rs will face in the next five years.
In December of 1996, the Society for Human Resource Management sponsored a symposium in Florida. At this meeting, all the senior human resource officers were challenged to discuss what they felt were the challenges facing human resource managers in the decade ahead. David Ulrich, professor of business administration at the University of Michigans School of Business facilitated the discussion. Within this paper, I will discuss what these senior human resource managers felt were the challenges facing human resource managers and what I feel are the challenges and why. During this symposium, the major challenges addressed were pay equity, the value of human resources, unity versus diversity, fostering innovation, and Global sensitivity. Now, I dont dispute that these are challenges that we as human resource managers are going to face in the upcoming years but I think that the technology revolution, AIDS, downsizing or outsourcing, and sexual harassment are going to be bigger challenges.
The first item that senior human resource managers felt a challenge was pay equity. Specifically, high executive compensation compared to the wages paid to regular employees. It will be a challenge to manage the whole compensation process. The consensus of the group was that executive pay would have to move back to a more equitable distribution or the rank-and-file employees would be bitter and there could be a backlash. I disagree that this is a human resource manager problem. I think that CEOs should address this problem. In reality we are talking about equitable pay between upper management and the rank-and-file. As a human resource manager, we have no real control over the pay of upper management. A good example was in the Saturday, March 7, 1998, The News Herald, and the caption read BellSouth CEO gets big pay raise.The paper went on to say BellSouth Corp. paid Chief Executive Duane Ackerman $2.4 million in total compensation in 1997, a 43-percent jump from the year before, when he was the chief operating officer. Ackerman, 55, assumed the CEO post after his predecessor, John Clendenin, retired at the end of 1996. Ackerman earned $825.000 in base salary in 1997, up from $610,000 during the prior year, and received a $1.3 million bonus, which rose from $793,000, according to BellSouths proxy statement. Other compensation dropped to $266,400 from $267,200. BellSouth had 1997 revenues of $20.56 billion.Now, Im sure the rank-and-file did not get a 43-percent raise.
I think the number one problem challenging human resource managers is the technology revolution. According to the experts the employment in the Information Age is undergoing a transformation that may cause as much dislocation as the moves from farms to factories did in the 19th century. Studies predict that the ranks of those with alternative office arrangements will grow by 10-percent or more every year during the remainder of the decade. Todays office communications is the glue, which holds the office together. Powerful networks with high-speed transmission, and sophisticated telephone and locator systems comprise the infrastructure. According to Newt Gingrich we are talking about a transformation on such a scale that everything changes. Legend has it that at the St. Louis Worlds Fair in 1904, scores of men and women were literally dropping to the ground, dizzy and overwhelmed by the new technological marvels on display. Life seems to be at warp speed whirring by in a blur of sound and light that left those unprepared grasping at the wind. Here we are in 1998 and we seem to be on the verge of a similar chaos.
The caption reads, Catch the Wave as HR goes Online.Cyberspace offers new frontiers in recruiting, networking and information gathering. In fact, going online is changing the Human Resource function at companies all over the world. A research adviser sitting in front of a computer can browse the Internets World Wide Web and using its sophisticated hypertext links and graphics to boldly go where the Human Resource adviser has never gone before. With the click of a mouse button, a Human Resource adviser could be in an U.S. governments server in Washington D.C. checking the schedule of upcoming Human Resource conferences or in Cornell University in New York looking at the latest reports issued by any number of different commission or viewing the The Quality Wave home page which contains information about TQM, education programs and business theories. I have just touch the tip of the iceberg concerning the technology revolution but I think you can see how this is going to be biggest challenge for the Human Resource adviser in the upcoming years. According to Dave Ulrich, Technology is the keystone of my job. Through the information highway, I scan experts in many fields in constant search of new ideas and insights. The information highway also lets me bring together employees throughout the world in ways that add value to our customers. Customers and suppliers are hooked into the same network so that our processes are transparent to them. The video hook-ups let us see and talk to each other worldwide as if we were in the same room. We are constantly in touch, while driving, flying or in the office. We have periodic face-to-face meetings where we work on difficult problems and on how we can work together most effectively.
The next challenge according to Senior Human Resource managers was the value of Human Resources. They felt that they would face a crucial task of getting employees and other managers to recognize the importance of the Human Resource function. According to Diane Capstaff, executive vice president for John Hancock Financial Services, Top executives now see HR and finance as strong pillars of organizational culturethe next step is getting the mid-level people to believe in it.During the past decade Human Resource managers have been focusing their educating efforts at the senior management. This emphasis will have to shift toward mid-level and the employee. Again, I agree that this is a major challenge but I feel like the CEO should be directing these educational efforts toward mid-level manager as to what Human Resource can do for them. I feel that as a Human Resource advisor the second major challenge I will face in the work place is going to be the AIDS virus. I personally worked with an HIV positive person almost a decade ago and the misconception we felt then are still prevalent in todays workplace. As Dr. Mathilde Krim of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research told a congressional hearing in 1983: The atmosphere of doom and total helplessness surrounding the problem of AIDS threatens to push us back into a medieval society, complete with the equivalent of colonies of pariahs and lepers and, since homosexuality is not going to disappear from the face of this earth, maybe we will also have colonies of heretics in hiding and an inquisition to find them out.
