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04/7 2013

60% of Employers Have Trouble Attracting Critical Skill Workers

In a market full of job seekers, the majority of North American employers have trouble attracting critical skill workers, according to the 2011/2012 Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Study.   This study included data collected from 316 organizations in a wide variety of industries.

According to the study, this problem is seen as continuing beyond the economic recovery, which will make the retention of specific employee groups a top business priority.

In tough economic times, it is important for employers to identify the critical talent in their organization and ensure that they are rewarded for their contributions in a way that is important to them.    The study identifies critical skill employees as those who possess skills the organization needs most to compete, and those whose contributions contribute most to the organization’s overall success.   While this may seem an obvious area of need, the study found that only 44% of organizations identify such critical skill employees.

Employers continue to react to economic uncertainty by tightening merit budgets while expecting more work hours from their employees.  However, these expectations can affect the work/life balance of critical skill employees, which can lead to lower retention of these employees.

The study identified three key principles that are related to an organization’s ability to retain critical skill employees:

  1. Integration — this involves ensuring that all reward and talent management programs align with each other, as well as with the overall business strategy of the organization.   This involves ensuring that the critical skills needed by the organization are understood and documented, and that systems and methods exist for recognizing and rewarding these skills
  2. Segmentation — this involves crafting different reward and recognition systems for different parts of the organization.  Specifically, by understanding which employees have the most impact on the bottom line and constructing programs to reward and retain these employees, organizations can maximize their return on investment and be successful.
  3. Agility — this refers to the organization’s ability to quickly develop plans and strategies to meet changing business or economic conditions .  Examples might include flexible benefits, comp time, alternative work schedules, or telecommuting.

The study found that organizations following the above principles were over twice as likely to be seen as high-performing companies.  Such organizations are seen as having less trouble attracting and retaining critical skill employees.

An overview of this study was provided in the January 2012 edition of Florida Trend magazine.  A full copy of the research study is available by going to



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