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HR professionals faced with skills shortage and CEO disconnect, reports Harvey Nash HR Survey 2016

Talent management, recruitment and employee engagement - top three priorities

Hong Kong - January 15, 2016 - Despite boards consistently ranking human capital as a top priority, two thirds of HR professionals believe HR leaders are undervalued by the CEO.  Almost half (46 per cent) believe their function is considered less important to the board than the top financial leader such as the CFO. This is according to the sixth annual Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey, representing the views of over 1,250 HR leaders from more than 30 countries. 

There is a clear disconnect between the importance placed in human capital by boards, and the perceived value of HR.  More than six in every ten respondents (66 per cent) think their CEO undervalues HR leaders, however this is not reflected in the wider business.  65 per cent are happy with the image and reputation of their function, suggesting that, whilst operationally HR is performing well, its strategic value is not being fully realised by the leadership team.  Those in HR are split on how to solve this issue - 47 per cent think HR should do more for the business, 53 per cent think the business needs to do more for HR.

The top three HR priorities - talent management (61 per cent), employee engagement (60 per cent) and recruitment (58 per cent) - represent a 'back to basics' approach for the function. A significant shift in HR priorities has occurred over the last year. The board is increasingly asking HR to focus on recruitment, up seven per cent in the past 12 months, and leadership teams are managing their talent to ensure the workforce is engaged, and therefore retained. Employee retention and motivation, as well as training and education programmes, have taken up more of HR's time over the past 12 months, demonstrating that companies are investing in and protecting their greatest asset - their people.  

Less than a third of HR professionals are being asked to prioritise performance metrics, diversity, flexible employment and industrial relations, all of which have been trending downwards during the past three years.  The focus is now on getting back to basics with talent management as the biggest priority.

Tanya Lau, Director of the Consumer & Retail Practice APAC, Harvey Nash Executive Search said: "There is no doubt that boards see the people agenda as a key priority, however our survey results revealed that many CEOs are making important human capital decisions without the involvement of HR, because it is increasingly seen as an 'engine room' function. The economic outlook is uncertain and the Harvey Nash HR Survey 2016 highlights that HR is heading back to basics this year with a core focus on talent management, recruitment and employee engagement.  Despite this shift in priorities, over the six years we have conducted the Harvey Nash HR Survey, the HR function has become increasingly influential."

The survey also revealed that programmes aimed at developing employees for top roles have dropped - leadership capability initiatives fell by five per cent and management development initiatives dropped by four per cent - with HR focusing on the organisation as a whole and engaging employees at all levels. Time spent on employee retention and motivation is up five per cent since 2014 and culture development is up three per cent, possibly as a result of increased competition and skills shortages.

The increasing scarcity of talent still remains a significant issue for HR leaders. Recruitment challenges (58 per cent) and tight labour supply and skills shortages (44 per cent) are the top two trends HR professionals expect to encounter over the next two years. Concerns about talent immigration have also grown - rising from 12 per cent in 2014 to 19 per cent in 2015.  

Elsewhere in the Harvey Nash Human Resources Survey 2016:

IT grows in importance for HR - 60 per cent of HR professionals stated the importance of using management information systems (MIS) and data has increased in the past year, and 56 per cent think these technologies are very important when it comes to measuring HR performance and ROI 

Diversity is seen as less of a business priority - dropping two per cent this year with the majority of HR professionals (55 per cent) stating they have 'all' or 'most' diversity programmes in place, up slightly on last year. However, this suggests there has been little or no diversity progress for 45 per cent

Increased use of digital tools for recruitment - digital tools such as job boards, and social media saw the biggest growth in usage when it came to recruiting in the last year, jumping from 42 to 49 per cent, and 22 to 29 per cent respectively. However corporate websites declined in usage from 54 to 49 per cent. 


About the Survey
The Harvey Nash HR Survey 2016 collected data between 9th July and 6th November 2015 and represents the views of over 1,250 HR employees from more than 30 countries. Of the respondents, 8% identified themselves as Chief HR Officer, 15% as VP/Director of HR, 20% as Head of HRs and another 20% as Senior Manager HR, and the remaining 37% were spread between a broad range of roles including HR Business Partner and Talent Manager.
For more information about the survey including and to request a full copy of the results, please visit or email

About Harvey Nash
Harvey Nash has helped over half the world's leading companies recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive, global and technology driven world. With over 7,000 experts in more than 40 offices across Europe, Asia and the USA, we have the reach and resources of a global organisation, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers our people across the world to respond to constantly changing client needs. We work with clients, both large and small, to deliver a portfolio of services: executive search, professional recruitment and IT outsourcing.

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