Talent gaps top people challenge

by 01 May 2008

MANAGING TALENT is the most critical HR challenge worldwide and will remain at or near the top of executive agendas in every region and industry for the foreseeable future, according to a recent global study.

Similarly, executives across the Pacific region believe that managing talent, improving leadership development, managing demographics and managing change and cultural transformation are critical issues for HR in the future.

A survey of 4,741 executives across 83 countries and markets found that nearly one-half of executives expect their companies to source talent globally by 2015, compared with just one-fifth of companies in 2007.

Similarly, 21 per cent of executives said that their companies will be moving businesses to new locations to access talent by 2015, compared with just 8 per cent of companies in 2007.

“It may soon be harder to find and keep talented employees than to raise money in an IPO,” said Rainer Strack, a partner with Boston Consulting Group, which conducted the survey in conjunction with the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations and Society for Human Resource Management.

“In the West, workforces are greying, while in developing markets, companies have an unquenchable thirst for skilled employees. Creating a people advantage will increasingly translate into competitive advantage.”

Executives across the Pacific Region strongly agreed that the inability to attract talented employees could be the potentially biggest limitation on Australia’s economic growth, the report found.

“Local competition for talent is already tight, and executives expect increasing global competition for talent. Against this backdrop, attracting and retaining talent emerged as the predominant theme in the survey and throughout the interviews,” the report said.

It is no longer sufficient for companies to have a strong HR brand, as 73 per cent of executives expected their companies to be developing tailored career tracks by 2015, and 59 per cent anticipated that their companies would be formulating specific compensation schemes for talented people by then.

“At the end of the day, money alone won’t do the job,” the report said.

Worldwide, more than 60 per cent of companies already offered flexible working hours, and nearly 80 per cent said that they planned to do so by 2015. Offering part-time work was the second-most popular future action by employers.

“The days of company-loyalty-at-all-costs are over,” said Andrew Dyer, global leader of Boston Consulting Group’s organisation practice.

“Employees, especially the most talented ones, often make career choices based on factors such as flexible work hours and emotional gratification.”

While some issues were nearly universally important, others varied widely across geographic locations. Managing demographics, for example, was the fourth-highest priority overall, but executives in different countries offered strongly varying assessments of its importance.

Executives in Australia as well as those in the US, Canada and much of Europe rated it a pressing issue. By contrast, Japanese executives, who have been grappling with the effects of an aging workforce for years, did not rank it as a key HR priority.

“Many executives don’t realize the serious problems they could face from a loss of knowledge and productivity if they don’t start preparing today for labour shortages in five or ten years,”Strack said.

“They should analyse capacity and productivity risks for each location, unit, and job type and then develop a series of measures to mitigate anticipated shortfalls.”

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