Human resources departments manage a number of functions that range from attracting talent and benefits management to organizational leadership and legal compliance. The aging U.S. population, particularly in business leadership, new legislation and increasing demand for technical proficiency across all business functions pose significant challenges for contemporary human resources departments.

Leadership Development

As the baby boomer generation continues to age into retirement, human resources departments can expect to see the departure of large numbers of experienced leaders at every organizational level. This leadership gap requires the creation of internal leadership development programs or the enrollment of high-performing employees in external programs. HR departments must also contend with the problem of shrinking employment duration, down to a median four to five years, while trying to create viable long-term leaders. Engaging in proactive leadership training, however, signals a genuine investment in employees that can translate into a better chance of employee loyalty.

Healthcare Law Compliance

As the provisions of The Affordable Care Act take effect, HR departments face a number of compliance and logistical challenges. The new legislation sets out specific, though sometimes opaque, rules for determining who qualifies as a full-time employee vs. a part-time employee, as well as how many part-time employees add up to full-time employees, for questions of health insurance. HR departments must set about adjusting any internal policies regarding employment status and determine which employees fall into which category. Human resources departments also must determine what insurance providers or exchanges meet the legislation's requirements for affordability and adequacy. HR departments can probably also expect to undertake a massive revision and distribution of new forms and disclosures.


While always in the HR wheelhouse, recruitment of qualified talent in a tech-dependent world often proves more difficult than recruitment in past decades. Companies of all sizes need talent that can manage and analyze big data, develop mobile apps and deal with the logistics of cloud computing and enterprise software. The demand for these skills across so many industries often means too few qualified applicants for the open positions. HR departments must find ways to entice those with the requisite skills, possibly with incentives such as telecommuting and flex time, without exceeding budgetary constraints.


Human resources departments face the pressing issue of how to deal social media. On the one hand, the explosion of social media use among employees often mandates the development of formal policies to prevent the revelation of sensitive or confidential information and to protect brand image. On the other hand, social media also provides a means for businesses to connect with employees in a context both familiar and relevant. HR departments can probably expect that balancing the need to limit potentially damaging exposure and leveraging the potential for enhanced worker engagement will be an ongoing problem in policy development.