How the recession is changing talent management

The downturn is biting into company budgets, but talent management is necessarily avoiding the axe...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Across UK plc, the recession has led to efficiency drives and spending cuts. Recruitment budgets have suffered in particular, as companies have introduced hiring freezes and even redundancies – but this is putting even more emphasis on existing talent. For its latest report, 'Talent Management at the Crossroads', consultancy Maynard Leigh spoke to 20 top firms – and found that if anything they were boosting their talent management activity. At a time when all companies are trying to get more out of their existing resources, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There are different ways of looking at talent management, of course. Some companies just focus their efforts on an elite 20%; others, like BSkyB, think it should be for the many, not just the few. What’s interesting is that the recession seems to have pushed more companies from the first category into the second. Holiday park operator Bourne Leisure, for example, has apparently decided that excellent customer service will ensure it survives intact – so it’s taken a much more inclusive approach, to incorporate all its front line staff. Financial services firm Britannia has also ‘cascaded’ (if you’ll forgive us that horrid term) its leadership development programme throughout the company, in the hope that everyone will raise their game.

Maynard Leigh boss Andrew Leigh told MT that this isn’t happening often enough to constitute a general trend – but that the recession is definitely changing the way companies think about their talent. ‘People are thinking more about who the talent is, and how best to encourage them,’ he argues. Some areas still need work: for instance, he says, many companies still haven’t got their heads round the best way of supporting Generation Y types (whether that’s through better communication, less hierarchy, or whatever). But he believes there’s no doubt that people now understand the importance of getting it right.

This is partly a result of necessity. If you can’t recruit new blood, the only solution is to fill the gaps from within the organisation, so it makes sense to train people up; equally, if you’re forced to re-deploy headcount from one area to another, you want to make sure they have the necessary skills. It also helps that most firms remember their mistakes of the last recession, when many of them paid the price for discarding talent too quickly. For example, accountancy PwC cut its graduate intake, and ended up lacking in good managers a few years down the line. ‘We’re certainly not making that mistake this time round’, they told Leigh.

Now that the end of the recession is in sight (albeit some way off in the distance still), firms who take a longer-term view and continue developing their people are likely to reap the rewards in a year or two’s time...

P.S. 'Talent Management at the Crossroads' can be downloaded for free from Maynard Leigh's website.

In today's bulletin:

Virgin Atlantic flying high as profits double
Shell shock as gas and power chief quits
Downturn hitting people of all ages
How the recession is changing talent management
MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Ensuring business continuity in a pandemic

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