Contending with the “talent paradox”

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An interesting survey recently conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited touched on a strange yet ongoing dichotomy on the hobs front: despite stubbornly high unemployment almost everywhere in the world (7.7% in the U.S. and 11.2% to 12% for Europe) human resource professionals say they are stymied in their efforts to attract and retain top workforce talent.

This “talent paradox” as Deloitte calls it – combined with dynamics of four distinct generations in the global workforce – points to the need for more effective and adaptable recruiting and retention programs.

"Given all of the sharply different economic, political and geographic challenges in the regions we surveyed, we found real parallels in terms of what is weighing heavily on employers," said David Lusk, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and co-author of the firm’s Top Five Global Employer Rewards Priorities Survey.

"As boomers retire, many companies face a conundrum for how to fill jobs quickly [and] their hiring strategies may need to go beyond simply preparing to fill the positions with a stockpile of resumes," he said. "Leading employers understand that their employees have choices. Their ability to quickly fill roles, particularly those requiring highly-skilled talent, often depends on having world-class ‘total rewards’ programs with benefits that outpace the competition in addition to offering training, leadership and mentoring programs and other non-traditional forms of rewards and recognition."

How does that apply to trucking, you ask? Look no farther than some of the issues noted driver compensation expert Gordon Klemp in a conference call sponsored last week by Wall Street firm Stifel Nicolaus.

Indeed, in a news story on our web site today about the positive upward trajectory of freight rates, the need to pay higher wages – along with offering other benefits – in order to find and keep good drivers remains a striking indication that finding the necessary “talent” to keep trucks rolling is getting harder to locate … all despite high unemployment in this country.

"Attracting and retaining top talent is a universal theme,” stressed Scott Cole, a senior manager with Deloitte and co-author with Lusk of the firm’s survey.

"Calibrating talent and rewards strategies to meet generational expectations of extended employment is a step many employers and national governments should consider taking," he explained. "This can also be an astute retention strategy, particularly as employees across all regions indicate they will consider leaving their current employer for another that provides better benefits or more stability."

Conducted globally for the first time this year, Deloitte found that 27 different countries shared similar rankings in terms of their top five “talent” priorities for 2013:

  • The ability of reward programs to attract, motivate, and retain employees
  • Clear alignment of Total Rewards strategy with business strategy and brand
  • Motivating staff when pay increases are flat or non-existent
  • The cost of providing benefits to employees
  • Demonstrating appropriate return on investment for reward expenditures

Additionally, the firm noted that approximately one in four respondents from all geographies surveyed, including the Americas (24%), Europe-Middle East-Africa or “EMEA” nations (28%) and Asia-Pacific (24%) cited finding, motivating and keeping talent as their top priority.

Indeed, in an era of limited economic growth compressing job opportunities, it would seem that there should be enough talent to go around, but the reality couldn't be more different.

One reason revolves around the challenges of addressing the needs of a diverse range of generations, Deloitte found. For example, workforces in China, the U.S., and most of Europe are aging, while others, such as those in India and Brazil, are seeing a high influx of young employees. 

These changes are putting a strain on companies and their leadership to identify and implement effective rewards programs as each generation is marked with distinct values and expectations, said Deloitte, reinforced by the finding that only 61% of global respondents either somewhat agree or strongly agree that their organization's leadership team understands the differing generational values in the workforce; more than one in four respondents (28%) indicate their organization does not have the correct "total rewards" strategy in place to recruit and retain the talent needed in their workforce.

"The reality of today's workplace is one where four distinct generations can be seen in the same workforce," said Michael Wilson (at right), CEO of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. "To stay competitive, companies have to redefine their ‘total rewards’ programs to motivate, attract and retain employees at every stage within their career and with somewhat divergent demands from their employer."

It’s not all gloom and doom, though. In fact, from a personal employee perspective, retirement continues to be top of mind and thus Deloitte believes it could become a “21stcentury recruiting tactic” going forward.

Indeed, some two-thirds (66%) of U.S. respondents ranked their ability to afford retirement as their top concern; an issue so deeply felt that more than one in three U.S. employees (34%) plan on delaying their retirement age. This is in contrast to other regions, including EMEA where a triple dip recession looms, as only 16% of employees say they plan on delaying retirement, and similarly in Asia, 17% indicate plans to delay retirement as well.

On top of that, given austerity programs, weakness in the Yen and the budget crisis in the U.S., employees in all countries are facing concerns over the security and viability of their positions, said Deloitte, with its report revealing that more than half (56%) of respondents saying the future of their employment security is among their top three challenges, including nearly one-third (30%) who view this as their number one concern.

Still, all in all, it sure looks as though recruiting and retaining top workers is getting a lot harder to do, despite high unemployment and concerns about job security. That’s quite a tough pickle to solve.

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