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The master plan

As the economy improves and companies begin hiring again, many must take extra precautions to ensure they are investing in the right skills to support business growth. Aimie Chapple, UK Head of the Talent and Organisation Performance practice, Accenture on why the plan and strategy is key.

With economic recovery will come a return to employees becoming more demanding about the employers they work for. Taken together, the process of hiring employees is not what is was prior to the recession. As we start to hear the rumbles of market improvement, here are three imperatives that should be considered by any hiring manager. Workforce planning is key, and the workforce skills that were in place going into the recession are likely to require re-calibration as we enter the next market phase. The economy is re-setting, not simply recovering in the sense of returning to the status quo.

A workforce plan enables companies to assess the gap between current capabilities and the ones that will be needed going forward. It will also identify top performers, which will be essential for making good hiring decisions. For many roles identified as critical to executing the business strategy, re-skilling existing top performers may be a better first answer than hiring new employees.

Workforce planning has an external dimension as well. It may lead to thinking in new ways about external alliances with educational institutions and community groups, for example, to produce a steadier stream of skilled employees. Companies can support research at universities, give work experience to students, or enter into sponsorship or partnership relationships with schools. Creative arrangements with local governments and community colleges may also help to train available labor in the skills needed for a company’s business.

“Talent is increasingly aware of their value and bargaining power. Talent will be on the offensive during the re-set and HR departments must begin to deal with that new mindset now”

The war for talent
If you are in the market for top talent, the time to start hiring is now. Experienced people, especially at the higher managerial levels, are more available, either actively looking for work or willing to be wooed to the right opportunity. Smart companies are finding ways to bring those people on board. (A famous example of the business benefits of hiring during transition periods is Hewlett-Packard, which snatched up scores of top engineers when they came available after World War II.)

One thing to watch, however, is that top talent is increasingly aware of their value and bargaining power. Talent will be on the offensive during the re-set and HR departments must begin to deal with that new mindset now. For example, the public prominence of an organisation’s social and environmental agendas, and the quality of life they are offering to top-tier employees, will take on more significance. With good talent in the market, a company needs to have solid answers to candidates’ questions about meaningful work, a collaborative culture, opportunities to advance into leadership positions, and its social responsibility.

Being proactive means something slightly different for talent that is perhaps one tier down from the top performers. Such employees are taking a “scattershot” approach to job hunting, sending applications for openings whether they are qualified or not. That can create headaches for the HR department. One executive I met with recently told me he had received 200 applications for a top managerial position. Twenty of them were excellent, and that was great, but the other 180 were well-crafted applications of people who were in no way qualified for the job. Better filtering systems are going to be essential to streamline the hiring process and keep time and costs in check.

The value of a brand
A company’s brand value and associations will affect its ability to bring in good people. That means talent management professionals and the HR team should be working closely with the marketing team. Some companies are now looking, to integrate their recruiting activities with their media, marketing, and sales departments so that all parts of the company are working in sync to get the brand message out.

This is also the time to make sure the HR department is effectively using Web 2.0 technologies and social networking channels to bring potential hires to the door. Attracting competent performers is cheaper, than working to find them. That is one of the important value propositions of social media when it comes to the recruiting and hiring space.The winners in the next era of hiring will be organisations whose executives become much more hands-on with the talent-management function than they have in the past. HR professionals play a valuable role, and executives should not try to do their jobs for them. But they do need to be much more involved this time around. Translating business strategy into workforce strategy is a C-level responsibility. The coming months with continue to be challenging and ensuring you have the right people in the right numbers will require a close partnership between HR and the C-suite.

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