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HR predictions 2009: Exclusive insight into the year ahead

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crystal_ballOur HR experts have been crystal ball gazing exclusively for HRZone.co.uk. Annie Hayes rounds-up the predictions for the year ahead.


What do you think HR will look like in 2009?

David Fairhurst“Focus”: David Fairhurst, senior vice president, chief people officer, McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe
“Given the current economic climate, I think there’ll be a noticeable distinction between those who maintain their focus on the critical long-term issues and those who allow themselves to become distracted by the short-term measures we will all, inevitably, have to take. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to cut back budgets, but I think those HR departments that maintain their focus on core, longer term objectives will emerge as successful in the long run.”


“Slimmed down HR”: Paul Roberts, strategic director, health and wellbeing consultants IHC Paul Roberts
“HR will be leaner and meaner. Some will have ‘survivor syndrome’ where they have the feeling of the last man standing. Controlling a redundancy project and handling a lot of highly emotionally-charged meetings is tough for any team and the team may feel a bit bruised in 2009. The effect will be a leaner team with more defined goals and more concentration on the things that will have a big effect on business performance.”


“Focus on redundancies”: Stephen Taylor, senior lecturer in HRM, Manchester Metropolitan Business School
“We will be less concerned with recruiting and retaining people and more concerned with handling redundancies, managing re-organisations designed to bring about cost reductions and handling the consequences in pay terms of very low price inflation, or even deflation.”


“HR language to disappear”: Steve Bicknell, co-founder of business psychology consultancy Getfeedback
Steve Bicknell“HR will become more specific and targeted. For the past few years the profession of and language of HR has become increasingly confused and confusing. Terminology like ‘talent management’, ‘succession planning’, ‘coaching’ and ‘development’ will be given proper definition and will be delivered with more precision.”



Tim Payne“Back to basics”: Tim Payne, HR director, KPMG
“HR will be focusing on the basics through 2009; redundancy and restructuring skills are likely to be in demand in many sectors; the ability to analyse and understand the people-related costs within the business, and to manage these proactively, will be highly prized.”



What will be the biggest trends to look out for in 2009?

Maria Yapp“Soul searching”: Dr Maria Yapp, chief executive, Xancam
“When faced with job insecurity and economic uncertainty, individuals tend to engage in soul searching. Development that gives employees support, particularly development that focuses on wellbeing and having a sense of meaning both in and outside of work, will be a big feature in 2009.”



“HR consolidation”: Alan King, managing director, Employee Advisory Resource
Alan_King“Greater consolidation of the HR market – not just in terms of the players but also in what is provided. Lines will blur between EAP, occupational health, wellness and other HR benefits.”

David Fairhurst“Education”: David Fairhurst, McDonald’s
“As futurologist John Naisbitt, the author of Megatrends, has written: ‘Education is now the number one economic priority in today’s global economy.’ I believe that business needs to work in partnership with the education sector to address the long-term skills issues faced by the UK economy.”

“Pay cuts”: Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan Business School
“The possibility of pay cuts will become very real and justifiable in economic terms. But there are huge potential legal and employment relations problems here.”


Tim Payne“Opportunity”: Tim Payne, KPMG
“Whilst it won’t be a good year for HR to be looking for large amounts of money to invest in new things, it might well be a good time to persuade business sponsors to try some of the (low-cost) ideas that they might dismiss in the good times.”


What will be the biggest threat to HR next year?

“Return to macho-management”: Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan Business School
“The arrival of loose labour market conditions for the first time in over a decade may lead employers to re-establish a 1980s-style macho-management agenda. The power balance will shift this year as employees find themselves less able to switch employment when unhappy with the way they are being treated, but employers must anticipate a return to tight labour market conditions, and indeed even tighter ones than we have recently been used to, fairly soon.”

Tim Payne“Maintaining spend”: Tim Payne, KPMG
“HR will need to fight hard to retain their discretionary spend. The biggest threat is that programmes such as employee engagement, which might be perceived as the icing on the cake and therefore dispensable, are actually the most important during a downturn.”


David Fairhurst“Short-termism”: David Fairhurst, McDonald’s
“Short-term thinking negatively impacting on HR’s ability to address significant, long-term people issues – issues which will, ultimately, slow down the process of economic recovery. For example, short-term expediencies may result in the sidelining of education and skills projects which will become all the more important during a recession.”


How will the credit crunch affect the market in 2009?

Maria Yapp“More freelancers”: Dr Maria Yapp, Xancam
“We may see more independent HR practitioners coming into the marketplace as people who have lost their jobs follow different and alternative career paths and those whose jobs are under threat start to think about other ways to earn a living. Organisations may also think about outsourcing. This could include HR if it can be demonstrated that it’s commercially efficient.”


David Fairhurst“Caution”: David Fairhurst, McDonald’s
“The watchword for most people through 2009 will be ‘caution’. Employers will make cautious choices about investing in people and hiring new talent into the organisation. Employees will sit tight in their roles, cautious that ‘rocking the boat’ may make them vulnerable – and that ‘jumping ship’ could land them in an even more precarious position. As a result, creativity, diversity, challenging thinking, and innovation could all, potentially, suffer along with talent management processes and overall organisational vigour.”


“Picking talent”: Sandra Beale, SJ Beale HR Consult Ltd
“The credit crunch will provide a wealth of human resources for companies to choose from when the economy recovers, and in effect companies should be able to pick and choose talent. Having a robust recruitment process in place, recruiting against a structured job description and person specification will ensure companies recruit key talent to move their business forward when things improve.”



What new legislative changes does HR need to be aware of?

David Fairhurst“Full potential”: David Fairhurst, McDonald’s
“The new legislation outlined in the Queen’s Speech giving those in work the right to request time off for training is potentially a very positive move. Everyone should be able to realise their full potential.”

“Harmonisation”: Stephen Taylor, Manchester Metropolitan Business School
“The abolition of the Statutory Disputes Resolution Procedures in April will make dismissals less bureaucratic and more straight forward, but no major change of substance will come with this. The only other significant developments will follow from the introduction of a Single Equality Act. We don’t know the details yet, but potentially the process of harmonisation of all discrimination law could bring with it significant practical changes of some consequence.”

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