In the largest survey of its kind, 269 key talent and HR leaders from across Ireland took part in a comprehensive survey, which focused on key talent themes and priorities for the year ahead. When asked to rank their priorities for the year ahead, retention and attraction of talent came out on top.
“In a strong economy, with the lowest unemployment rates since 2008, this is an unsurprising result,” says Sigmar Head of HR recruitment, Kate Stewart.
“However, what has become clear from the results is that companies are preparing themselves for an acceleration in the war for skills and are prepared to pay for that talent. As a result, salaries are set to rise considerably over the next 12 months.”
Results of the survey indicate that employers are likely to offer 2 out of every 3 employees a salary increase in 2018 to retain their best talent.
“While it is difficult to put a precise figure on just how much salaries are likely to increase in 2018, it is likely to be considerably more than the rate of inflation,” says Stewart. “However, it is perhaps possible to draw inference from figures being offered to employees working for a rival company in order to lure them away. This figure is often in the region of a 10 -15% increase of the current salary."
“Interestingly, employers are being forced to headhunt talent with one out of every four positions now being filled are as a result of active engagement,” adds Stewart. “This is indicative of the war amongst employers for talent and this heated competition is set to create a crisis in 2018 to rival the current housing crisis.”
Commenting on the survey results, Niamh O’Beirne, partner, People Advisory Services Group, EY says: “The clear lesson from the survey results is that what may have worked in the past won’t always work in the future. Given the unprecedented pace of change and unpredictability in today’s working world, it is becoming ever more important to hire for mindset and not necessarily skillset. In the future, we are going to have jobs we don’t know yet, using technologies we don’t have yet, solving problems that don’t yet exist. This uncertainty will bring game-changing threats but also huge opportunity. Organisations need to be supported in doing things differently, in building leadership capability and flexing their culture to respond to the changing conditions around them.”
Top 10 Priorities for HR in 2018
1. Retaining talent
2. Attracting key talent
4. Increasing employee enrichment/ engagement
5. Leadership development and succession planning
6. Developing key skills and competencies through more agile learning
7. Designing an agile organisation for high performance
8. Performance and reward
9. Promoting diversity and inclusion
10. Exploring use of artificial intelligence/automation/robotics
Further Survey Findings
The Sigmar EY 2018 Talent Leaders Pulse Survey reveals other interesting trends among Irish employers, including an increased use of data analytics in the hiring process, a greater emphasis on leadership performance, a shift towards better workplace structures, and increased investment in learning and development.
A key finding of the survey relates to the increased use of technology by talent leaders. “Technology is viewed and used positively as a tool to support and improve recruitment and employee engagement,” Stewart notes. “However, with many organisations expecting significant technological advances to come within the realms of AI and machine learning in the year ahead and beyond, it is likely HR will have a key change management role to play."
The results under the overall theme of artificial intelligence and its potential effects on the future workforce are telling. Fourteen per cent of employers reported their workforce had their daily tasks altered within the past 12 months due to the introduction of robotics, automation or artificial intelligence (AI) to the workplace.
According to Stewart, we are now witnessing the advent of the augmented workforce, employees who are assisted in their daily tasks by technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. “This tends to be overestimated in the short-term and underestimated in the long-term, but the augmented work- force is increasingly blending cognitive thinking, AI, automation and people,” she says.
“Organisational structures are changing radically, with hierarchical models being turned upside down and with networks of teams being formed around functional expertise, designed for speed and agility,” Stewart adds. “With AI now permeating deeper into business operations, the results of the survey show that expectations of the impact it will have on the people agenda are high for 2018, with over 41 per cent believing their workforce will increase their usage of cognitive computing, predictive learning or robotics in the year ahead.”
This will present a particular challenge in terms of change management. “Any change is difficult for people and employees are naturally resistant to it,” Stewart explains. “As more organisations embrace these technologies, talent leaders will need to engage in change-management processes to ease their introduction. This will involve an increased focus on internal communication, training and organisational development and design.”
The Uniquely Human Role - Leadership
However, the survey found that leadership remains uniquely human in the age of machine learning. Furthermore, with organisational structures becoming flatter, leadership is seen as being a function for all employees.
“Leadership is increasingly seen as a sustainable competitive advantage that influences every aspect of the talent agenda – most critically retaining and driving the discretionary sort of employees,” Stewart notes. “With retention ranking as the number one challenge facing talent leaders, and only 46 per cent of them stating that their leadership team are very or extremely effective at driving discretionary effort, it’s evident that the leadership agenda presents a significant challenge and opportunity for employers.”