Employee engagement tops poll of challenges for HR professionals in 2019

Employee engagement is the biggest challenge for HR professionals in 2019, according to a study by software provider Cascade HR.

Two-fifths (40%) of respondents to the survey of 423 UK HR directors, managers and executives pinpointed engagement as the major issue for next year, with recruitment and retention a close second (37%) and third (36%).

Absence management was cited as one of the biggest HR challenges by 29% of respondents, while wellbeing was the main focus for 22%.

When asked to reflect on their toughest HR challenges over the last year, 45% of respondents chose recruitment. Absence management was the choice for 36% of respondents, while retention and GDPR compliance (both 35%) were joint third on the list.

Retention (35%) was the most common choice for respondents when asked which area they have excelled in during 2018, followed by wellbeing (32%), learning and development (32%) and diversity (30%).

In other survey findings, two-thirds (66%) of respondents said they had found GDPR compliance to be problematic but manageable. Over half (52%) said they are a little worried about the ambiguity and impact of leaving the EU, while 19% said they are extremely concerned.

Oliver Shaw, chief executive of Cascade, said: “It’s been an interesting year for UK organisations, with Brexit, compliance and employment tribunals dominating the headlines. But I believe some of the most pivotal developments have surrounded the future of work debate.

“This year, the HR landscape has seen employees push back on the traditional nine-to-five more than ever before. Flexible working has stepped up a notch, and organisations that bury their head in the sand when it comes to what [staff] want from employment will be those that struggle the most with recruitment and retention in 2019.”

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Nearly half (46%) of respondents to the survey said automation is imperative for their HR department to become more effective and efficient next year, and almost a third (29%) said it will have at least a partial role to play.

Shaw said: “HR has embraced automation and machine learning on varying levels this year. But there is a clear desire to know more about the power of tech.”