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Cath Everett

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Long term planning essential for business recovery

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Even though the UK continues to be hit by a “jobless recovery” from recession, a prestigious HR body has warned employers that they must focus on long-term workforce planning to ensure sustained business performance.
 

A survey of 2,100 UK firms by recruitment consultants Manpower showed only “mild optimism” about job prospects over the coming three months. Mark Cahill, the firm’s UK managing director, said: “The impact of government-imposed spending cuts on both public sector departments and private sector outsourcing is casting a shadow over the UK’s gradual recovery.”
 
The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey found the seasonally adjusted net employment outlook for the public sector fell to -1%, down from 0% in the previous quarter, which means that the number of employers planning to cut their workforce slightly exceeded those intending to hire.
 
Overall, however, net employment intentions across all sectors remained at 1%. The figure has held firm since the first quarter of this year when it entered positive territory for the first time since the end of 2008.
 
Most economists expect unemployment, which currently stands at 2.5 million or 8% of the workforce, to peak well below the three million once feared. But a key question is whether the private sector, which accounts for almost four out of five jobs, will be able to create jobs faster than they are lost in the private sector.
 
And the recruitment picture in the latter area was a mixed one. Finance and business services were most positive for the third consecutive quarter with hiring intentions of 7%. Construction employers were less optimistic, however, with an outlook of -5%, although the figure has improved from a recessionary low point of –20.
 
Employers in the south east of England indicated that they were the most likely to be taking on staff, with hiring intentions of 9%, while West Midlands’ bosses were the least likely to do so. The outlook here was -5%, although the figure was again an improvement on the -9% reported in the last quarter.
 
But the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) cautioned employers to look beyond short-term budgetary planning to focus on the longer-term employment needs of their organisation in order to ensure sustained business performance.
 
A survey to be released next week to coincide with the organisation’s Resourcing and Talent Planning conference indicated that most companies’ planned for their requirements on a one to two year basis (41%), with a fifth planning less than a year in advance.
 
Angela Baron, the CIPD’s engagement advisor, said that to ensure effective talent management, it was vital for HR professionals to engage in strategic-level planning. “Workforce planning provides the basis for better decision-making to meet the future needs of the business in terms of its people resource. While some organisations have these processes in place, for many there is still a ‘knowing-doing’ gap,” she added.

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