ready to go2013 may in many respects be the best and worst of times for HR. On the downside, global, critical talent shortages are set to persist in a nervous, post-recessionary economic climate where global economic growth forecasts have been downsized considerably.

This means 2013 will be an especially challenging year for HR professionals, where every investment will need to be justified, but, where at the same time, CEOs will be expecting recruiters and HR to push the boundaries, innovate and give their business the edge in the war for talent.

On the flip side, however, we are entering one of the most exciting periods for HR and recruiters; we no longer have to sit in the wings while the IT, marketing and techs guys have all the fun with new tech, because technology has arrived at the door of HR and is breaking it down. The timing is of course impeccable, because, just as HR and recruiters are facing some of the biggest strategic talent challenges in modern times, so the technology has arrived to help talent strategists attract, manage and retain talent in ever more effective ways.

So, what exactly are these challenges that HR and recruiters will be facing next year? Well, the recent KPMG White Paper: Rethinking Human Resource in a Changing World, has given us some excellent insights into this area. As part of its study, it talked to over 400 senior executives in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America and identified three main strategic challenges that talent management professionals will be facing next year – and I have outlined these below.

1. Managing the new global, flexible and remote workforce is a key concern

What the respondents were saying here (senior executives and CEOs) was, that with the arrival of the new mobile workforce, the ability to retain key talent and create workforces in new market has been a key HR requirement over the last 3 years and will continue to be next year.

However, what will be of concern for talent management professionals is that less than 1 in 4 respondents agreed that HR is excelling at: finding and keeping key talent globally, supporting a virtual workforce and supporting greater globalization of the business.

But, there is a silver lining for talent professionals, as with the rise of cloud technologies, social media technologies and mobile based talent management, talent management professionals have the tools at their disposal to begin to really deliver against the expectations of their leaders as set out above. The important thing is that talent management professionals must not only embrace modern technologies, but lead the way in both identification, selection and implementation of the most powerful and enabling tools.

2. Increased global engagement is needed to address the challenges of this new workforce

The KPMG paper suggests that this new remote, global, virtual workforce presents a unique challenge for talent management professionals as they will need to develop new policies that will effectively engage with a work force that is physically more distant and less committed to the organization — with the latter situation occurring as a result of the increasing emphasis on portfolio careers and a more contingent labour model. Talent professionals will also be called on to develop policies which have global application, but which also suit local market conditions and varying culture, suggests the report.

3. Data analytics will be a catalyst for profound change in the HR function.

While the CEOs and senior executives acknowledged the importance of talent professionals leveraging web, social media or mobile based technologies to deliver effect integrated talent management, they were most excited about the opportunities that data analytics presented. It is fair to say that most senior executives see that the global talent market is becoming increasingly complicated and they see that, properly used, analytics will allow talent professionals to develop a more robust understanding of  employee related needs and to identify impending talent gaps. CEOs are looking to talent professionals to be able to anticipate and respond to future business needs using analytics based decision support systems.

As you can see, as the business world focuses more on globalization and virtualisation, there are several key initiatives that talent professionals can employ in response which will enhance the HR function and improve its contribution and perceived value to the business.

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