“2010 will be the year of optimism,” Marie Pinsonneault, Senior Partner, Hewitt & Associates

“2010 will be the year of optimism,”

Marie Pinsonneault, Senior Partner, Hewitt & Associates

What were the lessons learned in 2009? Which major issues will human resources face in 2010? Marie Pinsonneault, Senior Partner in the Montreal office of Hewitt & Associates, a major international player in the outsourcing of HR processes, gives us her take.

What were the highlights of 2009 in terms of human resources?

2009 was truly the year of the recession. Organizations formerly concerned with attracting and retaining talent suddenly put a stop to their hiring projects. After the frenetic pace of hiring came the mass layoffs caused by the economic downturn, with the result that human resources professionals put aside this concern. And yet, the issue did not go away with the crisis—it is still there, and will come back stronger than ever with the recovery.

Another finding for 2009: many companies interrupted or stopped their organizational development investments. Training was the first casualty—a very short-sighted step in a crisis, when employee motivation is more important than ever. The results of the Hewitt "Best Employers in Canada" study are incontrovertible. Companies that maintained their leadership and employee development efforts saw an increase of about 2% on average in employee motivation.

In light of these observations, how is 2010 shaping up?

2010 will be the year of optimism. We are already starting to see the first encouraging signs that the recession is coming to an end. The recovery will not be a lively one, however. The organizational development projects frozen last year are once again on the table, but their implementation will take place step by step. Cautiousness is key.

Even a timid recovery will therefore gradually bring the issue of scarce talent—obscured in 2009—back to the forefront. Organizations will have to refocus on the issue. Attracting, retaining and keeping employees loyal is shaping up to be the major issue that HR professionals will have to address over the next 20 years.

Specifically, what does this mean for organizations?

The Hewitt study analyzes 21 levers or key factors as regards employee retention. Not all are equally important or have the same impact, depending on the company, but some of them come up again and again as major constants. The first interesting finding is that while it is rarely a source of great satisfaction, salary is not the main motivational factor. Conversely, career development and training are particularly crucial drivers. Recognition and are also frequently mentioned, along with the company’s reputation. The employer brand is therefore something that companies have to work on more than ever.

On what points will human resources have to focus on in particular in 2010?

In a company where nothing has yet been done to motivate employees, it is important to focus on the quality of managers and their leadership. This means investing, without minimizing the importance of both material and human resources. Protecting the employer brand appears equally fundamental.

How do you see the HR function evolving?

The mission of human resources professionals is becoming increasingly strategic in companies. They are no longer simply operations people—they take part in determining response to the issues facing the company. Moreover, HR duties have gotten more complex over the past ten years with the wave of corporate mergers and acquisitions. This has resulted in another phenomenon, outsourcing. Companies prefer to refocus their investments on their core business and outsource human resources processes, such as benefits management. This trend will continue to increase.

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