From Singapore to Lisbon to Washington, HR challenges are the same

As part of its 2008 Global Human Capital Study, IBM polled senior HR executives in more than 400 private sector companies in 40 countries. Federal human capital professionals might find certain of the study’s outcomes interesting.

Take the executives’ responses to the question “What do you see as the primary workforce-related issues facing (your) organization?” Here are the most frequently cited issues, listed in order:

  • Inability to rapidly develop skills to address current/future business needs.
  • Lack of leadership capability.
  • Employee skills not aligned with current organizational priorities.
  • Inability to collaborate/share knowledge across the organization.
  • Inability to attract qualified candidates.
  • Inability to build an engaged/motivated workforce.
  • Inability to retain key employees.

A brief exercise. Let me propose an instructive little pen-and-paper exercise here. Without looking at the bullet points above, make your own list of the most important workforce priorities for government human capital managers. And then rate your agency or department on how well it addresses the priorities on your list.

Now reread the list from the IBM study: strategic skills development, leadership, strategic business alignment, collaboration and knowledge management, recruiting, employee engagement, retention. I’ll bet that most of these issues — with the possible exception of knowledge management — appear in your priorities list too. What’s more, if you were to write a functional description of the human capital mission in any government agency, which of these priorities could you possibly leave out?

The point in all this? Your agency’s most vexing workforce issues are just as insistent for your private sector counterparts, and they’re essentially the same around the globe. The positive thinkers among you might find this encouraging. For one thing, there’s certainly a much deeper pool of best practice models to emulate, since HR pros worldwide are grappling every day with these challenges. On the other hand, how comforting is it to realize that virtually everyone in the profession of human capital management is in the same pickle?

Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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