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HR Expands Health Care Strategies, Recruits Less Talent

By SHRM Online staff  4/16/2009
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Organizations looking for a way out of the economic black hole are expanding their health care strategies, reducing their recruitment of top talent, and initiating layoffs or downsizing, according to a
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey that asked HR professionals about the strategies and programs their organizations are implementing.

SHRM surveyed 339 HR professionals in February 2009 to learn which HR strategies and programs organizations were beginning to initiate, expand or reduce in response to the troubling U.S. economy.

Among the findings, released April 14, 2009:

  • 51 percent are initiating layoffs and/or downsizing, 38 percent are initiating workforce planning, 33 percent are initiating business competencies, and 33 percent are focusing on older workers.
  • 71 percent are expanding health care strategies, 67 percent are expanding communication tactics, and 60 percent are expanding leadership and/or career development.
  • 37 percent are reducing their recruitment of top talent, 32 percent are reducing strategies aimed at older workers, and 24 percent are reducing their overall retention strategies.

“Organizations are devoting their resources to engaging their current workforce and are focusing less on recruitment and more on workforce planning, leadership development and business competencies,” observed Evren Esen, Survey Research Center manager for SHRM.

“This means that HR’s role is crucial in keeping their organizations focused on their current resources during these turbulent economic times,” she told HR News. “This provides an opportunity not only for employees but for businesses to maximize and hold on to their in-house talent.”

Asked about their talent management priorities, two-thirds or more cited employee engagement and employee development as a higher priority at their organizations now than at the onset of the recession in the United States. Close behind was succession planning (58 percent); recruitment followed at 44 percent.

HR Strategies Initiated

Voluntary furloughs and programs that cut back on time spent at work were the top tactics used in an attempt to avoid sudden, large layoffs and lessen the effect that job reductions can have on employee morale.

Workforce planning typically involved analyzing critical positions to identify talented workers who could be developed to fill specific positions or take on broader responsibilities.

Business competencies involved designing programs to help HR understand the economy’s effect on their organizations better and areas where HR could maximize its contribution to the bottom line.

Older-worker strategies involved tactics to retain older workers, knowledge transfer from older workers who were leaving the organization and efforts to recruit retirees back into the workforce.

HR Strategies Expanded

Analyzing various health care options with the aim of reducing overall health care costs was the main HR strategy that has been expanded during the current economy, SHRM found. Communication strategy focused on building employee confidence with internal communications from senior management that assured them of their value. Leadership development was aimed at methods for developing a diverse generation of leaders internally.

HR Strategies Reduced

Organizations cut back slightly on recruiting top talent re-entering the workforce because of the economy—37 percent scaled back vs. 39 percent who expanded on this strategy—but this was the strategy that saw the most reduction overall among those surveyed.

Among respondents, 75 percent were with U.S.-based operations, and slightly more than half (53 percent) overall were privately owned for-profit employers.

A majority of the respondents overall were at organizations with 500 or more employees (39 percent), 33 percent were at organizations with between 100 and 499 employees, and slightly more than one-fourth (27 percent) were at organizations with fewer than 100 employees.

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