HR Managers Need More Long-Term Vision

Last Updated Apr 24, 2008 12:59 PM EDT

  • The Find: Assessing and planning for a firm's long-term talent needs rather than simply filling vacancies will be the role of successful HR departments in the future.
  • The Source: A study from the Adecco Institute based on interviews with more than 5,000 HR professionals, along with an interview with Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources, and Joyce Bradley of Lee Hecht Harrison, in Knowledge@Wharton.
The Takeaway: Capelli and Bradley assert that with product markets shifting so rapidly and employees hopping frequently from job to job, both the demand for talent and the supply are no longer stable. To deal with this new reality, firms need to look at ways to manage uncertainty, and supply chain management may have a lot to teach HR in this regard. Careful measurement, tracking and analysis of the availability of skills is key.

British think tank Adecco agrees that HR professionals need to look more to the big picture and more toward the future. Managing Director, Donna Murphy, notes that with globalization, demographic changes and looming skills shortages, "HR practitioners will have to break away from the 'just-in-time' culture of filling vacancies, to a long term planning of their companies' skills needs." Successfully making this change will be a key differentiator among companies, Adecco believes, but so far HR managers are still spending their time putting out fires. The average planning horizon of HR professionals in only 1.1 years, the survey found.

The Interview with Capelli and Bradley is wide-ranging, covering everything from the necessary distinction between commitment and loyalty, to new technology for HR professionals, to the differences between how U.S. firms and their competitors abroad manage talent. For the really deep dive, check out Capelli's book "Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty."

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.