Is HR up to managing global talent crisis?

Apr 23 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The increasing mobility of skilled workers around the world, especially those within developing nations, is creating a talent crisis that will need all HR's talents and focus to resolve.

A study of 5,000 HR professionals by the UK-based think-tank the Adecco Institute has argued that growing skills shortages around the world will require HR to carve out a new role for itself as a long-term talent manager of skilled workers.

Rather than simply filling vacancies as they come up, HR will become increasingly involved in the assessment and long-term planning of their organisation's workforce needs, it said.

A company's success, or lack of it, in managing its talent will also become an important differentiator and unique selling point within the global marketplace.

"This new role of HR management comes as a consequence of three trends converging: globalisation, demographic change and skills shortages," said Donna Murphy, Adecco Institute managing director.

Globalisation in developed countries was increasing the demand for skilled and highly qualified labour, while demand for unskilled worker was, at the same time, shrinking.

This was being compounded by the demographic effect of growing numbers of older workers, particularly in the West.

This trend of older, more qualified workers retiring and fewer young people replacing them would inevitably lead to a talent squeeze, said Adecco.

The majority of people in Europe in the next ten years would, for the first time ever, be older than 40, it pointed out.

And in the U.S the number of workers in the 55-and-older group is projected to grow by 47 per cent in the next eight years, approximately 5.5 times the 8.5 per cent growth of the labour force overall, it added.

Yet, while global demand was growing, the supply was shrinking. As a consequence, companies faced more and more competition for the best talent, said Adecco.

"Whereas in the past, business success was primarily a matter of successfully competing for customers, in the future, business success will increasingly depend on successfully competing for qualified employees," said Murphy.

"This scarcity of one of the most critical of all resources Ė human talent Ė will position HR management as one of the most forceful factors in a company's growth and productivity.

"To meet this challenge, HR practitioners will have to break away from the 'just-in-time' culture of filling vacancies, to a long-term planning of their companies' skills needs," she continued.

Yet the survey found that, currently, the average planning horizon of HR professionals was just 1.1 years.

Organisations were also by and large totally unprepared for the exodus of knowledge and expertise resulting from the ageing of the workforce and the subsequent mass retirement, especially of the Baby Boom generation.

Fewer than a third of European companies had conducted a full analysis of which employees held critical business knowledge while much the same percentage had done nothing at all.

Slightly more than a third of the HR managers polled were already today experiencing particular skills shortages in technical knowledge and a fifth were having problems finding job candidates with the IT skills needed for vacant positions.

"Tomorrow's companies will compete not on low wages or natural resources, but on skills as the driver of innovation and productivity. Growing companies will increasingly look to the global workforce to satisfy their appetite for skills and expertise," said Wolfgang Clement, Adecco chairman and former German minister of economics and labour.

"Technology has demolished the boundaries once presented by geographical distances. Talent can be leveraged regardless of location. These changes will magnify the challenge of managing people and talent.

"Competing for skills will mean finding the right strategy to keep skilled employees, and keeping them engaged, trained and committed. Talent management will increasingly become a key differentiator for companies," he added.