Finding high-quality applicants, preparing for the future of healthcare and the ACA, and managing diversity are among the most difficult strategic challenges facing employers in 2020, according to XpertHR’s fourth annual survey of over 700 human resource professionals. Nearly 30% of respondents named recruiting and hiring as their top challenge, across all areas. Of those who reported recruiting and hiring challenges, 50.9% are extremely challenged when it comes to finding high-quality candidates, more than double the percentage of respondents who found this issue a challenge in 2017 (22.7%).

“Finding skilled, qualified applicants is a struggle for many,” says Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “Building a place where employees want to work, seeking out untapped job markets such as older employees, veterans and those with a criminal past, and taking advantage of non-traditional candidates such as gig workers, remote workers and jobs shares are all tactics that employers can implement in order to meet their talent acquisition needs.”

Healthcare concerns also emerged as a serious challenge with 50% of respondents feeling extremely challenged by healthcare costs and 27.2% of respondents feeling extremely challenged when it comes to preparing for the future of healthcare and the ACA. In fact, when compared with prior years, concern over the future of healthcare and the ACA has grown considerably – only 16.74% found this a top concern in 2017.

“In addition to the rising cost of benefits, employers must address the needs of different generations and provide benefits that each group finds useful,” say Zoller. “For example, older workers may be more interested in long term disability and younger workers may want benefits such as daycare and gym memberships. Today’s employers need to strike a balance and determine which benefits are most valuable and attractive to its workforce.”

Another compelling issue at the forefront for today’s employers is diversity and inclusion. Diversity today goes beyond race, sex, ethnicity, age, national origin and religion and includes differing work experiences, sexual orientation, educational status, marital status, socioeconomic status, physical characteristics, life experiences, background and upbringing. XpertHR’s survey found that 37.8% of respondents reported managing diversity to be extremely challenging.

XpertHR explains that it is incumbent upon HR to lead the way and incorporate diversity into the organization with the goal of creating an inclusive and tolerant workplace. Diversity efforts start at the top with the buy-in of key stakeholders and upper management who can see the value diversity can bring. Diversity must be tied to business goals and aligned with corporate strategies.

Other strategic concerns survey respondents characterized as extremely challenging include employee engagement, morale and satisfaction (34%), employee retention (31.2%) and managing work/life balance (20%).

XpertHR’s Strategic HR Challenges survey identifies pain points for the coming year and provides guidance as to how employers should handle them. To download a free copy of the survey report, visit XpertHR.