As all the signs point to the recruitment market heating up, HR professionals say that they will be devoting the lionís share of resources to recruitment and retention ahead of other issues such as absence and training and development.
When asked what issues would be taking the most of their departmentís attention during 2004, the majority (34.5 per cent) of the 207 respondents to the HR Gateway website poll said that it would be recruitment and retention.
After much of the post-Christmas talk of Ďsickiesí and the growing absence problem in the UK, only 14 per cent chose absence as the key issue for this year as HR worries more about business strategy (26.5 per cent) and training and development (25 per cent).
A range of recent surveys have suggested a major growth in positions for 2004, however, with major skills shortages still being a huge hurdle many feel that HR departments will once again be embroiled in a serious war for talent during the year.
Mike Johnston, author of Talent Magnet, believes that many people who have been unable to move over the past two years because of the unstable economic situation will choose the year to make a change:
"I do not see a mad rush but HR will have its work cut out in terms of retaining key people. HR will also be busy plugging gaps to help the stressed out staff who have been overworked for the past two years because of recruitment freezes.
"However, many skills are in short supply which could prove a headache for HR," he says.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) believes that 250,000 jobs will be created this year and the sign from agencies is that even in December 2003 placement growth far outstripped the number skilled people available, pushing up wages.
John Philpott of the CIPD believes that the tight labour market and business upturn will challenge organisations with written HR strategies to deliver on their strategic goals if they are to remain credible:
"The pressures of poor administrative processes and weak measurement of the added value of good people management, and costs of its neglect, as revealed consistently by our surveys, will be key issues for HR professionals next year,Ē he says.