It has been a tough year for HR. Employers have been loaded up with more red tape than ever, and employee militancy has returned to the workplace
But the biggest challenge for HR by far has been the economy. The downturn has run and run, and has ensured that recruitment and retention have dominated everything that HR has done.
Next year could be more of the same, with the recovery hanging in the balance.
Businesses are facing more taxes in 2003, including an expensive increase in their National Insurance contributions, and further cost-cutting will be needed (see page one).
Worryingly, it could get worse.
If house prices spiral, interest rates would be raised and consumer spending would peter out. If we go to war with Iraq, oil prices would go up and confidence would go down. In both scenarios, any signs of recovery would be wiped out.
A more optimistic interpretation - in this festive period - would see the threat of war diminish and house prices stabilise; positive signs in the US would spread, strengthening global markets; and redundancies would be replaced by the triumphant return of a strong recruitment market.
What does all of this uncertainty tell us? We have to be ready for every eventuality - good or bad.
While plans have to be in place for an upturn, you also need the flexibility to handle short-term pain. And it doesn't matter which economist you talk to about the next three to six months - it's going to hard.
If you do have to shed people, make sure you lose the under-performers and the low-skilled.
Talent has to identified, retained and nurtured, and the opportunity should not be missed to recruit more of it, in small amounts, of course. And all this has to be achieved while trying to up-skill your workforce and improve productivity.
It is going to be a challenging year, but then would you want to do it if it was easy?
By Mike Broad