The ‘war for talent’ has gone digital: Is HR ready?

Thursday, 3 January 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

KPMG’s recent survey, ‘Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World’ reveals a significant dichotomy between the strategic importance and the perceived effectiveness of Human Resources today.

Around the world, the Human Resources function currently faces a number of pressing, interconnected challenges – operating in a global, virtual working environment and the need for HR to deliver strategic tangible value.

According to a new study from KPMG International, the recruitment and retention of employees is understood to be crucial to the success of any business. However, business leaders believe the role of HR to be non-essential, and in some cases, ineffective. In an increasingly complex environment, the HR function has both some new challenges to tackle and some old perceptions to shed.

The survey, ‘Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World’, conducted by the Economist Intelligent Unit, investigates the forces influencing the HR function within business today. More than 400 senior executives from Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America and across major industry sectors expressed mixed messages.

According to the findings, 81 per cent of respondents say that an effective talent management strategy will be crucial to competitive success. Consequently, 59 per cent believe that HR will grow in strategic importance in the coming years.

But just 17 per cent of respondents maintain that HR does a good job of demonstrating its value to the business.

Commenting on the survey, Robert Bolton,  Global and Europe Lead, KPMG HR Transformation Center of Excellence said, “At the very least, HR has a perception problem, though in many cases, it may have actually failed to deliver real value. While the globalisation and the virtualisation of employees presents new challenges, advances in technology are providing tremendous opportunity for HR to better meet the needs of a dynamic and changing workforce.”

The survey’s main findings focus on the need to understand and anticipate the requirements of a global, flexible workforce.

While technology has had a profound change on the HR function, greater opportunity lies in the effective use of data analytics to better manage the workforce.

Managing the new global, flexible and remote workforce is a key concern for survey respondents.

The advent of a new mobile workforce has made retention of key talent and building workforces in new markets a top priority for HR over the last three years and into the next.

However, only one in four respondents said that HR excels at sourcing and retaining key talent globally, supporting a virtual workforce and supporting the greater globalization of business.

Increased employee engagement will address the challenges of this new workforce. Results from the report point toward improved employee engagement as the ultimate solution. Consequently, creative thinking must be applied to the development of new policies that will meaningfully engage a workforce that is less committed to the organisation.  

If companies are to be successful, they will have to find ways to apply new policies globally while at the same time, accommodating for local market conditions and varying cultures.

Data analytics will be a catalyst for profound change in the HR function. The adoption of new web-based and/or mobile HR platforms has enabled HR to provide employees with more flexible and customized training opportunities while creating a positive culture for communication.

Interviewees were most excited however by the opportunities presented by data analytics. If properly implemented, analytics will provide a more robust understanding of employee-related needs and help to identify future talent gaps.

This will put HR in a position to anticipate and respond to future business requirements – this will be a game changer for any business.

Without a doubt, the survey shows that as trends continue to move towards globalisation and virtualisation, there are a number of initiatives that executives can employ to improve the HR function and its contribution to the overall business.

“Things are changing. The HR function is moving forward and shedding the perceptions of the past by fundamentally changing the HR role to one that provides greater value. Engaging with the new virtual, temporary workforce is paramount. Technology is revolutionising the function.” said Paulette Welsing, Global and Americas Lead, KPMG HR Transformation Center of Excellence.