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After strong economic and job growth, 2007 promises to be another challenging year for companies when it comes to managing their workforce.

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Recruiters and human resource experts say the traditional functions of managing employees — attraction, retention and engagement — will continue to be important in the year ahead, but there are broader changes taking place that will affect companies into 2007:

Talent shortage
Demographics, coupled with a generally wealthy population that plans on retiring early, could lead to even more problems for companies in the year ahead.

“Employers in 2007 will need to be more competitive than ever to attract new talent,” says Shannon Bowen-Smed, president of Bowen Staffing.

The generation gap (again)
As many as three generations are now working side by side in the workplace.

The aging population is living longer, but retaining them is a challenge for firms that want to capture that knowledge and hold on to much needed labor. As well, the incoming Gen Y-ers style and job expectations are taking some getting used to by those longer in the tooth.

“If you grew up with the baby boomers or Gen X-ers, the new breed of employees may require an adjustment in what you think employees should say, do and look like,” says Merge Gupta-Sunderji, workplace communication expert. It’s a new world of work where 6.5 million “Millennials” are increasingly entering the workforce with entirely new philosophies about work.

The changing role of HR
Many companies will see human resource executives sitting at the boardroom table, developing business strategies with the chief executive officer. People strategies are increasingly important to a company’s success, since there are so many major changes occurring in the labor force.

“Never has HR been more important to an organization than now,” says Bowen-Smed. “With access to talent at an all time low and demand at an all-time high, HR is seen as the most critical voice at the executive table.” The HR function is rapidly shifting from a department that pushes paper to one that actively manages and molds the workforce and corporate culture.

Expect to see more responsibilities and expectations from the HR field as CEOs turn to these professionals with lofty goals of solving a wide variety of problems that can prevent companies from experiencing strong growth and employee retention.

Succession planning
Who wants the job of manager? That will be the question being asked around more workplaces as companies push their succession plans into high gear. With baby boomers retiring en masse over the next few years, gaps in top leadership are already apparent.

The new leaders are also much different from previous generations.

“Tomorrow’s leaders wear designer jeans, multi-task, are autonomy- hungry and very, very savvy,” says Chuck Bean, president of business consulting and training firm Baxter Bean. “They are educated and more street smart than people their age 20 years ago and this can manifest itself as perceived boredom.”

Should managers fail to recognize these challenges, it can create a bubble in the corporation and cause disengagement.The next leaders expect ongoing career development opportunities.

Recruiters must look for resiliency, problem-solving skills and a high degree of responsibility with strong execution.

Author: Derek Sankey