4 Threats to Competitive Employers (And What to do About Them)

HR challenges

There's a saying in New England: if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. It's a great strategy for the weather, but it doesn't work for organizations. In business, if you wait for a challenge to pass versus preparing for it ahead of time, you risk falling so far behind, you might not be able to catch up.

So what are the top HR challenges and threats employers need to be preparing for right now?

Surviving the Elements

How resilient is your organization in an external crisis like snow? Can you keep your business moving forward if your people are stuck having to unexpectedly figure out care for children when schools are cancelled? Business doesn't care about the weather, but employers have to. During this week's snow storm, our clients were ready. While all the schools were closed, all of our Bright Horizons back-up child care centers were open, as was our network of in-home care agencies. Our clients' employees were able to get caregivers arranged with a call or click, and then make that meeting or deliver that proposal.

Retaining Working Parents

A labor shortage is coming as Boomers retire. So keeping your best employees is one of your critical HR challenges. And with increasing numbers of people waiting to have children, many people are becoming parents just as they're moving into more senior roles. Retaining these employees means making sure they're fully supported. When an employee reaches out to HR to say they're planning for or expecting a child, you have to explicitly define the experience you want that employee to have. "Here are the forms to enroll your child on the health plan" isn't enough. Questions to ask: Do you have support to help the employee transition smoothly back into the company? Are you making sure they're registered for these programs before they go on leave?  Do you have an employee resource group for working parents set up? As Julie Wilkes recently told us about Accenture's approach, "You must know your workforce and you must know what they need and meet them where they are with those programs."

Building Financial Wellness

Money worries are a huge drain on productivity. And few money worries are bigger than college debt. Many employees are managing large education debts of their own; others are also trying to figure out how to pay for their child's college education. Addressing college debt will be a major focus for HR in the coming years, and if you can get ahead of this trend and get a reputation as the company to work for that helps in this area, you'll have a tremendous advantage.

Closing Skills Gaps

The cost to employers to find, recruit, and hire new employees is one of the most significant HR challenges. It's much more cost effective to develop existing employees - via training - for the skills you need. This approach is doubly beneficial since, in studies, most Millennials say that career development is one of the most important factors in job satisfaction. So closing skill gaps simultaneously improves productivity, avoids recruiting costs, and improves retention. To do this well, you have to know the skills your workforce must have (by job level); you have to assess your team against these skills; you to have a network of adult-oriented schools and partners that can both effectively deliver these skills and allow your workforce to continue to work full time. And to know how you're doing, you need to be able to report on the effectiveness of your spending in this area to prove the ROI. We have clients doing this today, and the rewards are substantial.


Preparing for external crises, supporting working parents, building financial wellness, and closing skill gaps: four challenges that today's employers must prepare for now. Addressing them is easier than trying to predict the weather here in New England, and mandatory if you want to be a competitive employer in today's environment.

Written by: Patrick Donovan

About the Author

 Patrick Donovan at Bright Horizons

As a member of Bright Horizons’ Executive Team, Patrick leads teams dedicated to enabling superior performance for clients and their employees. He believes that our job is to unlock human potential and is passionate about how we positively change lives here at Bright Horizons.