14 Trends to watch in 2012

Josh Bersin
CEO and President,
Bersin & Associates
14 Swoosh

Leading-edge human resources teams will drive competitive advantage for their organizations by building a borderless, agile workplace with new and changed talent and learning strategies in 2012. These strategies include the heavy adoption of social networking for recruiting, employment branding, learning, and collaboration. They also address a focus on diversity and “Girl Power” to build leadership competencies for the future. In addition, they recommend continual coaching and goal review to drive agile performance management.

Our research shows these strategies are among the 14 biggest trends we see shaping the world of corporate leadership, talent management, training, and recruiting in the coming year. They are included in our report, Strategic HR and Talent Management Predictions for 2012: Driving Organizational Performance Amidst a Global Talent Imbalance. For leaders of people in 2012, the opportunities have never been greater! Here’s a closer look at the top strategic human resources, learning, and talent trends we identified.

1. The imbalanced global workforce will place the focus on talent acquisition. With high unemployment in the U.S. and Europe and the growth of emerging economies, businesses will need to hire staff and develop products at a frantic rate. Also, there is a large gap between skills needed and skills available. Young people are less prepared for work than ever, forcing employers to adopt more forms of on-the-job training to build skills. And as jobs are becoming much more specialized, “internal expertise-matching” is taking hold – matching jobs with current employees who have the expertise and are most willing to do them. There is an explosion of interest in assessment tools and pre-hire simulations, as every hire counts in 2012.

2. HR and talent teams will need a global mindset. In multi-national companies, foreign operations usually have local leaders and ways of doing business. In 2012, most of these companies will build “globally federated” models. This will mean sharing global best practices and customizing tools to deploy locally, keeping in mind that not all talent acquisition teams use the same style of sourcing and staffing. And as local geographies have leadership styles that may be decades behind North America, leaders must now be moved around the world to create a “global talent structure.”

3. Talent acquisition and talent management teams will be integrated. Traditionally siloed, these two functions need to be integrated to avoid disconnected decision making, ineffective response to employee demands, and intensive administrative work. In 2012, companies will form new functions that may be called “talent acquisition, development, and mobility” to combine training, leadership readiness, and succession management. When labor markets and economy are tight, recruiting should first focus on internal talent. Integrating various talent processes allows a company to solve problems more powerfully.

4. Talent acquisition will “go social.” With the more “imbalanced” talent markets, tools like LinkedIn and Facebook are becoming more valuable for recruiting. In 2012, organizations will realize that their entire employment brand has a dramatic impact on the ability to hire. To be a magnet for talent, companies need to clearly showcase their strategy, the types of people they hire, and goodwill from people in the marketplace. It’s important to build a team of people who know who you are and what you stand for, and who want to join your team.

5. Employee engagement will be more important than ever. A 2011 report by Mercer found that 32% of employees were “planning on leaving” their employers – up from 19% just two years ago. People seem to be holding on only until the economy recovers. In 2012, engagement may be more critical as people find easier ways to take their new skills elsewhere. By 2013, 47% of the workforce will be born after 1977, so engagement needs to include an appeal to people under 30. Today’s employees are looking for career development, a modern rewards structure, and companies with a strong mission.

6. Corporate training will continue to transform. Even though the concepts of informal learning and expertise-sharing are becoming more common, most companies are still stuck with “old-fashioned” learning management systems. This is more than using social networking – it’s a total change in “what learning and development teams actually do.” The modern approach will mean about 20% formal training, with the remainder divided among on-demand, informal, and embedded disciplines, supported by new tools and a culture of learning.

7. Performance management will go agile. According to our 2011 research, companies that revise and update their goals quarterly generate 30% greater impact from their performance management process. This means that performance management needs to go agile and “real-time.” The “agile” concept means that annual reviews need to give way to a more continuous, dynamic, and transparent model of feedback. As labor markets tighten, it’s even more important to coach people to perform better and potentially move them into better roles.

8. Talent mobility strategies will go mainstream. There is a desperate need for a dynamic process for internal movement. This benefits people’s careers, enhances employee engagement, saves money on recruiting – and allows companies to hold on to highly trained employees. This requires defining what “talent mobility” means, implementing a strategy for it, and (the hardest part) managing it. High-impact companies will not just tolerate internal movement – they will embrace it and force it. Ultimately, mobility is the most advanced form of succession.

9. Organizations will focus on career development. We envision a system where people can go onto their company’s online portal and look at “similar careers” and see not only what learning is needed for that job, but what other high-performers have done to succeed in that area. Career development will explode in 2012 because young employees are more motivated by career interests than salary or promotions. Companies with transparent career management and mobility programs are already outperforming their peers.

10. Social tools and solutions will abound. Current social tools in HR have similar elements: employees are all peers, anything you post is visible to anyone, employees have rich profiles so they become “real” online, people can share many forms of content, people can comment on and rate each other’s posts, and information is linked through systems like Facebook and LinkedIn. Some HR people are afraid of this transparency, but new tools will dramatically change how companies deal with rewards, learning, performance appraisals, recruiting, and career management.

11. New models, diversity and “Girl Power” will drive leadership strategies. Companies will have to build new leaders – and the nature of leadership has changed. The “new” key competencies are innovation, agility, global acumen, emotional intelligence, and the ability to manage diverse workforces. One diversity issue facing companies is the lack of women in leadership (only 14% of top executive positions are held by women). Diversity creates debate, new ideas, and innovation. In 2012, organizations that value diversity will outperform those who do not.

12. Growth and disruption in software. Some major trends in 2012 in the talent management software market are continued growth (as much as 15%), growing interest in single-vendor solutions, and bigger vendors getting bigger. Also, talent management software is expanding into tools for social recruiting, career management, advanced analytics tools, and mobile solutions. As most buyers rate their software solutions as 3.3 out of 5 in total satisfaction, vendors have a lot of work to do.

13. “Big Data” will differentiate top companies. In 2012, terms like “Big Data” and “Data Science” will impact HR. With the explosion of data, there is a need to know how to analyze it. However, only 6% of HR teams rate themselves as “excellent” in data analysis – and 56% rate themselves “poor.” It’s easier to find talent-related data, but you have to know what you’re looking for. In 2012, we see a major emphasis on building strong “Data Science” teams.

14. Top businesses will “reskill” HR teams. The U.S. Department of Labor says that HR careers will be one of the fastest-growing in the next six years. HR generalists and staff provide huge leverage in the ability to impact change, but interestingly, our research says that fewer than 15% of HR organizations have training for their own people.

Josh Bersin has worked with hundreds of companies to deliver high-impact employee learning, leadership development, and talent management. Bersin & Associates offers product and market data, insight on trends and expert advice on enterprise learning and talent management. Bersin has been quoted in BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, and National Public Radio. He is the author of The Training Measurement Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Practical Approaches and The Blended Learning Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Lessons Learned. See the entire report at marketing.bersincom/2012Predictions.html.