As more effective drug therapies are extending the lives of HIV-positive people and improving their quality of lives, more such workers are returning to the workforce and stay productive. Statistics show that one in six large companies has had an employee with HIV/AIDS and one in fifteen small companies has had at least one such worker, this is according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. I think these statistics are a little out of date but the best I could find. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, AIDS the Ultimate Challenge, Since we can no longer deny that AIDS is a life-threatening illness that will eventually involve millions of people and decimate large portions of our human population, it is our choice to grow and learn from it, to either help the people with this dread disease or abandon them.It is our choice to live up to the ultimate challenge or to perish. As the Human Resource manager we are going to have to become very educated on AIDS and to bring that education to the workplace. Only education will open the minds of our workers. An example would be an incident that happened in 1992 to American Airlines, after a large HIV/AIDS awareness gathering in Washington D.C. a group of small minded flight attendants assigned to a flight departing the city requested new pillows and blankets because they suspected many of the passengers were HIV-Positive. We are going to have to learn to live with HIV in our workforce. Infected employees are no different than any worker in the workplace who is disabled; the concern should be whether they can do the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodations. Our job will be to provide the education to open the minds of our managers and workers toward HIV/AIDS workers. A companys HIV/AIDS policy is only as good as the educational program that teaches frontline managers how to address issues of workers who become HIA-infected and disabled.
Unity versus diversity was the next challenge according to the Senior Human Resource managers. They cited a new push for the concept of unity rather than the concept of diversity and warned that for people who dont feel the effects of diversity in the workplace, unity is a much easier concept to buy. I think all Human Resource managers will agree that we will be challenged to ensure that the talents, experiences, values, and perspectives of all employees are utilized in pursuit of increased productivity and product quality. Also, we have increased government attention regarding the treatment (pay, training, advancement opportunities) of employees. This means that we, the Human Resource managers will have to ensure education and training programs are in place so that these issues are not driven underground and we have opportunities to intervene at the earliest possible stage. Of all the challenges that Senior Human Resource managers discussed so far, this is the first that we the Human Resource managers really can have an impact on.
Downsizing, Rightsizing, and/or Outsourcing are the new buzzwords. They are a relatively new and important trend in business. Many businesses today are finding variety of reasons to downsize. A couple of these are cutting operating costs and improving service levels. According to James C. Spee, Outsourcing eliminates tasks that logically can be done elsewhere, providing additional time to focus on the competitive business issues.In the past decade over 3.5 million jobs have been eradicated in Fortune 500 companies. Very little has been written about the less obvious victim — our workers. They are the ones who have remained in the downsized, restructured organization patiently waiting for the ax to fall again. These members have been dubbed survivors, they find little comfort in the fact that they were spared the cuts. Betrayed by the myth of a job for life, these survivors, like casualties of layoffs, experience the trauma of loss. They must forfeit the vestiges of job security as they endure the physical and mental stress of working smarter, harder, longer, and leaner in an organization that may itself be in crisis. The military is suffering through this right now. The wholesale loss of all its middle managers to downsizing and the retiring of its senior managers is causing the severe pains describe above. No longer are layoffs the side effects of plant closing or bankrupt businesses; they have also become the prescription for continued wellness in healthy proactive organizations as well.
Several senior managers discussed fostering innovation and Human Resources potential to become the galvanizing force behind corporate agility. Human resource professionals increasingly will be asked to help their organizations become leaders in innovation. As markets grow more competitive, new ideas and practices will be what differentials one producer from another. Human resource departments will play a vital role in recruiting employees capable of innovative thinking. Human Resource departments will also be instrumental in creating an environment conducive to on going training and education. Companies that evolve as learning organizations that provide employees with continuous development and training opportunities will be best positioned for success in the future. The most innovative company or possibility person is Microsoft or Bill Gates. The following is just one year worth of innovative ideas that they had: January: Bill Gates announces Microsoft Bob for Windows 95. Bob is actually eight different programs: a letter writer; calendar; checkbook balancer; household manager; address book; e-mail; financial guide; and GeoSafari.
