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Looking Beyond Nov. 8

Thursday, September 1, 2016
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Yes, it's hard to believe, but in less than two months, Americans will be going to the polls to elect a new president.

It feels like an eternity since the two major-party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, kicked off their campaigns. But then, what presidential race hasn't felt that way? Guess we can thank the nonstop media coverage for that.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's looking forward to the day I can turn on my television without being bombarded with stories about the trials and tribulations of Clinton and Trump.

Granted, I know we're not helping matters by putting their mugs on our cover this month. But considering that the outcome of the 2016 election is likely to have a significant impact on employers and HR leaders, we had little choice.

As our cover story, A Presidential Puzzle, makes quite clear, there are plenty of HR issues at stake. At the top of that list is immigration, an issue that pretty much launched Trump's run for the White House. As Senior Editor Jack Robinson's story explains, "Trump's signature pledge has been for strict enforcement of immigration laws -- most notably mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants and a wall that he proposes to build, at Mexico's expense, on the southern border." Trump supports raising the bar for companies that sponsor immigrants, including an increased minimum wage for workers recruited from abroad.

Clinton, meanwhile, embraces more comprehensive immigration reform, with a path to full and equal citizenship.

And then there's healthcare, with the candidates sitting on different ends of that spectrum. Clinton promises she would defend the Affordable Care Act and build on it to slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs. Trump, on the other hand, would seek a "full repeal" of the ACA, including coverage mandates for employers and families.

Other issues include retirement reform, offshoring and outsourcing, family leave, overtime and minimum wage -- all subjects that either one or both candidates, to varying degrees, have addressed.

We all know HR leaders can embrace change, whoever ends up in the White House. But as our cover story makes clear, it's far less certain what exactly will be changing, especially in the case of a Trump presidency. At least up to now, Trump simply has yet to weigh in on many of the issues impacting HR or has altered his position.

As Robinson writes in his cover story, "The heart of the puzzle is Trump's unconventional campaign. On some issues, such as healthcare, he echoes the views of many in the GOP. On others, such as international trade and offshoring, he has staked out populist positions that many business leaders oppose. And on most other policy matters critical to HR, from the federal minimum wage to pay equity for women, he has offered various opinions -- or said nothing at all."

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Perhaps that will change between now and Nov. 8. Your guess is as good as mine. But whatever the scenario, HR leaders would be well served to view either outcome -- a Clinton victory or a Trump victory -- as a fresh reminder that HR needs to make sure its voice is being heard on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, whoever moves into the White House on Jan. 20, HR leaders need to make sure -- either directly or through entities such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, HR Policy Association and the Society for Human Resource Management -- that our nation's policy makers are acutely aware of how their actions and inactions will impact the employer community.

Hopefully, we'll all be voting come Nov. 8. And with any luck, we'll know enough by then to make the best, most educated decision closest to our head and heart. But beyond the candidacies, victory and next administration are some unprecedented business and talent challenges that HR leaders know too well -- challenges that may or may not worsen or improve with a new chief executive commander at the helm. Don't sit back and wait to see which way the wind blows those challenges; make sure those in Washington fully understand their scope and magnitude.

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