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HR Must Take the Lead

Monday, October 20, 2008
HR Must Take the Lead

HR should devise strategies to guide their organizations through the current economic turmoil, according to experts who spoke during the second day of the HR Technology Conference®. Other sessions focused on leveraging Web 2.0 research on performance management, ways to approach cultural changes and issues affecting HR outsourcing.

By Anne Freedman, Kristen B. Frasch and David Shadovitz


The second day of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition® began with the annual Industry Analysts Panel, where four of "arguably the smartest [people] in the world about HR technology" offered their opinions on a range of subjects -- from the future of Software-as-a-Service and the uses of Web 2.0 technologies to coping with economic turmoil and naming some of the vendors they like most.

The analysts on the panel, praised by conference chair and HREOnline columnist Bill Kutik, were Jim Holincheck, managing vice president at Gartner; Lisa Rowan, program director at IDC; Zach Thomas, senior analyst at Forrester Research; and Naomi Lee Bloom, managing partner at business and technology consultancy Bloom & Wallace.

While the panelists offered some advice to the audience on ways to cope with the economy, some audience polling at the start of the session indicated there has only been moderate impact thus far.

Using instant-polling devices, two-thirds (66 percent) of the end-user audience indicated there had been "no effect" on the purchase of technology by their companies due to the economic situation, while nearly one-quarter (23 percent) said purchases or subscriptions to new software and services had been postponed and 11 percent said "some" purchases had been eliminated.

On the vendor side, 44 percent said their companies had seen or projected no decline in revenue because of the economic turmoil. Nearly two in 10 (19 percent) said their companies had seen or projected a 20-percent decline in revenue; 14 percent said a 15-percent decline; 9 percent said more than 20 percent; 8 percent said a 10 percent-decline; and 6 percent said 5 percent.

But all companies be prepared, said Bloom, who urged the audience to spend the weekend first, putting their personal financial situation in order and then, coming up with some strategies to guide their organizations through.

"You need an intelligent plan to make sure you hold on to the key players in your organization," she said. "Make sure you are spending whatever limited dollars you have on what will make the biggest difference."

Rowan encouraged HR to make sure whatever initiatives they pursue have "real business value," while Holincheck acknowledged that HR leaders will "have to make some hard choices" in the days ahead.

He said the "things to focus on are cost savings and risk mitigation."

The war for talent is shifting from recruiting to retention, said Thomas, so it's important for HR to concentrate on developing its key talent -- as well as determining how to identify just which employees are key for the organization.

Retention strategies must also include an understanding of the generational issues at work, Bloom said, noting that companies will need to accommodate, for example, older workers who are unwilling to work seven days a week, while at the same time accommodating younger workers "and their way of working and their way of learning." accommodating younger workers "and their way of working and their way of learning."


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