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Apr 25, 2018 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, HRCI Staff Writer

Why Talent Stays Top of Mind? The Bottom Line

This article was originally published in the Change Agents, a paid content program developed by HRCI in partnership with WSJ Custom Studios.

To stay competitive in today’s ever-changing business climate, C-level executives agree that finding and retaining the right talent is essential. But how to do that effectively remains a challenge, according to The Change Agents, a joint custom research study by Dow Jones Customer Intelligence and the HR Certification Institute, an organization that certifies HR professionals worldwide.

Of the 300 C-suite executives who participated in the study, 95 percent said that hiring and retention directly affect the bottom line. And eight out of 10 consider HR to be a strategic partner that helps drive talent strategies across their organizations.

“HR is critical to our success,” says Kay Kutt, managing director of Asian Tigers Mobility, which specializes in international relocation services. “I need extraordinary people, otherwise our earnings will suffer.” Kutt adds that HR is a part of every strategic discussion she has with the company’s chairman.

Talent strategy and engagement is indeed a top concern, as survey respondents ranked it among the top five items on the corporate agenda. Those five areas, in order of priority, were financial growth, customer experience, new technology adoption, talent strategy and engagement, and cybersecurity.

“When you hire someone, you plant a seed. You need to continue giving the plant food and water—training and knowledge—in order for it to bloom. Too frequently, we let the flower wilt.”

Still, among those surveyed who identified their companies as industry leaders, only 59 percent consider their companies to be effective at attracting and retaining talent. These high performers said they feel more confident in the areas of customer satisfaction, profitability, revenue growth and innovation.

“When you hire someone, you plant a seed,” Kutt says. “You need to continue giving the plant food and water—training and knowledge—in order for it to bloom. And then you have to keep watering it to keep it thriving. Too frequently, we let the flower wilt.”

Maintaining a healthy work environment is key to attracting and retaining the right people, and 85 percent of executives surveyed said they believe they have a strong company culture. Yet only six out of 10 have a formal process for measuring culture.

Companies commonly rely on employee surveys as well as engagement and churn metrics. HR leadership plays an important role in interpreting the findings.

“After a survey, HR’s job is to unpack the feedback and investigate where in the company the issues are really occurring, because each department is different,” says Gail Rogers, SPHR, senior HR business partner at Enterprise Legal Management Solutions, a business of Wolters Kluwer. “Then, HR can, together with the business leaders, build an action plan to move the needle in a positive direction.”

HR at Wolters Kluwer did just that when the global leader in information services and solutions conducted an employee survey recently.

“At one point, we found out we had some work to do in establishing a culture of learning and development,” says Richard Flynn, CEO of the Governance, Risk and Compliance division of Wolters Kluwer. “So, on our VP of HR’s recommendation, we made investments to make sure our employees had more convenient access to learning and training.”

“It’s essential that my VP of HR has a seat at my table and, in fact, it’s a right-hand seat.”

Kutt suggests measuring culture may be as simple as having candid conversations. “Our HR managers make sure to have engaging conversations, one-on-one, not sugar-coating, not ignoring the awkward or the uncomfortable,” she says.

Kutt earned a fully accredited Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) credential from the HR Certification Institute, which has served more than half a million HR practitioners worldwide for over 40 years. HR certification is one way to help HR professionals build the skills and knowledge they need to drive business results, and the majority of executives surveyed (71 percent) felt their organizations could benefit from HR certification.

Certifications from the HR Certification Institute cover seven key knowledge areas, including business management and strategy. Rogers, who holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), says the breadth of what certified professionals learn enables them to make more informed decisions “with an understanding of the interrelatedness of processes, and how any given change is going to have implications company-wide.”

Flynn is a firm believer in providing HR professionals with certification opportunities and other resources as a way to help them move above and beyond their traditional roles.

“It’s essential that my VP of HR has a seat at my table and, in fact, it’s a right-hand seat,” he says. “My VP of HR is always an awesome sounding board for me—someone who can challenge my thinking.”

Flynn adds that companies today must include their HR teams when developing strategy with top leadership, especially when they are certified.

“When you’re going through any sort of change or reinvention, as companies today so often are, HR is an inseparable partner,” Flynn says. “You never want to lose momentum and have to start out with a blank sheet of paper. Our HR team has been critical in leveraging the resources we have.”