Last year, we discussed some of the biggest HR challenges that professionals faced in 2017. We identified issues such as managing compensation, finding talent, and leadership planning. Things have shifted a little since then. Though some of these issues remain (hello, building a strong company culture!) we’ve identified some challenges that will be a big consideration in 2018.


HR is going digital

Human resources professionals must learn how to operate effectively online in order to survive. Today’s candidates immediately hop on the web when they’re searching for a new opportunity, which means HR professionals must be there, too, if they want to find and connect with the best candidates. And simply being online isn’t enough, either. You’ve got to be able to set yourself and your organization apart from the thousands of other companies wooing the same set of candidates.

Digitization doesn’t stop with hiring online, either. Many other HR processes are being digitized to streamline them and free up HR’s time for value-added tasks. From tech to schedule and conduct interviews, to tools that perform background and reference checks, many HR tasks are being automated by artificial intelligence. And with AI only getting smarter and more reliable, expect to see more repetitive, manual tasks replaced with technology in the future. These changes can be a positive in that they ensure consistency, eliminate bias, and provide a faster turnaround, ultimately improving the candidate experience.

One of the biggest challenges for HR managers will be ensuring they have all the HR tools and tech needed to stay competitive, and adopting these tools into their everyday work processes. Change can be difficult, but it’s necessary to stay one step ahead of competitors, who you can be sure are evaluating the best use of the very same tools.

catering to a multi-generational workforce

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about how Millennial workers are changing today’s workforce. And yes, Millennial impact on the workforce is an important topic of discussion – they’re the largest single working generation in Canada, making up 35% of the active workforce. However, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and even Canada’s youngest labelled generation, Gen Z, are also adding important voices to the conversation.

HR professionals must be able to see across all generational perspectives and build workplace policies that accommodate the changing needs of all 4 working generations.

baby boomers

As Canada’s largest ever generational cohort, baby boomers have shaped the workforce for years, but as they head toward retirement, their needs are changing. They’re thinking about winding down their working lives. Retirement perks and benefits are increasingly important to them, as are flexible work situations so they can reduce their hours without leaving the workforce entirely.

gen x

Once overshadowed by the massive Boomer generation, Gen Xers are now in the prime of their work lives, many taking on management and leadership roles. At this point in their careers, advancement, salary, and retirement benefits such as RRSPs are big considerations to Gen Xers.


Though they’re the children of Baby Boomers, it’s been well publicized that they have very different work priorities than their parents. Work-life balance and job satisfaction are top of mind for this generation. They’re shucking the employee-for-life model baby boomers followed. They prioritize experiences over money, so paid time off, remote work opportunities and general flexibility are important to them at work.

gen z

Finally, Gen Zers, the oldest of whom are currently 19, are just reaching the point where they're entering the workforce and making their impact and needs known. Studies indicate that Gen Zers are more conservative with their money than their Millennial counterparts, having grown up at the height of the Great Recession. They’re more likely to focus on salary and benefits, as well as job stability.

The one-size-fits-all policies of past decades are being abolished in favour of more flexibility that allows employers to cater to the needs and goals of employees of all ages. HR professionals must be adept at managing the needs and expectations of all these workers in order to attract and hang onto the best talent, as well as train and prepare workers from all generations for the future.

company culture is as important as ever

The emphasis on building a strong company culture isn’t going anywhere in 2018. Job seekers continue to indicate that company culture is one of their top considerations when looking for work. If an organization’s atmosphere, values and goals don’t align, there’s a good chance workers are moving on to another company where they feel their voice and goals are better reflected in the culture. This means company culture is now an essential consideration in any organization’s talent acquisition strategy.

While salary and benefits continue to be the most important consideration for workers looking for a new job, it’s far from the only one. Randstad’s Employer Brand Research found that long-term job security, pleasant work atmosphere, and work-life balance round out the top 5 must-haves for job seekers. All of these things fit under the umbrella of corporate culture. Interestingly, studies have found that a strong culture is even more important to retain employees than it is to attract them. A study by Columbia University found that companies with a defined culture had a much higher employee retention rate, with turnover sitting at a very low 13.9%.

HR professionals must find a balance between maintaining existing culture and making changes that positively impact employees. Listening to employees and giving everyone within the organization a voice will go a long way to constructing a positive company culture for all workers.

stronger consideration for employee wellness

With more companies adopting health and wellness programs for their employees, this is an area companies ought to be keeping an eye on in 2018. According to Deloitte, “the focus of these programs has shifted from reducing insurance costs to actually helping employees perform better, engage with their colleagues and contribute to a positive company culture”, showing that the benefits can be significant for businesses.

The value health and wellness programs offer to both employers and employees is significant. Not only are they great for pushing employees to be healthier, having one can significantly boost employee retention, and such programs are often considered by candidates as an added benefit along with their standard compensation. Additionally, HR departments are making a concentrated effort to mitigate stress in the workplace in 2018. Health and wellness programs are a great way to focus on stress reduction. Though stress will always find a way of creeping into the workplace, having an employee wellness program in place is a good first step to helping employees manage their stress levels.

employees want more feedback

The role of feedback has always been an important one in corporate circles. Whereas quarterly or annual reviews once dominated the feedback cycle (and still do at some companies) we’re moving toward workplaces where feedback is given more organically, and more frequently. Many employees, in particular, younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z are looking for constant feedback as they see it as an essential stepping stone in their personal growth and development.

While it’s unlikely that performance reviews will be abolished completely any time soon, many companies have already dropped them in favour of weekly one-on-one meetings with managers and other similar methods of ongoing feedback and discussion. Feedback isn’t a one-way street, either. Many organizations are empowering employees and leaders to engage in continuous discussion and turn feedback into a conversation. Deloitte calls it ‘continuous performance management’ and says it’s transformative for companies, as it allows problems to be identified and solved almost immediately, rather than hashed out once a year when annual reviews come out. 

Expect to see more open feedback tools pop up in 2018 as well, as employers actively seek out feedback. More than ever employees are encouraged to speak up and share their views on their workplace and company policies. This can lead to increased transparency and help set achievable benchmarks.

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