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What the Trump Administration's Impact Will Be on HR

I know I wasn’t alone in wanting the 2016 presidential election campaign to finally end. It was the messiest, meanest, and most unconventional campaign I’ve ever experienced, and I was exhausted by it.

But if the past presidential campaign was unconventional, it appears to me that the upcoming Presidency of President-elect Donald Trump may just as unconventional. This means that HR executives and business leaders will have to dedicate much more time and attention to what the new President says and what the new Administration has in mind for the future. While all elections have consequences, I think the outcome of this election can’t be overstated.

First, as a candidate, Donald Trump made comments and was heard on tape describing personal actions that, if made by an employee in most workplaces, would have been cause for disciplinary action. I think HR executives will have to be vigilant and take steps to ensure that employees understand that similar comments and behavior will not be tolerated in the workplace. And while I’m hopeful that as President, Mr. Trump will be more careful with his public statements, I believe that the wise HR executive can’t ignore what he says and does, and consider what, if any impact, it may have on behavior in the workplace.

Second, during his campaign, candidate Trump provided very little detail on what his policies would be as President, particularly in the labor and employment arena. While he made it clear, for example, that he intended to “repeal and replace” the ACA, what that actually means—and what the implications and impact will be for the business community—are not clear. But President Trump will have a Republican Congress, and with a unified government for the first time in many years, we’re likely to see much more legislation moving through Congress and signed into law. Tax, trade, immigration, labor and employment policy all are subject to change, any one of which could have implications for business viability, profitability, and employee job security.

Third, some labor and employment initiatives that are now less likely to be considered at the federal level, for example, a significant increase in the minimum wage or paid FMLA leave, are now more likely to be considered at state and local levels. States with legislatures controlled by Democrats are likely to try to enact legislation that Congress will not consider.

What should HR executives do?

Don’t ignore the public policy debates and process. Don’t follow a strategy of “I’ll deal with it when it happens.”

Pay attention and participate! Labor and employment policy issues are usually given less priority than trade and policy issues by corporate offices and the business community. HR executives will have to fill the gap, staying informed on public policy developments at the federal and state level and ensuring that their concerns are addressed in any final legislative or regulatory proposal.  

While it may be unclear exactly what changes President Trump will pursue, change is coming. Don’t ignore it.

Read more 2017 talent predictions by other thought leaders.