The Four Strategic HR Challenges for the Upcoming Decade

Boston Consulting Group, in conjunction with an association of people management associations worldwide, completed a comprehensive on-line + live interviews study on how they are approaching strategic human capital development for the next decade. It’s called “Creating People Advantage 2010” and worth downloading if you are concerned with the strategic element of human resources in your organization.

Among a wide-ranging group of topics, their results address how human resources challenges have been changing in the last few years. As a manager, you should find this interesting.

The four (of 21 potential challenges) that were ranked at the top are:

  1. Managing Talent
  2. Improving Leadership Development
  3. Strategic Workforce Planning
  4. Enhancing Employee Engagement

Globally and in Canada they were rated as above. In the US, numbers 1 & 2 were reversed. What causes these to be high leverage areas of focus are that they are rated HIGH on future importance to the success of the enterprise and LOW on participating organizations’ current capability do deliver on them.

Equally intriguing is how the rankings have changed over the last two years of economic hell (from a BCG earlier study in 2008). While numbers 1 & 2 were unchanged, the next three challenges back then were delivering on recruiting, managing work-life balance, and managing change and cultural transformation. Remember when these were the hot topics?

I think executives’ continuing concern for talent development and ensuring a pipeline of superior leaders reflects the increasing complexity of the environments in which we all operate, as well as the fact that, baby boomers will–yes, someday relatively soon–be retiring.

Employee engagement is now on the C-suite radar because of two factors:

First, employees for the last two years have been pushed to do more and work longer hours, had their salaries frozen or lowered, left in a state of constant uncertainty about their own fate, and have been deprived of learning and growth opportunities. Many, most importantly the best employees, are stressed, discouraged, and not happy with their current employer.

Second is the realization it’s not sufficient to just put in place enough of the right people in the right jobs at the right time. If we are to reap the full return on these folks, we need to ensure that they are highly engaged. Despite Woody Allen’s famous line, 90% of success is NOT just showing up.

There is a lot in this report that will prompt important questions for managers and leaders of even small organizations, including those in the not-for-profit and public sectors.

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Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: For more articles and book reviews of interest to managers please go to: