Looking at the year ahead

The coming year is set to be a big one for HR professionals in the wake of several major pieces of employment legislation introduced last year. From age discrimination regulations and the revised Work and Families Act, to ongoing pension reform and the smoking ban, HR departments are sure to be busy in the next 12 months.

The CBI has also warned that a year of political change, with the transition to a new prime minister and a reinvigorated Conservative party, will create uncertainty for business in 2007.

HR will be expected to fight the ubiquitous ‘war for talent’ in the face of ongoing skills shortages.

Recruitment and retention of staff will be major concerns in the forthcoming year, according to research by talent management consultancy Taleo. More than two-thirds of the 150 senior HR managers surveyed by Taleo cited employee retention or hiring the best talent as the biggest challenge for 2007.

Martin Tiplady, director of HR at the Metropolitan Police, described recruitment and retention as the “bread and butter” of HR business. As well as the issues of managing absenteeism and workforce planning, Tiplady said one of the Met’s main concerns over the next year was preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“We have to start skilling our taskforce and training officers in security and firearms procedures in preparation for 2012,” he said. “As part of our talent management programme we need to manage, predict and forecast the skill requirement for the Olympics. Not just for the six weeks the Games lasts but for before and afterwards.”

John Lucy, head of HR at Herbert Smith law firm, agreed that keeping key staff was a major priority in the next 12 months. “Retaining staff is our main objective and compensation and benefits is fundamental to that,” he said. “The legal profession is very competitive so we need to come up with a package of benefits that encourages employees to stay.”

Promoting work-life balance, personal development plans and rewarding achievements are all important aspects in retaining staff, Lucy said.

Stephen Hall, vice-president of HR at rail company Metronet, said talent management was crucial to renewing London Underground’s infrastructure during one of the largest refurbishment programmes in the world.

“Due to the size and technical complexity of this contract, with accountability for £17bn expenditure over a 30-year period, key to the success are the people we employ and attract to join us,” he said.

“Metronet needs to attract the very best skills from the national and international marketplace. Resourcing high-calibre technical expertise with the right skills and a passionate commitment to achieving results is a number one priority in business terms,” Hall said.

Richard Fuller, director of HR at asset management firm Threadneedle, was clear about his main objective for 2007. “We in HR need to stop talking about strategy stop planning its implementation – just get on and start doing it,” he said.

Mary Canavan, director of HR at the British Library, said diversity and equality was top of her list.

“We’re preparing for publication of our race and gender duty in April 2007 and it’s a huge piece of work for the organisation,” she said. “A key part of it is consulting with stakeholders and setting up focus groups to look at service delivery and employment practice.”

Canavan said delivering on promises would be fundamental to the success of the diversity and equality agenda. “We need to communicate with staff and make sure we implement everything that we said we’d do after the first quarter of the year,” she said.

Linda Scott, director of HR at the British Transport Police, agreed that diversity was an ongoing challenge for HR, especially within the public sector.

“We have to promote the diversity agenda in a way that the organisation can see it is really adding value and reflecting the community we serve,” she said. “We need to translate those words – about having a business case for diversity – and make it feel more real to the organisation.”

Communicating in a simple and effective way, without jargon, is fundamental, she said. “If HR is going to earn its place on the board, it needs to translate without the jargon.”

HR’s New Year resolutions

  • Lynne Duffill, HR director at regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, vowed to “cut down my biscuit habit and hopefully do the ‘pushers’ (those who supply them) out of a job”. She also plans to reacquaint herself “with the concept of evenings”.

  • Graham White, head of HR at Surrey County Council, pledged to “establish more expertise in people management and innovate our approach to staff engagement”. But he also admitted that he needed to make a few changes in his personal life too, vowing to work more with neglected children – especially his own.

  • Mary Canavan, HR director at the British Library, said she wanted to do something that scared her. “I want to do something I’ve never done before that will really challenge me. Something completely different,” she said.

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