HR professionals predict good year ahead

Top 3 priorities: motivating staff, reducing turnover and managing performance
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/15/2011

Every year, we ask HR professionals to dust off their crystal balls and predict what the coming year will be like. Interestingly, 2010 turned out pretty much exactly as HR predicted it would — cautious optimism was the catchphrase last year.

So what’s 2011 looking like? To find out,

Canadian HR Reporter

and the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) surveyed 544 HR professionals as part of the monthly pulse series.

HR professionals predict good year ahead

HR’s outlook brightens (Analysis)

HR professionals predict good year ahead

Top 3 priorities: motivating staff, reducing turnover and managing performance

By Shannon Klie

HR management software firm Adequasys opened its Canadian offices at the beginning of the year and, as such, the top — and only — HR priority for the company’s Toronto-based vice-president is hiring.

“We are currently hiring about five people,” said Pierre Ferland, vice-president at Adequasys Canada and currently the only Canadian employee.

On the whole, hiring in Canadian organizations will likely be up from last year, continuing the upward trend seen in 2010, according to the latest Pulse Survey.

Fifty-six per cent of respondents predict at least small staffing growth at their organizations, according to the survey of 544 Canadian HR Reporter readers and members of the Human Resources Professionals Association.

Just 16.4 per cent predict a small drop in staffing, while 27.8 per cent predict it will remain the same as last year.

These figures are similar to those from last year’s survey on the same topic, when 53.3 per cent of respondents predicted at least small growth in staffing, 28.2 per cent said it would be the same and 17.9 per cent predicted at least a small drop.

When it comes to the employment picture for HR, respondents’ predictions were also in line with those from last year. Sixty-one per cent of respondents believe the employment picture will be at least a bit better in 2011 than it was last year (63 per cent), 32.2 per cent expect it to be the same (30.8 per cent in 2010) and 6.7 per cent expect it to be worse (6.3 per cent in 2010).

“I see a tremendous growth in HR. There’s been a lot of change in HR in the last few years but I think the big revolution is still coming,” said Ferland. “I see amazing growth over the next four or five years.”

In rural communities, especially, the revolution will be slower, said Kim Bowers, section manager of talent support services at Bruce Power in Tiverton, Ont.

“It’s going to be a slow recovery for HR professionals. As the economy gets better and business improves, I think HR will be more involved again,” she said. “When the recession hit and businesses cut jobs and looked for areas of efficiencies, I think HR was hit pretty hard.”

Perhaps in recognition of this slightly slower recovery, about 10 per cent fewer respondents are planning to make a job change this year, at 31.9 per cent, compared to 35.7 per cent in 2010.

But respondents are less pessimistic about the size of the HR function in 2011. While 12.3 per cent of respondents predicted a decrease in the size of their HR function in 2010, that proportion dropped to 8.4 per cent in 2011, a decrease of nearly one-third.

Another 34.1 per cent of respondents expect an increase in their HR function this year, up only slightly from 33 per cent in 2010, and 54.7 per cent expect it to remain the same, up from 51.5 per cent last year.

The top three priorities for HR professionals this year are: motivating staff (47.1 per cent), retaining staff or reducing turnover (32 per cent) and managing performance (31.3 per cent). Last year, the top three were the same but managing performance was second while retaining staff was third.

More respondents predict they’ll have more money to address these priorities, with 26.3 per cent predicting at least a modest increase in the size of their HR budget, up from 21.7 per cent in 2010.

“As companies are coming out of recession and trying to rebuild their businesses, they understand there are costs associated with that around training and development of employees and re-engaging their employees. They understand those expenditures have to be in the budget,” said Bowers.

HR’s outlook brightens (Analysis)

Job market for HR professionals likely improving

By Claude Balthazard

The idea with this Pulse Survey was to reprise the survey done last year and see how the outlook of HR professionals has changed in the past 12 months. Before discussing the results, we should point out both the 2010 and 2011 surveys used the previous year as the baseline for this year’s ratings (so the 2010 survey used 2009 as a baseline and the 2011 survey used 2010 as a baseline). No change from last year means a continuation of the trend — it’s not accelerating or decelerating.

Last year, we said survey respondents were “cautiously optimistic” about 2010 and, it would appear in hindsight, this outlook was quite accurate. This year, the pattern of results is similar to last year, meaning the improving trends continued at the same pace. Where there were differences between 2010 and 2011, they indicated respondents believed things will improve to a slightly greater extent in 2011 than they did in 2010.

Contrasting last year and this year

Employment picture for HR: Last year, 62.9 per cent thought the employment picture for HR professionals would be better in 2010 that it was in 2009; this year, that figure is 60.8 per cent.

Organizational growth: Last year, 53.3 per cent believed there would be some growth in the size of their organizations; this year, the figure is 55.8 per cent.

Size of HR budgets: Last year, 21.7 per cent believed there would be some growth in the size of their HR budget; this year, the figure is 26 per cent.

Size of the HR function: Last year, 33.1 per cent believed there would be an increase in the size of their HR function; this year the figure is 33.6 per cent.

These numbers all indicate respondents see the improvement trend continuing over the next year. To be sure, these numbers do not foresee big improvements but steady improvements in the employment picture for HR professionals, the size of their companies, the size of HR budgets and the size of their HR function in 2011.

Top 3 priorities

The top priorities lists from 2010 and 2011 are similar but there are telling differences. The top three priorities were the same in 2011 as they were in 2010 — employee engagement (47.3 per cent in 2010, 46.8 per cent in 2011), reducing turnover (33.3 per cent in 2010, 32.4 per cent in 2011) and managing performance (34.1 per cent in 2010, 31.7 per cent in 2011).

The bottom priorities were also the same — improving organizational health and safety (8.8 per cent in 2010, 8.8 per cent in 2011) and reducing head count (7.9 per cent in 2010, 6.8 per cent in 2011).

However, the biggest jump was for attracting and recruiting talent — 30.4 per cent in 2011 versus 24.9 per cent in 2010, a jump of 5.5 percentage points.

On the other hand, increasing productivity (19.5 per cent in 2011, 24 per cent in 2010), reorganizing the HR function (15.3 per cent in 2011, 20.1 per cent in 2010) and managing organizational change (26.7 per cent in 2011, 33.3 per cent in 2010) saw the biggest drops with decreases of 4.5, 4.8 and 6.6 percentage points, respectively.

There is a shift in priorities away from change, reorganization and doing more with less to attracting and recruiting talent. This is probably as good an indicator as any the economy is picking up.

This year, 35.7 per cent of respondents intend to look for a new position or make some kind of career move next year, compared with 32.3 per cent for 2010. Again, not a big change year-over-year but an indication the job market for HR professionals is likely getting better — which is always a good thing.

Claude Balthazard is director of HR excellence and registrar at the Human Resources Professionals Association in Toronto. He can be reached at

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