Employers Shift Focus in Workforce Planning

September 21, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Most employers surveyed by Mercer expect the process for setting workforce priorities for 2010 to be different from 2009, with greater emphasis on defining talent needs and managing associated costs.

According to Mercer’s Human capital planning 2010: Defining the talent agenda survey, more than half (51% ) of organizations said they are approaching planning for 2010 differently than in past years .

A press release said n early two-thirds of U . S . organizations participating in the survey plan to put greater emphasis on workforce costs (63 % ) and high-potential employees (60 % ) in the coming year. Other areas to receive more emphasis in 2010 include a focus on critical skills (54%) and development of workforce contingency plans based on different business scenarios (51%) .

More than two-thirds (69%) of organizationssaidthe greatest challenge for next year’s human capital planning process is the uncertainty of the economic environment.Sixty-sixpercent indicated that the primary driver for workforce decisions in 2010 will be cost containment as opposed to responding to non-cost criticalbusiness needs (20%) or matching competitive practices (14%).

Mercer's survey found approximately one in four organizations remain concerned about retaining top performers. Only 16 % of respondents are very confident that their programs reflect the value of top performers and even fewer (11 % ) are very confident that these employees will remain following an economic turnaround.

While most organizations are very or somewhat confident that their current employment deals will attract the workforce needed to meet business requirements, 47% anticipate employment deals in 2010 to place greater emphasis on career development , 42% on incentive compensation , and 41% on leadership connection to the workforce.

" Making the right investments in human capital plays an important role in an employee's decision to join or stay with an organization, " said Jason Jeffay, principal in Mercer's human capital consulting business , in the press release . " Approaching rewards more holistically to include career development and training allows companies to attract and retain those employees that will contribute to its future success."

Mercer's survey, conducted in July, includes responses from nearly 160 mid-size and large employers across the U . S.

For more information, visit www.mercer.com/hcplanning2010 .