Employers Ready to Butt Heads for New Talent But Co. Performance Lacks

July 14, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - While employers are certain to continue competing head-on for talented employees, not every company has properly positioned itself to make the best use of the workers in a new business environment.

New research from Accenture found that more than a third (41%) of respondents to a survey reported that the great talent war will impact their company in the coming year, compared with less than one-quarter (23%) who said difficult recruiting is already affecting them.

But, even when the talent stars are in the door, many employers admit their organizations aren’t as successful as they’d like in meeting basic company goals. For instance, while nearly two-thirds (65%) cited “developing an effective leadership capability” and half (49%) mentioned “creating an organization and culture that adapt effectively to change” as very important organizational capabilities, a scant 8% in each case said their organizations are hitting home runs in these areas. Furthermore, fewer than one in five (17%) of respondents described the overall skill level of their entire workforce as industry-leading.

The survey also found that executives are gradually moving out of cost-control mode to one emphasizing growth. For instance, while four in 10 (42%) of respondents said their companies will focus primarily on growth in the next 12 months, less than one-fifth (18%) said they plan to keep cost-cutting uppermost on their radar screens during that time.

“The recent focus on cost-cutting has led many companies to lose marketplace momentum. Now, as they ramp up investment in growth-oriented activities to achieve higher levels of performance, they need to regain their competitive edge in terms of recruiting, retaining and developing high-caliber employees,” said Peter Cheese, managing partner of Accenture’s Human Performance service line, in a news release. “The way forward involves a more strategic approach in human resources. Organizations should understand how to effectively engage employees, focusing on learning and performance management and aligning both to business strategy.”

HR Woes

One problem in getting organizations humming like well-oiled machines: shortcomings in respondents’ HR operations. While the three most important HR initiatives that respondents identified were improving worker productivity (69%), improving the adaptability of the business to new opportunities (68%) and facilitating organizational change (66%), no more than 12% said they were very satisfied with their progress on any of the three and a feeble 18% said they were very satisfied with the overall performance of their HR function.

Similarly, when asked to identify their most important training initiatives, respondents cited “aligning learning strategy with business goals,” “ensuring learning content meets workforce requirements” and “boosting workforce productivity and agility” (selected by 77%, 75% and 72%, respectively). Yet only 11%, 16% and 9%, respectively, said they were very satisfied with their progress in these three areas, and just 16% said they were very satisfied with the overall performance of their training function.

NOP World, on behalf of Accenture, conducted e-mail and telephone interviews with 244 senior executives in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and Australia between December 2003 and April 2004. Respondents’ companies represented 17 industry segments, including financial services, resources, services, manufacturing and government.