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The Boomer Bulletin - 2011
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2012 Talent Development Outlook

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Monday, December 12, 2011
The dawn of a new year enables firms to establish new strategies as well as instilling 
a new sense of urgency for opportunities. As firm leaders begin to set their agenda, now is the time to look ahead at the trends that will drive your talent initiatives in 2012.

In 2012, firms will seek to return to higher profits.  More emphasis will be placed on higher production and getting the most from the established group of core talent that we have recruited and developed.  The beginning to the middle of the year may see a continuation from the previous year. However, as the economy gains momentum, trust will return and ultimately will bring more activity to our industry. 

More activity will bring a list of strategic objectives that every firm will need to consider thoughtfully as they work to strengthen their talent initiatives.  

  1. Dealing with survivorship – A concern of many employees’ that has not been addressed in most firms is the feeling of survivorship from the mass terminations during the recession. Many of these individuals have been busy producing, and for some producing more than was expected before the downsizing.  There is now a feeling of being overworked and underappreciated.  The amount of work that has consumed our talent pool has left little time to learn new skills, communicate effectively and concentrate on projects.  The feeling of un-ease may create an environment where the team may quietly start looking for other opportunities, expecting an adjustment in their compensation or the expectation that management needs to hire additional staff to help relieve the workload pressure.
  2. Slow return to hiring, faster return to productivity – With many partners concerned about profits, hiring will return, but very slowly.  Firms did not like to "trim” so they want to be sure that they need the new staff long term before making the decision to add staff.  In fact, many firms are choosing to hire temporary workers to fill voids in short-term projects, primarily to keep overall expenses down including benefit costs.  The lack of mid-level talent will also play a role in the outlook for 2012.   This could mean losing some of your mid-level team if they do not feel as if they are being treated fairly or the ability to hire a new team member as individuals start to feel more comfortable with the economy.  
  3. Training and self-development – A tremendous amount of money was spent on training and development prior to the recession. However, during the recession, many firms reduced their training professionals or stopped training initiatives as they contained expenses.  The return to normalcy in the training arena will be very slow and may never return to pre-recession levels.  In many cases firms had a difficult time seeing the return on their investment.  However, firms are already beginning to change their strategy in this area as they see the need to develop their talent for succession purposes.  They are becoming motivated due to the questions that are being asked by highly qualified candidates who expect – and in some cases demand – a training plan before they join the firm.  Firm leaders are re-investing in the learning and training initiatives within the firm.
  4. Leadership challenges – During the 1960’s through 1980’s succession planning was a major initiative in firms. The story of starting out as a staff accountant and climbing to the partner level was not only a dream but also reality. Presently there is a distinct lack of succession planning in firms of all sizes. This issue has created a dire shortage of leaders and future leaders. Without proper leadership, firms lack strategy and direction. There is an increasing need for written succession plans for each leader as well as a well thought out development plan – including sponsorship of the super stars to insure the future of the firm is protected. 
  5. Accountability – The lack of setting and meeting firm goals has stressed leadership. Good times of the past   allowed for flexibility. However, as profits tighten and time seemed to be scarce, the lack of accountability sunk even lower.  As we look ahead, great leaders understand that developing goals, sharing the overall plan with the team and then holding everyone – especially the partners – accountable to the goals leaders required managers to tighten controls. Difficult times require a return to fundamentals and more stringency for managing by objectives. 
  6. Customer service – Technology and globalization has increased competition. Client to client influences are more prevalent than ever. With the popularization of social media, client testimonials can either elevate the brand or simply implode it in the blink of an eye.  Firms have been slow to determine that the purpose of business is the acquisition and retention of clients. In fact, it is the competitive differentiator. Firms will work very hard on the organizational culture and interactions with clients. The impact will reap huge benefits for the bottom line.
  7. Frugality versus extravagance – Without sounding trite, desperate times requires desperate measures. Yet the return to better times will not necessitate a return to bigger spending.  Firms previously spent unwisely on travel, meetings and other expenses. The New Year will be a continuance of frugality. Leaders realize that the pre-recession extravagance led to similar results experienced during lean times. Frugal with a slant toward "investment spending” will be the theme for 2012.  Investment in training, salary increases and re-establishment of bonus plans will return.
  8. Turnover – The new economic climate provides more opportunity for expansion. Surviving employees, new talent and simply those desiring change will leave their firms creating an intense drain on knowledge and production for some and an opportunity to strengthen for others.  To insure that your firm ends up on the right end of the spectrum, identifying what your talent pool values is important.  Focus groups, stay interviews and continued communication and training will be imperative.  If your employees don’t find what they want in your firm, they will most assuredly find it in your competitors.
  9. Ethics - Simply mention the names Bernie Madoff and the Lehman Brothers and the first word that comes to mind is ethics. Ethics are the nexus of any firm. There will be an increase in employee background checks, training and development and hiring of human resources professionals to maintain compliance. The client-to-client influences are too strong to dismiss this vital issue.
  10. Optimism - First and foremost, the New Year brings the opportunity to look ahead to better times. The choice is yours, develop strategies around your talent that will brighten your future or be left behind in a highly competitive environment.
An excellent opportunity to get off to a great start in 2012 is to consider sending your Administrative Partner, COO, Firm Administrator or Training Professional to  "The Talent Development Advantage” on February 28 and 29, 2012.  Go to and check out all of the details of this amazing event.   

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