People First HR Services

Top challenges for businesses in 2013

Colleen Coates

As we ring in the new year, it is often a time to pause and reflect on past successes and maybe some transgressions with hopes of improving in the coming year. I asked three of our resident wise men and women what troubled our clients the most over the past year and how they planned to reduce their woes. Our industry experts provide uniquely valuable insight to help business leaders attract and reward the people who will ensure they continue to succeed by enabling their employees to do well at every stage of their career. Here are the top three common challenges our experts saw in 2012:

1. Developing and maintaining an up-to-date compensation/total rewards strategy.

As an employer, you should spend some time determining how competitively you want to pay your employees and determine how you will track this from year to year. For example, do you want to pay employees more or less than your competition does? Always ask this within the context of what your business can afford both today and in the next three to five years. Other questions that need to be asked include: Who is your competitive market? What elements of compensation will you offer? Will you differentiate benefits based on organizational level? What are the underlying principles that will drive compensation decisions, such as: How will pay increases be determined? How will internal equity be addressed or will only external equity be considered? How will employees share in the success of the business?

So do you need a structured approach to total compensation, or in industry-speak, total rewards? When you think of how powerful this area is to the psychic wellbeing of your employees, how could you not want to? There are numerous benefits to a planned, strategic approach to compensation/total rewards, when your business looks to the future and plans ahead.

2. Creating a talent management strategy that aligns with the attainment of business objectives.

The creation of a talent management framework to support business objectives means your organization will have an integrated approach to attracting, engaging, rewarding and retaining your people (a.k.a. talent) thereby allowing the organization to respond quickly and efficiently to changing business needs.

Regardless of the size of your organization, the talent you have is fundamental to your business success, or failure.

There are several approaches to incorporating a talent management strategy that will align with your business, but in the end it’s all about the cultivation of excellence in an organization. By cultivating excellence, all aspects of your people management strategy will align with the overall vision of the organization. A successful talent management strategy will ensure ongoing organizational success as employees are motivated and engaged to succeed. Key components of a talent strategy include: employment branding, how talent will be acquired, career development and succession planning, leadership development and executive/managerial coaching, recognition, onboarding, and other key elements that are supported by HR systems and metrics and a solid total rewards program that drives your company culture and supports company values.

3. Building a training framework that supports the attainment of company goals.

Building a training framework is an important part of creating a training program. It is critical to consider the elements of the framework to ensure that the logistics and delivery options are considered so that the content can be moulded to fit the framework. With a strong framework, the program will be well organized and the content will flow logically.

Regardless of which training programs you need in your organization, it is essential that you employ results-based training rather than the hit-and-miss training in use by many organizations. Research shows that without reinforcement, 70 per cent of what you learn today can be forgotten within 24 hours, so it’s worth your time and effort to do it thoroughly. Ensure the following components are part of the development process to ensure success in your results-based training framework: training needs analysis, management commitment, program research and development, benchmark establishment, program implementation and evaluation and finally a reinforcement framework.

It’s no surprise that these topics appeared as the Top 3 given the challenges brought about by today’s generally positive labour market conditions. We all know that there will be an onslaught of retirements happening over the next few years and limited resources to fill these roles from the current ranks, not to mention the fact that our Canadian birth rate can in no way replace the number of people that will leave the workforce.

So as an employer, what can you do to tackle these key strategies to building and maintaining a successful business?

1. Start now! There is an old Spanish proverb that says “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week.” Like many others, you probably know what needs to be done but there always seem to be more pressing tasks to accomplish that keep you from tackling “big picture” planning activities. While the saying “Why do today that which can be done tomorrow” may seem appropriate for some tasks such as shovelling snow, this procrastination will not help you solve your business challenges.

2. Bring in the experts. Have you have ever been in a situation such as trying to fix a leaky sink and then had to call the plumber only to find out that it would have cost you a whole lot less if you had called them in the first place? Well the same goes for business consulting. If it’s not your area of expertise, then bring in the right resources to help guide you through the process. It’s worth investing in the skills and knowledge you need to get the job done right. Whether it’s your roof that needs repairing, your tax returns that need filing, or talent-management strategies that need developing, explore the use of resources that specialize in that area.

3. Set goals and build plans. Strategic planning is an important business process that is often overlooked. Strategic planning by definition is the process of identifying the organization’s strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. In order to determine the direction of the organization, it is necessary to understand its current position and the possible avenues through which it can pursue a particular course of action. Generally, strategic planning helps answer questions such as: 1) What is our goal? 2) What do we need to do? 3) How do we excel? Your strategy and supporting business plans should be a living, breathing document that defines where you’re headed and how you will get there, and needs to be reviewed on an annual basis to determine what changes if any are needed to respond to an ever-changing world.

With 2012 just about in the books and no doubt more exciting challenges ahead, I hope you have found this column helpful in addressing some of your day-to-day work challenges over the past year and I look forward to continued feedback. From our People First family and those whom I cherish at home, we’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013!


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2012 H1