2012 European Human Resources Barometer shows that people still come first despite tough economic climate and pressure on cost reduction


Respondents to the Seventh European HR Barometer maintain bold human capital plans for 2012

Brussels, 9 March 2012 – The 7th HR Barometer study, designed and carried out for the European Club for human resources (EChr) by Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation (NYSE:AON), has revealed that Europe’s human resource leaders are still maintaining ambitious people development plans despite a deterioration of the economic climate and pressures on cost reduction.
Leonardo Sforza, chair of the EChr Scientific Committee and author of the study, said: 

“The slow and painful road to economic recovery is not discouraging successful multinationals from continuing to invest in their human capital and from demonstrating the belief that their people remain the most powerful engine for sustainable growth and innovation.

“The relatively high proportion of European HR leaders who plan in 2012 to create new job opportunities and learning and development programmes for their existing workforces is a positive sign. We must hope these plans will not be undermined by a further deterioration of the economic climate”

Leonardo Sforza added:

“There is a worrisome increase of negative opinions expressed by HR leaders vis-à-vis EU policies. In a context that requires better cooperation and interaction between EU policy makers and business to improve growth prospects and employment this is another alarming signal for Brussels based institutions. Meanwhile people managers are willing to play an active role within their organisation to reduce unemployment of young people and fulfil the gap of talent that continue to undermine the ability of multinational to innovate and growth their business. They call for bold action from policy makers at the national and EU level to support corporate investment in human capital, notably subsidising new opportunities for corporate internship”.

Key results of this year’s study include:

HR and youth unemployment

Almost all HR leaders surveyed – except a mere 2 percent – consider that their company has a role to play in tackling the unemployment of young people and they recognise that this should not be only the responsibility of public authorities. The top three measures indicated by at least half of respondents are related to:

– fostering partnership with education and training institutions towards more relevant curricula;

– new opportunities for training and corporate internship;

– making information on open positions more accessible and transparent.

78 percent of HR leaders also indicated their openness to creating additional traineeship opportunities within the company, notably in cases where public support focuses on wage subsidies for trainees.

HR and the European Union

For the second consecutive year, HR executives who expressed a generally positive perception of the impact of the EU are no longer the absolute majority, while the relative minority of those with a negative opinion increases. Trust in the European Union remains at the low end of the trust index with only 6 per cent of respondents naming the Eu among the most trusted people and organisations. The own government of respondents scores better with 12 per cent of favourable votes. The wish list of HR leaders for top EU policy priorities include: the recasting of European labour laws into a consolidated and simplified code, a growth plan fostering education, innovation and research; and action to improve cross-border work force mobility.

Growth prospects

The majority of HR professionals across Europe expect the impact of the downturn on business results to continue, but only one-third of respondents believe HR programmes will be affected. Revenues and investment are expected to grow for at least two out of three respondents to the study, but more moderately than last year. The proportion of companies with growth targets above 10 percent has also shrunk, down to

28 percent compared to 35 percent in 2011, but it is still much higher than in 2010 and 2009. Meanwhile, 67 per cent of companies expect to see more of their revenue coming from markets outside Europe, in particular from China, Brazil, and the Middle East

Despite a gloomier macro-economic climate, the proportion of companies that expects to add new jobs in 2012 has increased to 47 percent and overtakes the number of companies foreseeing a reduction of their workforce (31 percent).

Most influential policy drivers for human resource policies

This year, “cost sensitivity” regains the place of most influential factor when designing HR policies. The difficulty of having a suitably qualified labour force or in finding the right talent in the right place, followed by challenging productivity and profit targets, make up the top tier of the list. More astonishing is the very limited consideration given to emerging social and political factors such as:

– perceived increased inequalities in society by public opinion at large

– increase of retirement age

– the call for higher ethical standards in business

– the expanding role of social networks

These factors are likely to have a much greater impact on management policies than indicated by HR leaders in the survey.

Short and medium-term HR policy priorities

In the short-term, the greatest emphasis for new measures planned in 2012 will be on learning and development programmes (the priority for 69 percent of respondents), followed by actions aiming to reward employee performance more effectively. Less frequent but still indicated in the top 12 ranking, were actions encouraging the financial participation of employees in business results (21 percent), actions in favour of complementary health care (19 percent) and pension arrangements (13 percent).

For the longer term (up to 2014) the range of priorities on the HR agenda is much broader and diversified than was the case in previous editions of the study. Nevertheless, the ranking of the top three priorities is confirmed again this year, pointing to: leadership development (mentioned by 46 percent), employee engagement (37 percent) and talent retention (37 percent). The most notable variation compared to last year relates to the second tier of priorities, headed by succession planning, measurement and rewarding of employee performance, and IT system integration for HR .

– ends –

Notes to editors

About the European HR Barometer

The survey covers European trends related to:

– Recent business achievements and new prospects on results, investments and employment;

– Business drivers of the HR function and top priorities for the years ahead;

– Impact of HR activities on business performance and ways to improve it;

– Future changes foreseen by HR; and

– HR leaders’ views on relevant European Union (EU) activities.

Survey participants were HR directors and HR board members from 13 different nationalities of leading companies with substantial operations in Europe. 52 organisations, 62% of which are listed companies, completed the survey. They employ more than 2.4 million people in total and generated revenues in excess of 517 billion euros.

About the European Club for human resources (EChr)

The Club was launched in 2001 by senior executives of global corporations with a European headquarter and which are market leaders in their sector of economic activity. The mission of the Club is to stimulate debates and exchange of practices on Human Resources issues. Through its studies, working groups and seminars, the Club contributes to promote a European approach to the management of HR and support the strategic role of HR executives in the management of change.

For more information contact : Dasha Bespyatova Tel: +32 (0) 2 213 62 71 – http://www.europeanclub-hr.eu

About Aon Hewitt
Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource consulting and outsourcing solutions. The company partners with organisations to solve their most complex benefits, talent and related financial challenges, and improve business performance. Aon Hewitt designs, implements, communicates and administers a wide range of human capital, retirement, investment management, health care, compensation and talent management strategies. With more than 29,000 professionals in 90 countries, Aon Hewitt makes the world a better place to work for clients and their employees. For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit http://www.aonhewitt.com.

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