SI Review: July/August 2014

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View From the Boardroom: Bridging the Talent Shortage

Reshaping the role of human resources to drive business

By Jonas Prising

Talent is top of mind for most CEOs — from the composition of the leadership team to knowing how to access, mobilize and optimize the right talent in the entire workforce, no matter where it is in the world. Clearly talent has an enormous impact on business success. Now more than ever, as boardroom discussions turn toward talent strategies and their impact on the bottom line, the role of human resources (HR) is elevated from transactional to strategic. HR now has a seat at the table, and it’s at the top of the agenda as executive teams struggle to find the right talent for today and to develop their leaders for tomorrow.

As economic volatility continues, employers are feeling the impact of the financial cuts and simplification efforts that put workforce strategies on the back burner. This has resulted in inadequate talent pipelines and a lack of incoming leadership, both of which can hinder growth. ManpowerGroup’s 2014 Talent Shortage Survey found that 36 percent of global employers are experiencing talent shortages, yet more than one in five are still not pursuing strategies to address the shortages. Even more concerning is the fact that these ratios have changed little in the nine years this survey has been conducted.

The talent mismatch is well-documented and will continue to escalate as the global economy improves and the workforce becomes increasingly bifurcated between those with the required skills and those without. The good news is that the HR function can be instrumental in reshaping companies’ talent base by acting decisively to ensure a sustainable workforce. However, the way leaders view HR — both at the executive level and within the discipline itself — must change. Expanded expertise is required if HR is to drive business results within organizations. HR needs to lead the charge when it comes to creating the flexible and agile workforce that companies need. To achieve this, HR professionals must adopt three critical roles:

  • HR as supply and demand experts. HR needs to become the de facto supply and demand experts, understanding how demand for their companies’ products and services impacts the demand for talent and assess whether or not the results align with their business strategy. Specifically, HR must ensure that their organizations have the right balance of skilled talent to meet changing needs and achieve business goals.
  • HR as marketers. With more access to information than ever before, people approach the job search process with the mindset of savvy consumers. To appeal to this type of thinking, HR needs to consider how organizational branding, messaging and image can help win in-demand skills. Given the sophistication of sought-after talent, HR must shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches to create value propositions that appeal to the needs of individuals and align with organizational objectives.
  • HR as designers. In this third role, HR needs to adopt the role of designer, evolving from a narrow focus on jobs to an expanded view that includes the intended outcomes of work. To fully leverage the talent ecosystem, manage a diverse and often virtual workplace, while continuing to increase productivity and innovation, work models should be reimagined. Structuring work innovatively to include models ranging from traditional (dedicated to the relationships between companies and employees) to strategic (linking HR practices with company objectives) can help advance business goals and attract skilled talent.

It’s clear that the key to a company’s success is having the right talent, in the right place, at the right time, yet there is an under-supply of this essential element. Bridging the talent gap is among the most critical and complex challenges faced by business leaders today. In this environment, HR can become the epicenter for solutions that accelerate business performance, elevating the role from transactional to strategic. As the C-suite continues to grapple with how to succeed in the face of ongoing volatility and certain uncertainty, HR is poised to play a prominent role in developing the strategic capabilities that drive business results.

Jonas Prising is CEO of ManpowerGroup Inc.

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