Ongoing economic uncertainty will see a repeat of the challenges recently faced by HR departments. However, companies can no longer afford to wait out the soft periods and must actively ensure they have the right people and skills.
Without proper talent management companies could miss out on business opportunities because they don’t have the right people or have insufficient staff to implement projects.
Retention, too, will become even more challenging in 2012 as employees worry they’ll tread water for another year, caught in the budgetary indecision of senior management on recruitment and development; continuing to absorb additional duties without salary increases or development opportunities.
According to research conducted by SHL, progression and development opportunities are important to 4 out of 10 Australian employees.
This means that despite cost constraints employers must ensure their employees know career progression or skills development are a certainty over the next 12 months, or risk losing top talent and company knowledge.
To survive the tough times, businesses need an HR strategy that supports business goals. It should involve line managers to provide in-house development opportunities and ensure all staff are engaged and working towards the business’overarching goals.
The first step in developing an effective HR strategy is a thorough professional review of the existing talent pool. Conducting a talent audit in the first quarter of the year provides a valuable benchmark of technical, leadership and management skills to identify employees who are ready to enhance their skill set to move into specialist or more senior roles.
The audit also provides a snapshot of skills gaps and development requirements. In some cases, the audit can also assist HR in gaining additional budget for development programs and for recruiting additional talent to support existing teamsand streamline operations.
Managers are vital to achieving HR and business goals and will be the key drivers for productivity in 2012. SHL’s research found that over half of Australian employees say their manager affects their level of engagement at work.
Team managers in particular are best positioned to identify opportunities for additional responsibility and new skills development on a day-to-day basis.
Development opportunities don’t always involve formal training and certainly don’t have to be costly. On-the-job upskilling, mentoring-based development, involvement on special projects and acting in a different role while someone is away can help employees build skills and receive recognition.
SHL research also found 38 per cent of employees feel more engaged with their employer when they understand the company’s vision and goals. HR managers and line managers need to communicate overarching business direction to employees and provide context for how each department, team and themselves play a key part in achieving business goals.
The ideal situation sees HR managers working alongside the senior executive team and line managers to better understand the business direction and ensure each department had the right mix of skills to achieve long and short-term goals and forecast future skills needs.
This integrated approach, which embeds HR as a vital business function to ensure the company’s people strategy is fully aligned with business strategy, is an emerging change that more businesses will need to adopt to achieve goals over thenext 12 months.
About the author
Stephanie Christopher is managing director for SHL Australia and New Zealand