Australian employers prepare for growth

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

The majority of Australian employers are anticipating growth in the coming years and are planning to develop their talent, according to the latest Future of Talent Management report by HR firm Mercer. The survey, conducted in June–July of last year, surveyed HR and talent management leaders from almost 500 organisations in Australasia covering a broad range of industries, mainly in technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare and finance.

Most businesses are entering a period of growth, with only eight per cent stating that they are still suffering the effects of last year’s downturn.

With growth on the agenda, competition for skilled workers is expected to increase significantly. Not surprisingly, 84 per cent of Australian businesses believe that talent management will become a high priority in the next several years.

Many organisations are already reporting that they cannot recruit or develop their own employees fast enough to keep pace with demand and business growth, according to Marianne Roux, Talent Segment Leader for Mercer’s Human Capital business in Australia.

‘Workforce segments, skills and capabilities are still not aligned with the new business conditions for most organisations and a skills deficit is rapidly emerging across multiple industries,’ says Roux. 

Employers must therefore seek new ways to attract and retain key talent. Most businesses are planning to ramp up their staff development programs, especially leadership training (87 per cent), workforce training (83 per cent), employee engagement (83 per cent) and succession planning (80 per cent).

‘Australian organisations must urgently identify any potential skills and knowledge gaps and put [in place] accelerated development programs that will address these capability gaps,’ says Roux. ‘It’s no surprise that leadership tops the list of priorities. The impact leaders have on business success and organisational effectiveness is huge, and right now organisations are not sure that they have the quantity and quality of leaders they will need to succeed for the future.’

‘The priority for employers should also be to focus on the people that impact the organisation’s ability to perform. Many talent pipelines reflect only the leadership potential of the organisation and do not include the core, critical and technical pipelines that deliver operational excellence. These are the functions where loss of talent can make the organisation extremely vulnerable,’ warns Roux.

Roux also admonishes businesses to be progressive if they want to stay ahead of the game. Many companies made dramatic changes to their workforces and talent programs during the downturn, but future success requires adapting to the new paradigm rather than merely reverting back to their pre-downturn model.

‘It’s a different business environment now. We’re looking ahead to a period of strong positive growth, which translates into different talent needs. Talent programs need to be reviewed and tailored to fit this new reality,’ says Roux.

Josie Chun

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