No ‘one size fits all’ solution in downturn

by 15 Dec 2008

THERE ARE clear differences between what companies in the US and those in Australia and NZ are doing in response to the economic downturn, according to global HR consulting firm Hewitt.

Speaking at a recent conference in Sydney, Richard Kantor, regional practice leader for Hewitt’s talent and organisa tional consulting services in Asia Pacific, said there were no “one size fits all” solu tions or approaches.

“What’s effective in an organisation’s US operations is likely not strategically sound if duplicated in markets such as Australia or New Zealand,” he said.

“It’s critical that organisations plan and execute their decisions to reflect local market realities and practices.”

Commenting on the results of a sur vey into the global economic downturn, Kantor said 55 per cent of US compa nies indicated that they are planning or have implemented layoffs. In the Aus tralian market survey, only 32 per cent and in New Zealand just 23 per cent indi cated this as a possible direction.

The most significant difference between Australia and New Zealand is that no New Zealand companies are plan ning on freezing salaries, versus 12 per cent of Australian companies and 15 per cent for the US.

Further, more than half of organisa tions in the US are planning or have implemented a hiring freeze, compared with 44 per cent in Australia and 39 per cent in New Zealand.

However, the types of HR measures being undertaken vary between Australia and NZ. More than half of New Zealand organisations are considering alternative work arrangements, in contrast to just 27 per cent of Australian respondents.

Almost a third of Australian com panies (31 per cent) are plan ning to redesign their incentive programs compared with just 11 per cent of New Zealand organisations.

The survey also pointed to differences in special planning around high performers and paying for performance, by companies represented in each region.

While 67 per cent of US com panies indicated they have iden tified and are treating high per formers differently from the rest of employees, more than 90 per cent of companies in Australia and NZ have taken this position.

“Clearly, when we look at other data in the survey, retain ing high performers is a key focus in Australia and New Zealand. This shows up in plans for how pay will be adminis tered and also in how other engagement drivers will be managed,” Kantor said.

How companies approach learning and development pro gram planning provides a case in point, according to Kantor, with 46 per cent of companies in Aus tralia and 44 per cent in New Zealand planning to increase spending in this area.

“Hewitt data suggests that this is consistently a good lever to pull to retain and engage top per formers. We just have to see whether companies follow through on this intent,” he said.


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