HR failing to prioritise global talent management

by 03 Oct 2007

Between July and August, 2007, The Human Capital Institute (HCI) and Vurv Technologies surveyed HR and non-HR practitioners, managers and executives from North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific about their attitudes and experiences related to the role of HR in their organisations.

The sample size of North American HR professionals achieved for the study provides a very high statistical validity and so it represents the approximately 1 million HR professionals in North America very accurately (95 per cent +/- 4 points).

According to our survey, HR appears, finally, to be gaining respect and credibility in most organisations. It is difficult to determine whether this is due to the achievements of HR or more so to the attention ‘talent’ and human capital has been receiving over the past several years.

In many respects, the results of the study were encouraging; HR is slowly changing to meet the needs of knowledge-based organisations. On the other hand, HR appears to be missing the boat in some important areas, most notably, globalisation.

For western workforces, globalisation accelerates the imperative for innovation, creativity and productivity. For stewards of talent, it demands a deeper understanding of international economics, laws and culture, as well as requiring a range of new expertise.

On the series of questions in our survey related to global talent management and business (including global sourcing of talent, foreign assignments, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and global talent management processes and practices) HR is regularly involved in only 23 per cent of cases, while 26 per cent are involved occasionally and 36 per cent are not involved at all.

Given the importance of global business and the critical need for organisations to compete internationally for talent – including remote virtual workforce acquisition and management – it is somewhat alarming that HR is so far behind in this respect.

Worse in some ways, HR is relatively unconcerned about their lack of involvement in global business matters, including outsourcing and offshoring and the need for global managers. Even though these are among the top concerns of executives, they are near the bottom of the HR agenda.

Of 18 measures, the survey group ranked offshoring/outsourcing as the least worrisome by a wide margin. Finding talent and leaders with global management skills was the next least important issue overall. In both cases, respondents strongly disagreed that these would present major challenges in the coming three years.

Consistent with their response to immediate challenges, survey takers expect to prioritise talent acquisition, retention and succession planning for the next three years while de-emphasising global workforce issues and specific measures relative to the aging workforce.

According to respondents, less than one if five assess their organisation as being well-prepared or very well-prepared to address even their most high priority challenges. Perhaps because the fires of recruitment and retention are burning so intensely, HR has little time for issues that may be less pressing in the short-term, such as global talent management strategies.

When it came to Australia and New Zealand, 59 of respondents were practitioners, managers and executives from outside of North America (45 of whom were from Australia and New Zealand).

The survey found that HR reports directly to the CEO in 71 per cent of companies in Australia and New Zealand versus 58 per cent in North America, while 78 per cent of respondents from Australia and New Zealand claim that HR is either respected or highly respected and occasionally or frequently consulted on corporate strategy versus 64 per cent in North America.

Furthermore, 32 per cent from Australia and New Zealandassess their organisations as being well-prepared or very well-prepared to address coming talent management challenges versus 18 per cent in North America.

By Allan Schweyer, president of the Human Capital Institute