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Taleo Research Recommends (vol. 2)

Reskilling, skill shortages, creativity, leadership development, succession planning, Boomer retirement, finding the best talent – are these issues on your talent agenda?  They should be.  In this week’s Taleo Research Recommends, we’ve gathered a diverse collection of research recommendations, reports by Deloitte, the Economist, and IBM, that are surprisingly aligned in their findings.
 
Two particularly interesting results worth noting are the desire for more creativity and the growing prominence of the “skills gap” issue.  In both the IBM study and the Economist global talent survey, “creativity” came up as a key concern for “C” level executives.  Given the last few years, it’s easy to see why – whether it’s global market meltdowns, tsunamis, Arab Springs, or Debt Ceiling crisis, executives have seen a wide variety of “shocks” to the macro-economic climate.  At the same time, globalization, demographic shifts, and technology change continue unabated.  Individual and organizational creativity is the only way to stay ahead (or respond quickly) to ever more frequently changing SWOT analyses.

The other big consistency among these major research findings is, in my view, another consequence of our perpetual state of flux – a recognition of and desire to close skill gaps.  In a world that’s changing quickly, where organizational SWOT analyses are valid for just quarter or two, companies need to be able to adapt just as quickly.  This means that employees need to rapidly develop new skills, often en masse, to support this change.  When employees can’t develop them quickly enough, organizations need to hire these new skills into the organization.  If a company can’t do one or both of these things well, they will lose to competitors who can.  Not because the development or acquisitions of these new skills are advantages in and of themselves, but because these skills enable the organization to more rapidly take advantage of new opportunities or respond to changing market conditions, resulting in market share gains.

Ok, enough preamble…

Global Talent Index Report, Forecast to 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit
In this report, the Economist Intelligence Unit (the research arm of the Economist) identified and indexed available talent by country and region based on factors such as education, cultural and political support for meritocracy, general unemployment and other related factors to create a “global talent index.”  Not surprisingly, the US ranked at the top of the list based on both current assessment and projections through 2015.  By 2015, the Nordics overtake the remaining top five spots (Norway, Finland, and Denmark are already there).  Other key movers over the next few years are China, Canada, Turkey and Chile.

While the Talent Index part of this is interesting, the corporate survey data is even more interesting.  A substantial percentage (49%) of companies noted that the amount of time to bring new managers or specialized employees up-to-speed is increasing.  In a related finding, Training and Development was the most frequently used tactic (48%) to attract and retain these types of workers.  The conclusion of the authors?  “It is possible that companies are resigning themselves to the relative scarcity of experienced workers who can immediately perform to the highest level in a new and responsible role. To compensate for this shortage, a growing number seek to recruit raw potential and then rely on developing this potential themselves.”

Another key “corporate finding” is the emergence of “a creativity gap” – companies want it; employees and candidates don’t have it.  “The concern with a lack of creativity is particularly acute in Asia and Latin America, indicating a feeling that workers in these regions, in particular, are conditioned to think in straight lines, and are less able to adapt to changing circumstances.”  While it’s most acute in Asia and Latin America, it’s also the number one issue in North America, and is a close second in Europe, slightly behind “multinational experience.”

Working Beyond Borders – IBM
While this report has been out for some time, I think it’s worth revisiting since it substantiates some of the Economist’s findings.  Chief among the IBM findings was a global priority on leadership development.  And the chief attribute expected of leaders?  Creativity.  As with the Economist research, most companies are not having great success in developing leaders – less than one in three rated their organizations as “adept” at leadership development.

Another key concern expressed by survey participants was the ability to “rapidly develop new workforce skills and capabilities.”  Again, this echoes many of the core themes reported in the Economist paper.  While the IBM research concludes that the issue is broader than training and development, and necessarily includes knowledge management and collaboration, they acknowledge that there are significant opportunities to improve training practices within most organizations.  They also note that Talent Mobility is a key ingredient in this effort.  The key recommendation?  “Develop a unified workforce strategy that aggregates the needs of different business units and considers a variety of workforce options (e.g., full-time employees, part-time employees, contractors, outsourcing partners).”

Talent Edge 2020 – Deloitte
For me, the interesting findings in this paper are the ones that support recent comments by the Federal Reserve regarding structural unemployment.  The Deloitte research found that “nearly three-quarters of executives surveyed (72%) anticipate either a severe (34%) or a moderate (38%) shortage in R&D talent. More than half (56%) predict shortages in executive leadership.”  In other words, despite high unemployment, there are persistent shortages in key roles.  This echoes recent comments by the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis: “Monetary stimulus has provided conditions so that manufacturing plants want to hire new workers. But the Fed does not have a means to transform construction workers into manufacturing workers.”  This suggests that a complicating factor in increasing employment is the need not just to add jobs, but to address structural unemployment as well.

Given the talent gaps noted by Deloitte, the findings in the Economist research noting the organizational trend toward training and development of “raw talent” are particularly poignant.  If the pace of change is increasing, we would expect a natural increase in skill and competency gaps.  If we also need to address aspects of structural unemployment resulting from macro-economic shifts toward knowledge work and sector shifts related to the financial and housing sector challenges, this challenge becomes far more pressing.

Collectively, these three big reports tell an interesting story about the way talent needs are affected by global trends relating to demographics, economic issues, technology shifts, and increasing globalization.  The big story is that holistic and strategic management of your talent processes and of your talent are already critical to long-term success, and will only grow more critical in the coming months and years. 

The story within the story is that training and development are no longer "nice-to-haves," but an absolute imperative, both to retain existing employees and to drive performance in a changing world.  The need expressed in these papers is for a strategic focus on learning and training – not as “check the box” answers to compliance and on-boarding needs, but as strategic drivers of growth, agility, and competiveness.
 

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