(From Bloomberg BNA) -- The U.S. economy, which is showing subtle signs of improvement, in 2012 once again will have a major impact on HR's ability to address hiring, employee engagement, compensation, and other key workplace issues, business and legal experts told Bloomberg BNA.
“The big challenge is still this question of uncertainty in trying to figure out where the economy is going,” said Peter Cappelli, a management professor and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia.
“The big difference now is that there's some evidence—weak evidence—that businesses are coming back,” he said. “It certainly seems to be the case that some hiring will come back.”
At first glance, it might seem that the HR profession is facing challenges identical to those it confronted last year, but there are key differences, employment analysts said.
“In 2011, we were a lot more focused on restructuring, downsizing, rebalancing the workforce, consolidation of HR into smaller, more centralized groups, budget-cutting, and trying to prepare for the economic recovery,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer and president of Bersin & Associates, a research and advisory consulting firm in Oakland, Calif. “This year, HR organizations we talked to are increasing their budgets. This is more a year of building, and less of retrenchment.”
In addition to the economy, Cappelli predicted that employee engagement could be a major focus for HR in 2012 because, during the past three years, many employers asked workers “to do more, double-up on jobs, and work more hours.”