Outlook upbeat for HR

Developing management and leadership, motivating staff among top priorities for 2012: Pulse Survey
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/24/2012

Every year, we ask HR professionals to predict what the coming year will look like. When it comes to HR — including its function, budget and employment picture — the outlook is upbeat for 2012, but respondents are not so optimistic about the economy and growth within their organizations.

To find out what the top HR priorities will be for this year,

Canadian HR Reporter

and the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) surveyed 232 HR professionals as part of the monthly

Pulse Survey

series.

Outlook upbeat for HR

Sweet and sour from HR


Outlook upbeat for HR

By Amanda Silliker

Management development is a top priority for 2012 at Gateway Property Management in Delta, B.C. The HR team is working on expanding the HR competencies and HR knowledge of its managers.

Employee relations will be a particular area of focus, allowing managers to handle some of the issues that arise on their own. This will help HR be more effective and keep a lid on its costs, said Maureen McMahon, director of human resources.

“We can’t simply just keep adding staff within the HR function to do these things… so it’s not that they don’t need us anymore, but they need us for different things or at a different level of an employee relations issue,” she said.

Developing management and leadership talent is one of the top three priorities for HR professionals for 2012, according to a Pulse Survey of 232 Canadian HR Reporter readers and members of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

“We have a lot of relatively young, inexperienced managers in terms of leadership and developing subordinates, so my goal is to work with managers to give them the tools to be able to supervise and lead people, whether they need some training or just some assistance in certain areas,” said Tricia Veness, human resources manager at Artis REIT in Winnipeg, which has 150 employees.

Motivating staff (employee engagement) came out on top as the number one HR priority for 2012, according to 40.5 per cent of respondents.

Last year, easyhome put a new volunteer policy in place to encourage its 1,400 employees to be active in the community, said Christine Campbell, director of human resources in Mississauga, Ont. All eligible employees are entitled to three paid volunteer days per year.

“We will continue to look at other engagement opportunities, so what can we do to really add value and benefits for our employees that isn’t overly expensive,” she said. “That might be increased vacation time, more access to training and development or more time given for that. It could be paid personal days… or more short-term rewards.”

Getting to know employees and finding out what motivates them is key to employee engagement at the 550-employee Gateway, said McMahon.

“Not everyone likes public recognition, not everyone is motivated by dollars, not everyone is motivated by perks. You really have to look at your people and get to know them well enough to understand what would go far in creating a motivating environment for them.”

Attracting and recruiting staff is the third most important priority for HR this year, according to 35.3 per cent of Pulse Survey respondents.

Artis REIT, a real estate investment trust, has been growing rapidly so attracting and recruiting talent is a top priority, said Veness. Over the past two years, she has hired between 60 and 70 people, and she expects this trend to continue.

To ensure she has a leg up in attracting talent, Veness is working on the compensation plan to make sure it is competitive — especially in Calgary where competition is stiff.

“Calgary is driven by the oil fields so salary is driven up because they can go to the oil fields and get that job for this much money,” she said. “So we have to have something else in our package to attract them.”

In terms of staffing, 49.5 per cent of survey respondents expect some growth throughout 2012 while 30.2 per cent expect levels to remain the same and 20.2 per cent expect a decrease.

Easyhome, a merchandise lease-to-own company, is expecting five to 10 per cent growth this year so it will be increasing head count to meet that demand, said Campbell.

More than one-quarter (28.5 per cent) of HR professionals expect their HR budget to be the same as last year. But 27.3 per cent expect an increase and 22.1 per cent expect a decrease.

“It was a little slower last year for recruiting in HR but this year and next year, I think it will probably pick up. So I like to think that as demand grows for employees, then HR’s budget will follow as well,” said Veness.

When it comes to the employment picture for HR professionals, respondents are optimistic. One-half (51.3 per cent) think it will be at least a bit better than it was in 2011, while 41.3 per cent think it will be the same and only 7.5 per cent think it will be worse.

“HR is coming into its own and has been for a number of years in terms of having a seat at the table,” said McMahon. “HR, as a whole, has done a better job in the last few years with regards to letting people know, letting companies know, letting decision-makers know what it is we can contribute.”

Artis REIT did not have an HR department before Veness came aboard two years ago — she built everything from scratch, she said.

“HR is becoming hugely popular, more so in that companies are realizing the importance that HR plays in their business,” she said. “Companies are starting to see that, ‘Oh, you know what? Employees are our company.’”

While 49.6 per cent of HR professionals expect the size of their HR function to be the same this year as last, 39.1 per cent expect an increase and 9.9 per cent expect a cut.

Veness is hoping to expand her two-person team, she said.

“I would like to have a department with someone that can do attendance and those types of things so I can focus more on writing policies and projects that need to be done.”


Sweet and sour from HR

By Kristina Hidas

Expectations for HR have improved for 2012, according to the results of a recent Pulse Survey.

More respondents than in previous years foresee that the HR function at their organizations will grow. In 2010 and 2011, one-third expected HR at their organizations to grow. This year, 39 per cent do.

HR budgets are also expected to increase, suggesting HR’s role becomes only more critical in a tough economic climate — employers need to keep the top talent they have, save money where it makes sense and have leadership that can “steer the ship through troubled waters,” as one respondent said.

More HR professionals surveyed are expecting to stay put at their current organizations or in their current position this year than in the previous two years.

In 2011, 36 per cent said they were planning a job or career change, up from 32 per cent the year before. In 2012, that number dropped to 26 per cent.

While HR’s role is becoming more important, HR professionals’ optimism about the economy and the growth of organizations is a bit harder to find.

When asked about the employment picture for the coming year, 63 per cent of respondents in 2010 believed it would be better than 2009.

In 2011, that percentage dropped slightly to 61 per cent. But for 2012, it dropped to 51 per cent.

As for the organization size with respect to staffing, in 2010, 53 per cent of respondents expected growth. In 2011, 56 per cent foresaw an increase in head count. But this year, the number dropped to 50 per cent.

HR’s top priorities — which were the same in 2010 and 2011 — changed this year. While employee engagement is still top-of-mind (coming in at 47 per cent, 47 per cent and 41 per cent in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively), the other two of the top three priorities changed in 2012.

Instead of reducing turnover and managing performance, this year, HR professionals are most concerned with “developing management and leadership talent” and “attracting and recruiting staff.”

The fact turnover reduction was replaced by recruitment, and developing leadership replaced managing performance, is perhaps another indication of the increasingly central role HR professionals foresee for themselves in the challenging times ahead.

Kristina Hidas is vice-president of HR research and development at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto. She can be reached at khidas@hrpa.ca or (416) 923-2324 ext. 370.

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