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New Study: Biggest Challenges Facing HR Leaders in Next Decade

What are the biggest challenges HR leaders will face by the year 2022?  To find out, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a new survey, titled Challenges Facing HR Over the Next 10 Years. The poll involved HR professionals selected at random from the SHRM’s 250,000 membership database.

Overall, the 487 responses received in 2012 show HR leaders are concerned about many of the same issues that  were deemed crucial by approximately 450 HR pros who participated in a similar poll conducted in 2010. However, there are a few key changes. 

Compared to the previous SHRM survey, HR executives are less concerned than they were in 2010 with finding employees in global markets and breaking down cultural barriers to create a truly global company.  Instead, those answering the latest survey are now more focused on developing future leaders and remaining competitive in the talent marketplace.

Top survey findings

In fact, about 60 percent of those who responded to the Challenges Facing HR Over the Next 10 Years survey said that retaining and rewarding the best employees would be the top challenge in 2022. The number two top challenge on the list was developing the next generation of corporate leaders (52 percent). 

Next was creating a corporate culture that attracts and retains the best employees for the organization (36 percent). Remaining competitive in the talent marketplace (34 percent) and finding employees with the increasingly specialized skills the organization needs (33 percent) were also found to be key concerns.

As a comparison, the top three responses to SHRM’s 2010 survey were retaining and rewarding the best employees (51 percent), creating an attractive corporate culture (44 percent) and finding employees with specialized job skills (41 percent).

The emphasis on leadership skills was also echoed in the responses to the new survey’s query which asked HR participants about the top investment challenges they expect their organizations to face in the upcoming decade. Forty-three percent answered that human capital would be the most important investment challenge as 2022 approaches.

In addition, 22 percent of the survey participants listed organizational finances as the top investment challenge over the next ten years and 19 percent predicted that investment in technological capital would be the foremost challenge their organization would confront. Fourteen percent expect intellectual capital to be the greatest challenge while only 3 percent said it will be physical capital.

HR leaders said these strategies will be most effective in attracting, retaining and rewarding the best employees over the next decade:

  • Providing flexible work arrangements (40 percent).
  • Developing a workplace culture of trust, open communication and fairness (37 percent).
  • Offering a higher total rewards package than competitors (26 percent).
  • Providing career advancement opportunities (26 percent).

The most critical HR competencies in 2022, according to the SHRM survey will be:

  • Business acumen (42 percent).
  • Organizational leadership (40 percent).
  • Relationship management (37 percent).
  • Communication (35 percent).

The complete findings of the SHRM Challenges Facing HR Over the Next 10 Years survey are available on-line at

Sherry Baker is a health and medical journalist whose work has appeared in Psychology Today, Newsweek, Discover and many other publications. She is also the former Director of Public Relations for the Emory Heart Center. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Ebix or its personnel.