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Survey finds HR focused on cost control

Survey finds HR focused on cost control, but war for talent not over
 
A new survey of over 250 employers and more than 900 employees has found that cost control is the main focus of most HR departments this year. However, despite this, it seems the war for talent is not yet over with 67% of employers expecting to award some form of pay rise in 2009 and half intending to either maintain or even increase HR budgets during the year.
 
The survey, part of an annual programme by the international talent management firm, Ochre House, found a highly fragmented picture which suggested that employers may not be as pessimistic about business prospects and consequently about staffing levels, as many commentators maintain. Around 50% of organisations questioned said that they expected to give pay rises of 2-3% in 2009, down only slightly from 56% in 2008. 34% had the same HR budget as last year whilst for 16% it was larger. And, whereas 19% were already making redundancies or expected to during the year, nearly 14% predicted that they would increase headcount in 2009.
 
The research also suggested that, in many instances, the larger pool of candidates generated by the downturn has actually made recruitment more difficult rather than easier. As a senior HR manager at a major retailer put it, We have seen a dramatic increase in applications per position and despite this leading to a larger candidate pool, it has almost doubled the administration time required to process new applications. Our percentage of applications rejected at the initial CV check stage has risen from 40% to over 75%. This has made candidate relationship management a much more lengthy process.
 
Although we are definitely well into a serious downturn, there appears to be a general unwillingness to shed staff if it can be avoided, says Ochre Houses CEO, Chris Herrmannsen. Organisations of all sizes seem to have learned the lessons of the last major recession where unrestrained culling led to major shortages in the talent pipeline when the economy picked up again. With over 80% of the businesses we questioned expecting recovery either in or even before 2010, there is a real focus on trying not to repeat this happening again. And its also obvious that plenty of companies are seeing the current economic situation as an opportunity to increase market share at the expense of less adaptable or more debt-laden rivals.
 
The poll of employees found many feeling under increasing pressure to perform. 56% regularly took work home and nearly half felt that they had to make themselves available to their employers twenty fours hours a day, seven days a week. One in four also expected that the economic crisis and its effect on pensions and savings would mean they would have to continue working well past the age of 65.

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