Managing talent is the biggest HR headache

Managing talent will be the most pressing human resources challenge facing companies in the future, according to a survey of more than 1,350 executives from 27 countries in Europe.

by Boston Consulting Group and the European Association for Personnel Management
Last Updated: 14 Jan 2016

A survey from the Boston Consulting Group and the European Association for Personnel Management found that European companies expect to face five major human resources challenges in the future, with managing talent being the most critical. The others were managing demographics, becoming a learner organisation, managing work-life balance and managing change and cultural transformation.

In some countries, specific circumstances mean that topics other than talent management are at the top of the HR agenda. Managing demographics, for example, was the top future HR issue in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. "Corporate executives in Europe generally agreed that they have a demographic problem and that they have not yet devised strategies to fully combat it," says Rainer Strack, a BCG partner managing director based in Dusseldorf.

The survey examined the future importance of 17 HR topics. The five topics that emerged as the most important also represented the capabilities that the companies are weakest in - only 30% of the respondents said that they have begun to tackle all five of the top challenges for the future. The report includes recommended steps that HR departments should take in these areas.

Managing talent. Talent shortages loom, both in Europe and in new markets abroad. To fully exploit available labour pools, the report recommends that companies should source their talent from across the world and ensure that they target their offerings to meet the needs and goals unique to different ethnic groups and nationalities, women and older workers.

Managing demographics. As Europe's workforce becomes increasingly grey, European companies will have to deal with both loss of capacity and knowledge, as more people retire, and loss of productivity as the workforce ages. The report says that companies will have to introduce a job family structure to de-average the demographic risk and identify specific initiatives that address recruiting as well as cross-job qualifications and transfers.

Becoming a learning organisation. Companies need to prepare their employees to cope with the complexities and accelerated speed of an increasingly global economy. Rather than simply throwing more money into training, executives should clearly define and measure the return on investment that they expect to gain from learning initiatives, and shape their education programmes accordingly.

Managing work-life balance. Increasing numbers of employees are selecting or rejecting jobs based on the work-life balance they offer, so in order to attract and retain talented individuals, companies will need to offer flexible working arrangements. They will also need to appeal to employees' growing desire to derive a sense of purpose from their work.

Managing change and cultural transformation. As companies hire workers from around the world and enter new markets quicker than ever before, managing change is becoming more important. The survey shows that executives expect their HR departments to develop tools and methodologies that aid line managers in communicating to employees the need for change and enable them to achieve it.

Boston Consulting Group and European Association for Personnel Management

Review by: Nick Loney

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