HR & Talent Management Trends

Growth in global markets, the swift proliferation of new technologies and increasing productivity demands are transforming the overall business environment, and organizations are shifting their focus to adapt. Organizations of

Growth in global markets, the swift proliferation of new technologies and increasing productivity demands are transforming the overall business environment, and organizations are shifting their focus to adapt. Organizations of all sizes recognize that they need deeper and more specialized skills to survive. They also need the flexibility to adapt to faster business cycles, quick market shifts, and rapidly changing conditions.

A bi-annual survey conducted by Bersin & Associates with more than 200 human relations (HR) and talent leaders shows that their focus has shifted from cutting costs last year to managing accelerated innovation, global expansion, and rapid business growth this year.

The learning and career development needs of employees must adapt to address these market shifts. Today’s employees need to develop on the job, learn continuously both from peers and mentors, and gain the skills that will offer them a wide variety of career options.

To accommodate the evolving needs of both organizations and their employees, HR functions must modify their approaches to talent and learning and development.

Looking ahead, we have identified the top HR and talent management trends that HR departments should anticipate in 2011:

1) Talent mobility or enterprise career management programs will continue to grow in popularity, particularly those that emphasize career “lattice” (combination of both lateral and upward) models. In our research, more than 48 percent of a global HR audience said that the ability for critical employees (high-performers and high-potentials) to move into other internal roles is a key indicator of a successful talent management strategy.

Our research also shows that more than 50 percent of companies expect a shortage in director-level managers prepared to take on the next critical role for their organizations. These organizations are looking to create stronger opportunities for mid-level managers to gain experience and stay engaged in an organization, even when a clear opening is not available to move up in the organization. This will create continued pressure for learning functions to support career management programs that include less traditional training and more experiential and on-the-job development opportunities.

2) Leadership programs will be more intensely focused on innovative and global leaders, with a particular focus on those regions outside the U.S. As the need to accelerate innovation rises to the second highest business challenge facing companies today, organizations will seek leaders who can foster a culture of innovation and a safe environment for collaboration. They’ll also look for leaders comfortable with regional/cultural differences. Our research shows that organizations at the highest level of leadership maturity already are now nearly three times more likely than less mature organizations to focus on preparing their leaders to handle issues of globalization. This represents a major departure from the successful leadership skills needed in the past few years, which has produced leaders who are more prepared to manage cost-cutting and facilitate performance improvements.

3) Organizations increasingly will segment talent based on hard data concerning the impact of critical roles on products, revenue or customer satisfaction. Talent segmentation will go beyond leadership and high-potentials to include non-traditional roles such as account representatives, key engineering roles, or customer care roles.

Increasingly, businesses of all sizes will seek deeper and more specialized skills. In fact, HR and business leaders tell us that their top two challenges for success are leadership skills and critical technical expertise. Our research shows that 56 percent of business leaders cite “lack of critical skills” as a top constraint to growth. As a result, we will see HR spend more effort on identifying the right talent segments, discussing tailored total rewards approaches for these segments, and adapting recruiting and performance evaluation efforts for these roles.

4) HR technology vendors that spent the last developing, merging and acquiring tool sets to fill in gaps in their core HR functional areas such as learning, performance or hiring will spend next year integrating these tool sets into their existing platforms. They’ll also focus on developing or integrating social networking capabilities, knowledge sharing capabilities, workforce planning tools, and HR analytics tool sets within their systems or connecting to their systems. These efforts are aimed at meeting the changing demands of buyers, 60 percent of whom would prefer a single vendor solution for their talent, learning and HR needs. Our research indicates that system integration is now the number one priority of HR system buyers.

5) Many HR organizations will begin to invest or will invest more in the HR analytics function. Our research shows that HR organizations are recognizing that developing an HR measurement strategy is critical to creating an HR function that can implement a culture of continuous improvement. Delivering workforce metrics and analytics has emerged as one of the biggest challenges facing the HR function, according to one of our recent surveys. We also expect to see HR functions increasingly translate multiple levels of HR data into actionable talent recommendations, impact findings and business guidance.

—The author, Stacy Harris, is a principal analyst for Bersin & Associates, an Oakland, Calif.-based research and advisory firm focused solely on enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. For more information and research results, visit

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