Looking to 2012: 14 HR Predictions, and Balancing the Global Workforce

This is the time when we not only start to review the trends and events of the past year, but also when we gaze into our crystal ball and try to get a fix on what might be out there in front of us in the year to come.

Since my own prognosticating abilities aren’t always so good, I like to sort through what various experts and analysts are predicting instead. That’s why I always look forward to what the folks at Bersin & Associates have to say in their forecast of the year to come.

The latest report — Strategic Human Resources and Talent Management: Predictions for 2012 – Driving Organizational Performance amidst an Imbalanced Global Workforce — predicts that “leading-edge HR teams will drive competitive advantage for their organizations by building a borderless, agile workplace with new and changed talent and learning strategies in 2012.”

An “imbalance in talent markets”

But they also add this sobering note: The report “points out that not only has the global recession continued in 2011, but the disparity between the fast-growing emerging economies and the slower-growing U.S. and European economies grew in size. This confluence of events has forced organizations to tap talent markets globally.”

According to Josh Bersin, the CEO of Bersin & Associates, “Our research shows that nearly every major business is trying to globalize is operations, move talent and business towards areas of growth, and at the same time improve the engagement, retention and performance of the workforce everywhere else. There has been a paradoxical imbalance in talent markets. Despite high levels of unemployment, employers are having a hard time finding the right skills. This imbalance is producing an incomparable talent scarcity that threatens economic growth around the world and has fundamentally changed the way we approach workforce management.”

If you look back at Bersin’s 2011 predictions, you’ll find that they were fairly accurate and that much of what they saw coming this year in happening right now. When you are prognosticating, that’s about as good as it gets. So, here are Bersin’s predictions for 2012:

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14 predictions for 2012

  1. Global workforce imbalance will drive a new focus on talent acquisition. There’s an imbalance in the global workforce. While the U.S. and Western Europe continue to suffer from high unemployment and sluggish economies, emerging economies in China, Brazil, India, Singapore, Russia and Eastern Europe are exploding with growth. This led businesses to globalize at a frantic rate – hiring staff, building teams and developing products for these local economies. Expect 2012 to be a challenging year in talent acquisition. In high-growth countries like India and China, people leave their jobs multiple times per year – yet in slower-growth economies, companies are hardly hiring, so every hire counts. Expect this imbalance to continue in 2012.
  2. The HR and talent team goes globally local (Glocal). Given these talent imbalances around the world, the first priority is to build a global mindset and global operation for HR. We call this being “globally local” or “glocal.” Organizations have to think about  their workforces in a global way, build global tools and best practices, yet empower local managers and HR teams to act locally. This is a new operating model for most companies.
  3. Talent acquisition joins the talent management team. We see a deep integration of talent acquisition (recruiting and staffing) into the talent management organization. The whole concept of talent management is to integrate the various talent processes in a company to solve problems in a more integrated and powerful way. In 2012, talent acquisition will increasingly move from being the “staffing and recruiting” function to a full-fledged part of organizational talent management.
  4. Talent acquisition goes social, forcing a reinvention of agencies and job boards. Social tools and ads for talent acquisition will grow dramatically in 2012, forcing job boards and staffing agencies to reengineer their offerings. Agencies and RPO firms must now provide the services and consulting you need to build your employment brand – and continue to give you great service in sourcing, assessments and hiring
  5. Employee engagement takes center stage. In 2012, organizations must specifically develop engagement, development and incentive programs targeted toward Gen X and Gen Y in order to grow. Low engagement and employee performance is now the second most common business challenge cited in our TalentWatch research.
  6. Corporate training will continue to transform itself. Corporate training is in the middle of a major transformation – from the centralized program-centric, university model to a deeply integrated “capability development” organization which understands formal learning, informal learning, social tools, expertise networks and performance consulting. Corporate training will rebound in investment as L&D professionals revitalize their programs with a focus on informal learning, social tools, mobile learning and culture.
  7. Performance management will go agile. Performance management continues to be a frustration point and, in 2012, organizations will further evolve to agile models of goal-setting and performance coaching. And, we expect an increasing number of companies to rethink their traditional (often hated) performance appraisal processes.
  8. Talent mobility strategies will become mainstream. Talent mobility is now white hot, and there is a desperate need organizations have to create a more dynamic process for internal movement. This is good for peoples’ careers, good for employee engagement and saves money on recruiting – to say nothing of the fact that talent mobility allows companies to hold onto their highly trained people. Talent-mobility strategies help you to rapidly adapt to whatever will come next, and companies with strong talent mobility strategies can more easily acquire, divest, downsize or merge. In 2012, “architected talent mobility” will become a formal discipline with HR and talent management.
  9. Organizations will accelerate their focus on career development. Talent mobility leads to the topic of career development, and expect career development to explode in 2012, with young employees now more motivated by career interests than salary, promotion or anything else. Organizations must reengineer and revitalize their career development models to thrive in 2012 and the coming years, because companies that have learned to build transparent career management and mobility programs are greatly outperforming those that have not.
  10. Social Rewards, Social Learning, Social Performance Management, Social Recruiting, Social Career Management will all take off in 2012. “Social” is not a set of tools – it is now a new set of disciplines for recruiting, learning, performance management, rewards and career management. In 2012, we will see the practices of “social” start to revolutionize rewards and recognition, learning, performance management, recruiting, and career management.
  11. New Models, diversity and “girl power” will drive leadership strategies. In 2012, organizations must rethink their leadership models to embrace demands for diversity, global awareness, communications, speed and agility in their workforces. Because many companies we talk with have not revisited their leadership models and competencies for years, we urge them to dust off these models in 2012 and look at them again in the face of today’s workplace.
  12. Talent management software market: growth, convergence and disruption. Our assessment is that the talent management software market is undergoing a major change, with market disruption beginning to take place. The talent management software market will continue to grow, but will start to be disrupted by bigger players and agile startups.
  13. Big Data: data science and talent segmentation will differentiate leading organizations. Data science within HR will become a hot topic, and organizations will differentiate themselves by focusing on smart talent segmentation and analysis. In 2012, we expect a major emphasis on building strong “data science” or analytics teams within HR.
  14. High-performing businesses will focus on “reskilling” HR teams. Human resources, training, recruiting and HR generalists are all going to have to go back to school in 2012. There are so many new approaches, tools and solutions in the market today that any strong HR team must invest in reskilling itself. Winning HR, talent and leadership teams will reskill themselves on new, modern practices in leadership and talent management.

That’s a lot of predictions to absorb, and of course, there’s a lot more in the actual and (free) report for you to dig into, because my synopsis of the 14 trends just barely brushed the surface.

I said this last year when I wrote about Bersin’s predictions for 2011, and I feel the same way having spent some time with the 2012 version: If nothing else, spending time with this report will give some good insight into the things you should be looking for in your own organization as the New Year begins.

With workplace competition and the battle for talent continuing to ratchet up, you need all the help — and insight — that you can get.

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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