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Health costs, boomer retirements top list of 2008 HR concerns

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Although the sharp rise in health care costs has slowed in the past couple of years, health care costs are still the No. 1 thing that keeps HR professionals up at night, according the 2008 Workplace Forecast released this week by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Rising health care costs topped the list of concerns for the third straight survey (which is conducted every two years). But the survey reveals that the imminent retirement of a large number of baby boomers—and the impact that will have on employers—has quickly climbed the charts to become the second biggest concern.

The third concern relates to the threat of increased health care/medical costs on the economic competitiveness of United States. 

“There’s a general sense of unease in the profession about what will happen in the health care arena after the elections,” said SHRM president Susan Meisinger. “Everyone knows something has to change because the escalating costs are ultimately not sustainable by U.S. companies trying to compete globally. But what will the alternative be?” she asked.

The remaining concerns in the top 10:
4.  Aging population
5. Growing need to develop retention strategies for current and future workforce
6. Federal health care legislation
7. Preparing organizations for an older workforce and the next wave of retirement
8. Threat of recession in the United States or globally
9. Labor shortages at all skill levels
10. Demographic shifts leading to a shortage of high-skilled workers

“One thing that seems to be new is much more concern about the overall economic environment,” said Jennifer Shramm, author of the SHRM study. “I think that is reflected in the actions organizations seem to be taking in response to the trends … a lot of training, education and tuition reimbursement.”

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