March: Microsoft and DreamWorks SKG announce that they have signed a joint-venture agreement to form a new software company designed to produce interactive and multimedia entertainment properties. Initially to be called DreamWorks Interactive, the newly formed company was announced jointly by Bill Gates and Patty Stonesifer, and DreamWorks principals Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffin. Microsoft and DreamWorks will each contribute 50 percent of the funding required to build the company. Separately, Microsoft announces that it will be a strategic investor and minority partner in DreamWorks SKG.
June: Microsoft reports that the employee headcount totals 17,801 people.
August: Microsoft Windows 95 is finally available. There are many large ceremonies, including Jay Leno being a featured guest at an industry even hosted by Bill Gates.
By the end of the month Windows 95 had crushed old records, selling over 1 million copies in the first 4 days of availability to the public.
September: In honor of the company’s 20th anniversary, Microsoft celebrates with a series of activities over the next month, culminating with the Company Meeting in Seattle on October 12.
October: Microsoft reports revenues of $2.02 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 1996 which ended September 30, 1995. The net income for this time was $499 million dollars.
November: The Microsoft Network, MSN counts more than 525,000 members in its first three months of service. On a related topic, Microsoft also announced the release of the final version of Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 for Windows 95.
December: Microsoft and NBC combine to enter a 50:50 partnership to create two new businesses. One of them is a 24-hour news and information cable television channel. The other is an interactive on-line news service distributed on MSN.
I can not think of a more innovative company in the past two decades. Bill Gates has found a winning way of finding some the most innovative people in the computer world and yes, we as the human resource managers are tasked to do the same for our company.
Sexually charged jokes, lewd comments and innuendoes, leering, touching of private body parts, gender-related insults, demands for sexual favors, this and more, still permeates like a black cloud in workplaces across the U.S. Not only is the workplace sexual harassment not going away, its getting worse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the number of people filing claims in 1997 increased over 15% over 1996, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Yet human resources managers, who are responsible for limiting sexual harassment and its effects, often dont know how to rid their companies of this kind of employee misconduct. Their biggest question still is how to overcome the lack of awareness about what sexual harassment is, despite ongoing media attention to the topic. One major question is how to conduct proper investigations and according to Gerald D. Bloch, The investigation of a sexual harassment complaint should comply with company policies and procedures, provide a way of objectively obtaining the facts surrounding a complaint, and protect the complainant and others from future or ongoing harassment. A major benefit of conducting an investigation is the opportunity it gives an employer to determine the companys potential liability and minimize it before the complainant hires a lawyer or files a complaint with a government agency. Issues are easier to resolve at this stage if the complaint believes that the company is acting fairly, effectively and in good faith.Other questions human resource manager have include how to conduct proper investigations, how to design policies and how to create a corporate culture that has zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. Shari Caudron, a contributing editor for Personnel Journal, makes the following statement: Picture the U.S. workplace as a boxing ring. In one corner, the American male worker-seething, resentful, a little smug, and sick and tired of all the accusations leveled at him by members of the fairer sex. In the other corner, the American female-jaw set, fists up, and bound and determined to gain more respect, power, money and understanding from the men who rule corporate America. She, quite frankly, is sick of accommodating men, proving herself over and over again, and waiting patiently for the creeps in the big leather chairs to get it; to stop being such insensitive, narrow-minded jerks who only encourage and promote clones of themselves. Pay me what Im worth, she says, and promote me on my merits. Whats so hard about that? He, on the other hand, wonders if shell ever stop whining and start acting like an adult. Hes tired of censoring everything he says, and sick to death of being blamed for the oppression of women in this society. You want my respect? he asks. Earn it. And take a look around. Lots of women are making it today. Thats your problem?
With so much at stake; multimillion dollar lawsuits, loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover, low morale, lack of trust, breakdown in communications, long-term career damage and increased use of medical and psychological services. The most noteworthy case to date is the case of Paula Jones accusing President Bill Clinton of making crude passes at her in a hotel while he was governor of Arkansas.
In a survey of 200 Human Resource Managers, they were asked, How big a problem is sexual harassment? One hundred fifty six or seventy four percent stated that sexual harassment is the most serious problem facing their company.
According to the EEOC prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment would not be tolerated. They can do so by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
The last challenge according to these Senior Human Resource was global sensitivity. They pointed out that the lack of global experience among Human Resource managers could have profound implications, since almost all real economic growth during the next decade will be outside the U.S. and Europe. Because of the economies in China, the Pacific Rim, and much of South America will grow at double-digit rates, U.S. corporations will need to devote an increasing share of their resources toward non-U.S. markets.
As a result of these trends, human resource policies will be influenced more and more by conditions and practices in other countries and culture. Human Resource managers will need to sensitize themselves and their organizations to the cultural and business practices of other nations and to move away from assumed dominance and/or superiority of American business practices.
There are companies in U.S. that do nothing more that teach U.S. executives how to act and behave in forgein countries, so that they will be sensitive to other cultures.