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A talent for talent

HR professionals are under pressure to develop their role in three key areas to counter the talent gaps’ continuing impact on business, says a major researcher on the subject.

In response to the results of its latest global Talent Shortage Survey, ManpowerGroup has identified three roles it says HR professionals must adopt to shape more flexible and agile workforces: supply and demand expert, marketer and work structure designer.

The annual survey of about 37,000 employers in 42 countries and territories includes more than 1500 employers in Australia. In this year’s survey, 41 per cent of the Australian employers reported difficulties in filling jobs, compared with an overall average of 36 per cent.

Australia ranked 20th in this respect. It fared about the same as the United States and Germany (both 40 per cent), but was considerably worse off than Canada (31 per cent) and the United Kingdom (12 per cent). Countries reporting skill/talent shortages significantly more serious than Australia’s included New Zealand and list-topping Japan.

Unemployment in Australia continues to be high, particularly among young people. The overall unemployment rate recently touched on six per cent for the first time in 10 years. However, many employers report an oversupply of labour and an undersupply of the right talent and skills to deliver on key business objectives.

The oversupply of labour follows a tepid recovery from the global recession, while the undersupply of talent has been aggravated by rapidly changing technology and business dynamics.

The ramifications for businesses are major, with 54 per cent of Australian survey respondents saying that skill shortages had reduced their ability to serve their clients. Other impacts included:

  • Reduced competitiveness/productivity – 37 per cent.
  • Lower employee engagement/morale – 27 per cent.
  • Increased employee turnover – 25 per cent.
  • Reduced innovation and creativity – 21 per cent.

One in five Australian employers said they weren’t pursuing any strategies to address the challenges of the talent shortage/mismatch.

“However, the lack of a single solution doesn’t mean that business can’t act,” says ManpowerGroup in its survey insight paper The Talent Shortage Continues – How the ever-changing role of HR can bridge the gap. The multinational HR consulting firm says the answer rests with HR because, although HR is “not a silver bullet”, it is the one group with the expertise and influence to reshape companies’ talent bases by acting decisively to ensure a sustainable workforce.

The paper outlines the “three critical roles” HR professionals must adopt to ensure their companies have the flexible and agile workforces they need:

HR as supply and demand experts

“Although HR practitioners have encountered supply and demand issues before, they are now expected to be the de facto experts. They must understand how demand for their companies’ products and services impacts the demand for talent… HR leaders need to provide market intelligence supported by relevant data, understand their internal and external talent supply and how forces are reshaping the availability of required skills. If there is misalignment between business objectives and workforce capabilities, HR leaders need to have a plan in place to bridge any gaps, and bridge them more quickly than in the past.”

HR as marketers

“Since talent is now a savvy and sophisticated consumer, HR needs to consider how organisational branding, messaging and image can help win in-demand skills… HR must think differently and shift from one-size-fits-all approaches to create value propositions that appeal to the needs of individuals and align with organisational objectives… Marketing can’t stop after a company successfully has talent through the door. Organisations need one-size-fits-one career paths that allow employees to advance business goals and allow them to develop their skills and grow. Leaders throughout the organisation must be empowered to focus on, and be held accountable for, employee development, so top talent stays motivated and engaged.”

HR as designers

“[This will require HR leaders to] think differently about how to structure work to access, mobilise, optimise and unleash the potential of current and prospective employees… Work models should be reimagined… As more and more segmentation and specificity of work, particularly knowledge work, is demanded, work will be divided into smaller and smaller tasks, which will be distributed to many people. Work will also increasingly be performed by freelancers and consultants willing to work on an outcome basis so they can choose the work they want to do. A different way of thinking is needed to cultivate communities of work and balance the employment mix to include contingent, fully outsourced, partially retired and other workers.”

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Andrea Barclay
Andrea Barclay

I loved this article especially the HR as Marketers. I am currently a student in HR but being a mother in my early 40’s I am old school in believing it is one thing getting new recruits in the door and being the right person for the job, but it is another thing altogether keeping them there, retaining that knowledge that you just paid a hefty price to employ and then keeping them motivated enough to maintain the highest productivity they can possibly produce on a consistent basis. A challenge for any employer. You have to market the role in… Read more »

Les Pickett
Les Pickett

Based on our many years of providing analytical and coaching services in the HR arena,the Mc Bassi & Company team has concluded that organizations’ HR functions can be categorized along three basic dimensions. These same dimensions can often be applied to HR professionals as well. 1. Corporate social workers: This best characterizes those who went into HR because they “love people.” Make no mistake about it: every organization (and HR function) needs a good dose of the humanizing element that this breed provides. But troubles surface when this dimension carries too much weight. If you (or your department) are perpetually… Read more »

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