Coping with skills shortages

by 09 Jan 2012

HR managers will have one major hurdle to overcome in 2012, experts warn: coping with the increasing skills shortage in a noticeably shallower talent pool.

Last year, the Australian economy continued to grow at a steady pace, but the skills shortage that reared its head in the first quarter of 2011 was evident across all industries, creating further pressure on salaries and benefits packages.

Those employees who remained loyal to their employers during the difficult time had expectations around pay increases and promotions, said Fred van der Tang, CEO, Randstad Australia & New Zealand – and as the war for talent reached even higher proportions, it was these employees who reaped the rewards.

He added that recent Randstad research highlighted that respected brands stand out from the crowd, in terms of attracting the best talent. As the global skills shortage intensifies, the importance of a strong employer brand is set to become even more imperative in the future as it will be a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.

“As we enter a new year, businesses actively seeking employees may find an ever decreasing pool of talent to choose from. People currently in stable and enjoyable roles will have the opportunity to reflect on 2011, to reassess and reprioritise their career goals in 2012,” he said.

“While some organisations have learnt from the challenges faced in recent times, and used employee sentiment and feedback to put in place the necessary elements to maintain their talent pool, other organisations are entering 2012 on the lookout for new employees in what is an increasingly shrinking market.”

Richard Todd, regional director of human resources for Australasia, Hilton, recently pointed to the search for quality talent as being “a key challenge” for the organisation, despite having the backing of a globally respected brand.

“Hilton has one of the most recognised brands – 9 out of 10 people globally have heard of or stayed at a Hilton Hotel – so our brand identity is really strong. But the specific challenge we have right now, and this is industry wide, is the massive boom happening in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“The growth is happening in China. We’ve got 122 hotels to open by the end of 2014 in China alone, so the number of people just to fill the roles in China over the next two to three years is huge: 122 GMs, 122 HRDs, and it cascades down. It’s massive expansion.”

For Todd, the solution is to start identifying talent and opportunities to grow talent now, with an eye on the future.

“We’ve engaged with the GMs of each business and the HRDs of each business on a monthly basis, whereas usually these things would happen quarterly or on a biannual basis,” he said.

“At these monthly people meetings, we can identify talent and the skills gaps to grow talent – whether that’s through internal cross training, L&D activities, or short-term secondments – to develop skills and capability. That’s what we’re doing to grow that talent internally. We’re also strategically partnering with Hotel Schools throughout the Asia-Pacific region, which we’ve not done previously, and arranging specific Hilton exclusive classes in some of those universities.”

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