As Recession Wanes, More Employers are Focusing on Talent Management

Good news about the economy may be inconsistent and hard to find, but here’s a little bit that might give you some hope: employers say they are planning to reshape their talent programs because they anticipate there will be more competition for key talent and more focus on talent management.

This upbeat news comes courtesy of the latest Future of Talent Management survey from global consulting giant Mercer. The survey is current (it was conducted in May) and includes responses from HR and talent management leaders at more than 400 organizations throughout the U.S. from a broad cross-section of industries, with durable manufacturing, for-profit services, health care, financial/banking and high-tech/telecommunications organizations representing the largest segments.

According to the survey, more than half of employers polled say that their organization has emerged from the recession and is in growth mode (15 percent) or is emerging from the recession and preparing for growth (37 percent). Another 22 percent said they were never out of growth mode as their organization was not significantly affected by the economic downturn, while 25 percent said they are still managing in recession mode.

Those numbers weren’t terribly surprising, but this may be: the Mercer survey also found that employers expect talent management to grow in importance.

Just over half of the employers surveyed (51 percent) rate talent management as a top priority at their organization today, but a whopping 76 percent expect it to become a top priority within the next three to five years. In addition, nearly all employers (97 percent) anticipate an increase in competition for the key talent their organizations need to succeed over the next three to five years. Some 58 percent – nearly six out of 10 employers – expect this increase in competition for key talent to be significant.

In addition, when Future of Talent survey respondents were asked to identify their organizations’ top three talent management priorities over the next three to five years, the top response from among 14 choices was leadership succession, followed by leadership training/development, overall succession planning, key talent/high potentials, workforce planning and employee engagement.

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“It’s no surprise that leadership tops the list of priorities,” said Jason Jeffay, a partner in Mercer’s human capital business and global leader of the firm’s talent management consulting. “Talent management starts at the top – you can’t build a strong talent base without strong leadership. The impact leaders have on business success and organizational effectiveness is huge. And right now, organizations are not sure that they have the quantity and quality of leaders they will need for the future.”

“Two factors are at play here,” he explained in a press release about the survey. “First, demographic changes are working against organizations. There is a generation of leaders approaching retirement, so organizations already were concerned about leadership succession. Second, the recession, through layoffs and reorganizations, damaged leadership pipelines. Organizations now need to be more concerned than ever about actively managing the entire leadership development and succession process.”

In other words, talent management and competition for the best people is going to get a whole lot tougher as organizations come out of the Rip Van Winkle recessionary mode many had been in during the last two years.

But, you probably already know this. The key is whether your top executive team knows it, too. If they don’t, putting a copy of Mercer’s Future of Talent Management survey under their nose is probably a good first step in waking them up and on board with this new post-recession reality.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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