3 Strategic Foci for HR in 2018

Strategic focus is a business buzzword these days. Just Google the term. You will find that many top business publications have recent articles on the topic. I don’t think that is a new revelation, however.HR

In business—indeed, in life—there is only so much time and energy available. There always are things that must be done—ordinary, important tasks that consume a significant quantum of available time and energy. For HR leaders, must-dos include hiring for open positions, onboarding, selecting benefit plans, conducting open enrollment, ensuring payroll compliance, and investigating workplace complaints, to list just a few.

There is scarcely time and energy for making improvements and tackling new issues that arise because of technology, business growth, or changing regulatory environments. If HR does not have a strategic focus on how best to use scarce discretionary time, it will evaporate as events and circumstances dictate. A solid strategic focus hones in on what is most important to your company so you can maximize the time and energy you devote to those issues.

Your strategic focus must be specifically tailored to your business. I can’t tell you what your strategic focus should be. In 2018, however, I see three areas loaded with risk for Arizona employers.


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to boost workplace immigration enforcement by as much as 500 percent. You need to be ready when ICE arrives. That means making sure you are using the correct I-9 form, which has changed a couple of times in recent years. Conduct regular self-audits of your I-9s, and make permissible corrections. For a decade, Arizona law has required employers to use the federal E-Verify program for new hires. Complying with that requirement will help you avoid heat from ICE.

The uncertain future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a big concern because Arizona is home to about 28,000 Dreamers whose work authorization will begin to expire this year. Managers need to be trained not to ask about employees’ immigration status generally. On the other hand, you must reverify I-9s before the work authorization of employees, including Dreamers, expires. Consider sending reminders to employees 90 days before their work authorization expires.


If you’re thinking, “That’s a job for IT management,” you need to change your thinking. HR and IT must be partners in battling the cybersecurity risks businesses face on a daily basis.

First, you need to hire IT partners. There is a critical shortage in the field, and both the private sector and the public sector are looking to boost staffing. HR needs to develop active measures to help find good people for key roles in an extremely competitive marketplace.

HR must lead by example because the data it works with are often the most vulnerable to attack. In a recent scam, for example, e-mails appearing to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requested copies of I-9s for new employees. USCIS issued an alert warning that employers are not required and will never be asked to submit I-9 forms to the agency by e-mail.

HR must share its training expertise with IT. Cybersecurity training should be a central component of your onboarding process and be specific to your company and the job. It is equally crucial to team up to protect company data when employees are discharged.


The #MeToo movement is sweeping America. Now is the time to fine-tune your policies and training to fit the current culture. Training should address what harassment is prohibited by your policies as well as what employees should do if they believe they have experienced or witnessed harassment.

Bottom Line

As you put in place your strategies for 2018, I recommend you at least consider focusing on these three areas. Happy New Year!

Dinita L. James, a partner in the Arizona law firm Gonzalez Law, LLC, is the editor of Arizona Employment Law Letter. You can reach her at dinita.james@gnzlaw.com or 480-565-6400.

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