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In many offices, HR is like a stepchild.

Loved and appreciated, sure, but not like other departments. Sales produces revenue, marketing makes things sound nice, and product development builds all the cool stuff.

HR? They just fire people, enforce rules, and deal with all the confusing benefits lingo.

Thanks to a unique set of circumstances that are squeezing the market for available labor, these offices are about to undergo a serious change of perspective.

Most businesses are at least vaguely aware of a growing difficulty in acquiring new talent. And once people are in the fold, it’s harder than ever to get them to stay.

A quick glance at our database of employee engagement and loyalty stats reveals that pretty much every employee is on the market:

  • 73% of employees are open to hearing about new opportunities (TopResume)
  • 90% of executives said keeping new hires is an issue in their organizations (Korn Ferry)
  • 51% of workers are looking to leave their current jobs (Gallup)
  • The average American worker spends 15 months in one role (Glassdoor)
  • 50% of employees say that are planning to stay at their current company for two years or less (Execu-Search)
  • 68% of Millennials say the longest they would stay at a job they like is at least three years (Qualtrics)

According to at least one article, that’s all about to get worse, and it may not improve for two decades.

In a recent article for TLNT, Andrew Graft outlines a few trends that show just how tight things are about to get.

From job growth that’s outpacing population growth to a surge in services devoted to retirees, the hunt for prospects is about to get super competitive.

Regarding the slow growth of the working age population, he says “for every new worker now entering the labor force, two new jobs are waiting to be filled. If the economy continues growing anywhere near its current rate, the market will easily absorb newly available labor resources and drive down the unemployment rate, likely to levels not seen since the 1960s.”

As the title of the article says, the war for talent is about to go nuclear.

Every company’s best defense? HR.

They’re the ones reaching out to the community to find new talent. They’re the ones on the frontlines of compensation and benefits. They know better than anyone what’s causing employees to churn across an organization.

Losing the war for talent is absolutely a matter of millions of dollars. Empty seats, unqualified candidates, frequent churn – these are going to shave millions of dollars off the bottom line for companies across the US.

HR isn’t sales or marketing, but they’re no less important.

So now, after years of neglecting employee engagement and development, the executive suite is going to turn to HR to take the lead on what has become a very real, dollars-and-cents problem.

This is good news, as there’ll be a renewed focus on investing in employees. Compensation will be creatively evaluated, with a renewed interest in impactful benefits and perks. HR will take the lead on examining new sources of labor and developing talent already in the office.

They won’t do it alone – recruiting, retention, and engagement are company-wide efforts, after all – but their position is about to become way more prominent. Which is good, because even stepchildren deserve a spot at the table.