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June 25, 2002
News From the SHRM Conference
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LADELPHIA - The Society for Human Resource Management is using its 54th-annual conference and exposition being held here through Wednesday - to release the results of two new surveys.

One, concerning demographic trends, finds that U.S. employers already have been impacted by changes in the makeup of the workforce.

The other reveals that character and performance appear to be the common traits for leadership in organizations, regardless of location, industry, or business size.

About 450 HR professionals participated in the SHRM 2002 Workplace Demographic Trends Survey, which asked respondents to describe how their workplaces have been impacted by a workforce that is aging, more ethnically diverse, increasingly composed of non-traditional families, and more open to the idea of women taking jobs traditionally held by males.

More than two-thirds of the respondents, 67 percent, reported that these trends already have had some impact on the workplace. Nearly all, 94 percent, predicted some level of impact in the next five years.

"Employers will need to make changes to accommodate the needs of the workforce in the future," said Debra Cohen, SHRM's director of research. "Some of the old rules will no longer apply, and businesses will need to adapt to succeed."

When asked what they see as the key trends that will impact their business, society, and the HR profession in the next six to 12 months, respondents indicated that health care costs, as well as issues related to diversity, training, and the aging of the population were of most concern.

With regard to changes respondents are already seeing in their workplace due to an aging population, 82 percent saw an increase in health insurance costs and 58 percent saw an increase in the need for retirement planning. More than half (57 percent) reported an increase in the need for training or retraining employees or in the occurrence of employee stress (54 percent).

Many respondents reported seeing changes with regard to an increasingly diverse population. Half (52 percent) said they see a need for tolerance of employees of different backgrounds and 41 percent saw a need for diversity training.

With women comprising nearly half of the workforce, 66 percent of the HR professionals responding noted the need for flexibility surrounding various family issues as an impact of this demographic shift. Another 44 percent reported both an increase in the need for reduced work hours and increased use of flextime.

Census figures show that "non-traditional families" are growing with married couples with children accounting for less than a quarter of U.S. households.
Many employers are noticing changes as a result of this shift in family structure. More than half of respondents (54 percent) noted an increase in the need for awareness of different types of families and their issues. Forty-four percent and 32 percent respectively saw increase in absenteeism and also in resentment among child-free employees.

No substitute for character and getting it done

Meanwhile, SHRM's 2002 Global Leadership Survey, conducted in conjunction with the SHRM Global Forum, examined the different characteristics and traits that are viewed as the most commonly effective traits for organizational leaders to possess. It also tried to identify the resources that organizations use to identify and develop future leaders.

The results indicate that organizations worldwide have similarities in the characteristics wanted from a leader, but how the organization determines and develops those leadership traits is quite diverse. The results are based on the responses of 426 HR professionals, of which the respondents were divided nearly evenly between domestic and international firms.

Desired skills and characteristics in leaders were differentiated in the survey by the following categories: domestic and international organizations, organization size, industry, and regions of the world. Overall, 85 percent of respondents indicated performance was the most important trait for a leader, followed by character (82 percent), adaptability to different situations (78 percent), flexibility (78 percent) and persistence (78 percent).

In the United States, however, respondents indicated that character, performance, flexibility, ethical standards, and adaptability were the most important attributes for a leader.

Most organizations also share a variety of tools to identify future leaders of the organization. Overall, 67 percent of respondents stated that future leaders were identified by management recommendation, 65 percent use a performance management process and 49 said senior management selects potential candidates.

Once high-potential leaders are identified, organizations appear to use different methods to develop them. Fifty-seven percent of respondents stated that their organizations utilized external leadership development training programs provided by universities, executive education, or professional organizations. Approximately half (51 percent) employ an internal leadership development training program in-house. Also, 48 percent of respondents said their organizations use temporary stretch assignments to help individuals develop new skills and competencies, while 47 percent said they use international assignments to gain diverse experiences.

"One key difference we noted between U.S. and international organizations was in their selection of senior management," Cohen added. "Roughly half of the US based organizations said they choose a local national as their senior manager. Conversely, only 38 percent of international organizations do the same. As organizations become global in nature, it is key differences like this that could determine the success and competitiveness of a business."

Additional information regarding the selection of senior management is as follows: 44 percent of senior managers are from the local country, 28 percent are from the country of the firm's headquarters, 6 percent are from a third country and 22 percent represent a mix of the local, headquarters and third countries. The international firms are significantly more likely to have a headquarters national (34 percent) serve as the senior manager in each country in which they operate as opposed to domestic, U.S.-based, firms (22 percent).
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