom of stress, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Odds are, at least one of your bank's employees is affected by mental health issues during their time at work. 

Sarah Noll Wilson, an executive coach, keynote speaker (including at the upcoming WBA HR Conference), transformer of teams, researcher, and soon-to-be-author, says mental health isn't something only individuals diagnosed with a disorder need to pay attention to. "If you have a brain, you need to be thinking about mental health," she said. "Everyone experiences stress and traumatic life events." 

A growing number of organizations offer mental health benefits—beyond the typical employee assistance program (EAP)—as part of their total compensation package. These benefits range from expanded health insurance to cover mental health treatment to providing office spaces for meditation to offering workshops on stress management techniques. Benefits like these help destigmatize mental health, as well.

Crucial first step: Provide education and training for your managers. According to Noll Wilson, many times fear of crossing the legal restrictions about what they can ask subordinates hampers the efforts of managers to connect with an employee who is struggling, amplifying the feelings of isolation that often come with experiencing a mental illness. "The first step is education and awareness," Noll Wilson said. "Provide training on what you can and can't say, what the experience is like, and how to support someone going through it."

The CDC has created a Workplace Health Resource Center to provide employers with a one-stop shop for resources to create a healthy work environment. Visit www.cdc.gov/WHRC to learn more and access resources, including mental health success stories.

Diversity and Inclusion

XpertHR's fourth annual survey of over 700 HR professionals found managing diversity and inclusion (D&I) to be extremely challenging for 38% of respondents. Combine that with Glassdoor's recent study showing nearly half of employed adults have witnessed or experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace, and it's easy to see why D&I is on the minds of many human resources professionals. 

Cedric Thurman, chief diversity officer at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, said demographics are driving the increased focus on D&I issues because both the labor pool and consumer marketplace are changing. "Having a diverse staff helps you understand your marketplace," he explained. "They'll bring a different thought process for how to design and market products and services for a different kind of consumer." Thurman says having staff who understand the bank's new customers makes the business sustainable. 

Crucial first step: Ensure your D&I project is not siloed it in the human resources department. "It has to be part of your business strategy," Thurman said. "If the CEO of the bank gives D&I to HR, it's then their responsibility to broaden the scope and bring strategic vision, rather than just tactical execution." So, banking HR professionals charged with implementing or improving a diversity and inclusion initiative at their institution should work closely with other key stakeholders throughout the bank. "It's not just an HR matter," Thurman said. "Whoever you have at the table for a strategy conversation should be at the table for a D&I conversation."

Seitz is WBA operations manager and senior writer.

FHLB – Chicago is a WBA Gold Associate Member.
Wipfli is a WBA Silver Associate Member.

Focus on Your Human Capital

  • Looking for compensation strategies to help you obtain and retain talent?
  • Want to build your network of bank HR professionals?
  • Need to keep abreast of changes in employment law?

The WBA Human Resources Conference is for you! Join us on Tuesday, April 7 in Wisconsin Dells for a day jam-packed with the information you want and the people you need to connect with. The WBA Human Resources Committee designed this conference for their peers: Wisconsin banking industry HR professionals like you! 

Visit www.wisbank.com/HR2020 to learn more and register online today!


By, Amber Seitz