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Ongoing Competition for Talent

July 15, 2010 - A survey of 167 Canadian human resources leaders found that organizations are facing an increased "flight risk" with employees considering new opportunities as the economy recovers. The Conference Board of Canada's second such report, Valuing Your Talent: Human Resources Trends and Metrics argues that employers need to develop workforce strategies to attract and retain employees in the current climate.

Ruth Wright, associate director of leadership and human resources research said:

"The recession gave employers only a brief reprieve from looming workforce shortages and an ongoing competition for talent. A growing economy and an aging workforce mean that it is just a matter of time before pressure in labour markets begins to build again.

"The demand for skilled people never went away during the downturn, and concerns about skills and talent shortages are evident even at the highest level of organizations.

"Management and leadership development, and succession planning, are high priorities for HR leaders. Many organizations - particularly in the private sector - are identifying key leadership positions for the purpose of succession planning."

Respondents are aware that their workforce is aging, with nearly half over the age of 45. Among their most significant current challenges are attraction, recruitment and retention of workers and building leadership capacity.

Management and leadership development and strategic workforce planning are seen as priorities both in the short and medium term. The importance attributed to succession management and especially knowledge transfer and management has significantly increased since the first survey in 2005, overtaking employee engagement as priorities.

Global Context

A recent survey by Ernst & Young (Canada) found that organizations are responding to challenges posed by the current economic climate by adopting more sophisticated approaches to talent management. The report Managing Today's Global Workforce is based on responses from more than 340 senior executives from Fortune 1000 companies around the world, including Canada. Examining successful programs and differing practices across regions and sectors, it found that leading companies are increasing competitiveness by integrating talent management with overall business strategy and human resources initiatives focusing on employee engagement and enhanced flexibility.

Respondents identified the most important planned talent management initiative as 'building their internal talent pipeline to fill critical future needs' (64 per cent), followed by 'understanding and coordinating global talent resources to fill key positions' (33 per cent); and 'offering flexible work strategies such as job sharing, telecommuting, flex hours and phased-in retirement' (31 per cent). Concern over future gaps in talent among technical and middle management positions was expressed by 28 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. More than half of respondents (63 per cent) report aligning their current talent management programs to their business strategy, and pro-actively modifying them to reflect changes in company direction.

Ronny Aoun, executive director, human capital practice, said:

"Companies need to align business strategies with talent management programs that will engage and develop the right individuals, because having the right competencies, skills and experiences are the key to competitive differentiation and success as a market leader. And as Canadian organizations continue to grow their operations across the globe, it's vital that a company's internationally mobile employees are also kept top-of-mind."

The survey addressed issues raised by global organisations offering international assignments (60 per cent of respondents). Over one-third have no talent management program in place for mobile employees. Only 32 per cent of respondents say all the components of their talent management programs are integrated across the entire organization, while 24 per cent do not integrate their programs at all.

The report argues that it is critical for companies to respond to specific needs of mobile employees, while maintaining awareness of labour legislation and demographics relevant to each setting. Knowledge held by these employees should be retained and managed. Many respondents state that repatriation or retention after repatriation is not a priority for their organizations, resulting in loss of international experience. Successful companies require well-executed talent management programs, globally integrated and customised to the characteristics of their workforce.

Ronny Aoun commented:

"Now, more than ever, Canadian organizations need to provide opportunities that appeal to the diversity of their employees. By understanding the needs and motivations of employees, organizations will be better able to retain the necessary skills and competencies to emerge stronger in the future."


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