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Global executives weigh in on talent management in an economic downturn


Deloitte engages top business leaders on people and strategies for short- and long-term success

New York, As the economic downturn continues, CEOs are playing a greater role in talent management, job restructuring, and work practices, according to two global business reports from Deloitte U.S. The reports outline key findings from extensive one-on-one interviews and polling of top business leaders from around the world, revealing their strategies for managing today’s most pressing talent issues.

“Managing business and talent challenges today is a high-wire balancing act,” said Jeff Schwartz, principal, Human Capital, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Executives are seeking to find the right balance between reducing headcount and workforce costs and focusing on strategic talent issues at the same time.”

The first two reports in the series about talent in a turbulent economy—“Threading the talent needle: What global executives are saying about people and work” and “Managing talent in a turbulent economy: Playing both offense and defense”— are, respectively, based on 28 one-on-one interviews with executives from global companies and an on-line survey of 326 executives also from global companies. These reports, along with a recent podcast sponsored by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (DTT) entitled, “The pink slip dilemma: Talent management in a downturn,” offer key findings and insights around ways talent is being managed in these difficult economic conditions:

* CEOs are playing a greater role in talent management—Two-thirds of the interviewed executives mentioned that their CEO is connecting more with employees around the globe—particularly those with high potential.
* While companies are focused on reducing costs and headcount, they are making unexpected moves—For example, 52 percent of the executives surveyed report their company plans to restructure jobs to lower costs and increase efficiency. In addition, 40 percent of polled executives report they will try to attract more critical talent with hard-to-find skills, while 30 percent report they are looking to bring on more critical leaders.
* Important work force analytical tools are being left in the toolbox—In an environment where companies are continually rebalancing workforces to match difficult times, restructuring jobs to cut costs and increase efficiency and redeploying employees to make the most of current talent, 66 percent of polled executives acknowledge that workforce planning is not being integrated with their annual business planning, their contingency planning or even being updated as a result of the changing economic conditions.
* Innovative practices are being implemented to address talent challenges—More than 25 percent of the surveyed executives shared that they will increase innovative work practices, such as the use of flexible work schedules through measures like telecommuting and reduced work weeks to engage and retain key talent.

Furthermore, in the DTT podcast, Jim Wall, DTT Chief Diversity Officer and Global Managing Director, Talent; Jeff Schwartz; and David Pearson, Chief Executive Officer of Deloitte & Touche CIS, discuss strategies for managing talent in the current economic environment:

* What are some employment strategies that companies should explore before paring the workforce? Jeff Schwartz—“The number one approach surveyed executives said that they were using to cut costs was restructuring jobs and thinking about ways the jobs were organized, in an effort to combine the work that people are doing so things can be done more efficiently.”
* What are some investments that employers should be thinking about that will not only sustain their culture, but enhance it? Jim Wall—“Companies need to maintain a focus on their talent strategy, but also the value system that underpins their culture. The idea behind active and vibrant cultures is that they speak to organizations not only in good times, but in difficult times as well.”
* If layoffs have to be made, what is the most effective way to determine who stays and who goes? David Pearson—“There’s no formula to this. It’s balancing the many competing objectives. Recent performance matters, but not necessarily more than who has the medium- or long-term potential and capabilities. It’s considering who has the breadth of skills to assume new capabilities, and who is going to be successful in the new environment.”
* What are some things that employers can do to help their employees transition? Jeff Schwartz—“Be direct and transparent. Treat employees the way you would like to be treated. And, be mindful that you are creating alumni and potential future customers. This interdependence underscores the way people should be treated, and the concept of transparency and ‘straight-talk.’”
* What do managers need to do differently now? Jim Wall—“Acknowledge that this is unchartered territory, and seek advice. Be transparent and communicate;” Jeff Schwartz—“It’s a balancing act, and decisions need to be made with key talent strategies in mind;” Dave Pearson—“Be engaged with people and what they are looking to achieve, have a greater respect for one another, and keep an eye on the future.”

For full copies of these reports and to listen to the podcast, please visit the DTT website.

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