Companies Concerned over Ability to Attract and Retain Key Talent

December 15, 2010 ( - The Towers Watson Strategies for Growth study, a survey of more than 700 companies globally, revealed that talent - finding it and keeping it - is the biggest potential workforce obstacle to achieving growth.

More than half of the respondents worldwide (51%) cited the loss of talent in key skill areas as a workforce challenge that could hinder growth. Slightly fewer (49%) cited the lack of succession planning as a top challenge, while 38% noted concerns about attracting necessary talent.   

According to a press release, regionally, the survey revealed some divergence, which tended to track with the differing economic climate in various parts of the world. North American companies are less concerned about loss of key talent than their counterparts in other regions, but are more concerned about levels of disengagement among employees. In Asia Pacific, disengagement is not a major issue, but the inability to pay workers competitively is, reflecting the region’s fairly young and mobile workers, who are willing to change jobs frequently to advance their careers and raise their paychecks. Respondents in Europe are more worried about the talent drain’s impact on management succession planning.  

Ravin Jesuthasan, global head of talent management consulting at Towers Watson, said many respondents aren’t truly prepared to address talent issues. Only a quarter or slightly more of the respondents indicated they have an appropriate capability in place for acquiring talent (29%) or retaining talent (25%). Even fewer (21%) have a sufficient capability for succession planning. These gaps appeared in all the regions, but were particularly significant in Asia Pacific, where formal and structured HR processes are generally somewhat newer.   

However, improving performance management was cited as the number one area for greater emphasis this year across all regions.  

Other findings from the Towers Watson survey include: 

  • In North America and Europe, about one in three respondents said they would continue reducing staff or actually begin doing so for the first time. For companies in Asia Pacific and Latin America, any similar actions appear to be largely completed, and the emphasis on cost management is shifting to more “evergreen” initiatives, such as more restrictive travel policies, tighter bonus criteria and restructured career ladders. 
  • Respondents from every region view Asia Pacific as the top area for growth for their companies in 2011. Respondents from every region also listed expanding products and services and entering new markets as their top strategies for driving growth, although virtually all will continue to focus on bottom-line management as well.  
  • Globally, very few HR executives serve on their company’s risk committee. However, two-thirds or more say that their HR function is involved in a fairly broad set of risk management activities that go beyond traditional safety concerns. 


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