As the global economy gains momentum, new research from CEB, the leading member-based advisory company, reveals that just 1 in 16 (six percent) companies are equipped to shift from survival to growth mode. The findings indicate that weak talent infrastructures are threatening corporate growth and impeding strategic HR support. Rapid intervention is needed to strengthen the rigour of current talent practices if HR is to help build the foundations for corporate growth through talent development and acquisition.

“Economic indicators are positive and business confidence improving, all the signs suggest that businesses are poised to switch from a survival mentality to growth mode. However, our research shows that for some companies, yesterday’s talent practices are jeopardising tomorrow’s growth opportunities,” said Ken Lahti, vice president of product development and innovation at CEB.

The company’s Global Assessment Trends Report reveals that firms today are purportedly focusing on internal employee initiatives to engage, retain, and develop top talent to propel organisational growth, but lack mature and formal processes for core HR areas such as succession planning, leadership development, and workforce planning, thereby compromising performance and productivity in 94 percent of companies globally.

The findings show that HR’s priorities for 2014 reflect the growth strategy; keep talent engaged (56 percent of those surveyed), identify and cultivate strong leadership (51 percent and 54 percent respectively), and maximise existing employee performance (54 percent). But the talent programmes in place to support these areas are inconsistent and ineffective due to the absence of formalised processes and objective data capture. Despite HR’s continuous focus in improving these areas over the last three years, fewer than half of respondents have hard data to demonstrate people impact on business initiatives and prove ROI.

Those firms that fail to embed objective and consistent measures of performance and potential into formalised HR processes will be less effective at aligning talent and HR strategy to the needs of their businesses.

“Do companies really know whether they have the right talent to execute the growth strategy? Do they know how well their recruiting programmes are working, or what their target talent market thinks of them? Our findings suggest that in many cases they do not,” continues Lahti. “Without sound talent infrastructures in place, organisations are vulnerable; HR is unable to provide accurate insight into the health and readiness of the workforce and may miss opportunities to help accelerate business growth by acquiring and developing top talent.”

Based on insights gained in CEB’s study of more than 1,400 HR professionals worldwide, there are proven steps that companies can take to strengthen their talent practices to enable corporate growth:

  • Ensure alignment between HR priorities, processes, and resources. Build robust procedures for talent priorities that facilitate action planning, monitoring, and optimisation to ensure desired results. Focusing on the initiatives that directly support business priorities ensures alignment to organisational goals.
  • Develop infrastructure for talent dashboards. Integrate data from all HR sources and systems to provide a real-time, holistic view of talent. Aggregating this data into a dashboard will enable business leaders to quickly monitor strategies and skills gaps and more effectively steer the organisation toward success.
  • Link HR impact to business strategy. Quantify the return on HR’s impact using data that relates talent to business outcomes. Understanding how talent facilitates companies’ growth trajectories is critical to HR’s role in leading business transformation.

To learn more about findings from the survey, download the 2014 “Global Assessment Trends Report”.