Engagement biggest priority for HR

More than half (62%) of organisations surveyed say employee engagement is their top HR priotity in 2013, according to research by law firm Speechly Bircham and King’s College London.

However, the State of HR survey 2013: recovery in sight?, which polled more than 300 HR professionals across 13 industry sectors, also found that only 53% of respondents measure employee engagement in their organisation.

The research also found:

  • 26% of respondents plan to focus HR resources on health and wellbeing in 2013.
  • 39% of respondents reported an increased focus on training and development in 2012, while 53% expect an increase in 2013.
  • 24% of respondents said that presenteeism is a significant HR issue, while 13% of respondents actually monitor this.
  • 65% of respondents said performance management is the major issue facing their HR function in 2013.
  • 19% of respondents have retained a default retirement age (DRA), despite it being abolished on 1 October 2011.

Robert Thomas, employment partner at Speechly Bircham and co-author of the research, said: “The continuing pressure on employees to work harder and longer with no additional reward is clearly linked to significant people management issues for [organisations], including stress, presenteeism, absenteeism, employment relations problems and grievances.

“All of these issues have increased again this year, impacting significantly on productivity and causing a host of other complications in both the short and long term.

“It is clear that older employees working beyond the normal retirement age is a potentially powerful solution to skills shortages, so it is disappointing that organisations continue to overlook such a valuable resource. It is quite easy to envisage the creative opportunities presented by four generations working alongside each other, as well as some interesting management challenges.”

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Stuart Woollard, director of King’s College’s management learning board and co-author of the research, added: “While some findings echo cautious optimism that economic recovery may be in sight, our survey again highlights a deeply unsettling work environment with organisations, made up of lean workforces, pushing their employees even harder.

“Worryingly, while the management of performance and employee engagement are top priorities for 2013, our findings suggest that many organisations have a false picture of workforce wellbeing, with many using poor and flimsy evidence as the basis for making critical management decisions.”