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The Talent Revolution: Making the future of work succeed

Sigmar’s Malwina King on highlights of the latest Sigmar & EY Talent Leaders Pulse Survey

The largest survey of its kind, 302 talent leaders from across Ireland took part in the survey, which focused on key talent themes and priorities for the year ahead. The respondents comprised of senior executives responsible for talent decision making within their respective organisations, ranging from CHRO’s, CEO’s, HR Directors to Heads of HR functions such as learning and development, recruitment, organisational development and performance management.

The 2019 Talent Leader Pulse Survey has revealed some very interesting trends among Irish employers, including:

  • 75 per cent of employees expect a pay rise on 2019
  • 61 per cent of employees are likely to receive an average of 9% pay rise this year
  • Increased dependency on hiring form overseas, due to the saturation of the Irish labour market (59 per cent expect to hire more staff international in 2019 than in 2018)
  • Employers remain confident, 23 per cent would anticipate an increase in headcount and 64% would anticipate no impact on headcount as a result of a no-deal Brexit (13 per cent expect a decrease headcount)
  • Corporate citizenship (influencing change in society) is fast becoming a key driver for talent
  • Redeployment and rise in contingent workforce expected as employers invest more in technology

Talent Supply Chain

“This is our third year surveying our talent leader community and it’s clear that the rate of change has accelerated considerably over that period as the workforce is being impacted by augmentation and the continued tightening of the labour market.” As the talent crisis deepens, employers are increasingly widening their supply chain of talent to include contingent workers and investing in technology to ensure productivity”. With 67 per cent of employers investing in automation to improve company performance, it’s expected that 34 per cent will redeploy talent as a result this year.

As the talent landscape changes, organisational structures have become more agile and are more reliant on collaboration amongst a digital, transient workforce, with 69 per cent of employers expecting employees to spend more time on collaboration, work based social media and messaging platforms in the coming year. In contrast respondants replied that only 49 per cent of leadership are seen to facilitate true collaboration. Creating a collaborative culture, requires investment in rich connectivity that allows immediate and active engagement amongst increasingly dispersed teams, to perform.


Talent Supply Chain Key Findings

  • 82 per cent of the survey workforce is made up of permanent employees (down from 86 per cent in 2018)
  • 67 per cent expect this percentage to stay the same or decrease in 2019
  • Contingent workforce is set to increase: Contract Labour by 49 per cent, temporary workforce by 42 per cent, freelance by 19 per cent and Gig workers by 9 per cent


When asked to rank priorities for the year ahead, attracting and retaining talent came out on top, challenges that have remained consistent as crucial over the last three years. “It’s clear that recruitment and retention remain key priorities, forcing employers to look overseas and to contingent labour pools to meet demand.” There is growing pressure on costs with 75 per cent of employees expecting a pay rise in 2019 and employers stating that 61 per cent are likely to receive and average of 9 per cent increase this year. “This level of wage inflation is unsustainable and is slowly eroding our labour competitiveness, driving employers to seek efficiencies through technology and to expand on-demand labour such as freelancers and gig workers.” Interestingly employers still rely on traditional CVs ahead of social profiles as a preferred method to assess talent when recruiting. Confidence amongst employers remain high, even in light of economic uncertainties, with 64 per cent of employers expecting no impact on 2019 headcount in a no-deal Brexit scenario and 23 per cent of respondents anticipating an increase.

Recruitment Key Findings

  • 59 per cent expect to hire more staff from overseas in 2019 than in 2018
  • 74 per cent of employers are exploring alternative benefits as a way to recruit (and retain) employees
  • The traditional CV is seen as the most impactful way to assess new hires, followed by competency interview and cultural fit. Social profiles ranks as the seventh most impactful of 12 listed.
  • 26 per cent of those survey use some form of AI, automation, robotics to recruit (increase from 20 per cent in 2018 survey)
  • One in five hires were actively headhunted
  • 70 per cent have structures in place to enable unbiased assessment


The leadership agenda once again is presenting significant challenges and opportunities for employers. This is manifesting itself in organisations moving to frontline leadership and more agile structures, where leadership is seen as an action and no longer a function. With the decentralisation of leadership, there is a heightened focus on development of leadership to lead through complexity in a rapidly changing, diverse, digital time. This is seen in the results with 7 per cent of organisations having leadership development programmes in place. This year we see an emerging focus on “corporate citizenship” as being a key driver for employees, where influencing societal change helps build trust and a heightened sense of purpose amongst the workforce. 75 per cent of HR professionals believe it is important for employees to see leaders drive and influence societal change

Making the Future of Work, Work

Niamh O’Beirne, Partner, People Advisory Services, EY

The ever-intensifying war for talent is beginning to tighten its grip on organisations in Ireland. With the Irish economy heading towards full employment, attraction and retention are now the top priorities not just of HR leaders, but across the C-Suite. Employers are reacting by implementing innovative initiatives that boost their competitiveness, helping copper-fasten their existing talent pool, and increasing their ability to attract new people through their doors.

It’s no surprise that scarcity of supply of talent is driving salaries upwards, but we are also seeing a real drive towards alternative and innovative solutions to filling the talent gap, including increased use of contingent labour and investment in automation.

The move towards a non-traditional future workforce can be challenging. In a disrupted business landscape, it’s critical your organisation has the right size, shape, diversity of skills and capabilities. Strategic workforce planning has never been more crucial. Harnessing the power of people analytics to understand the true demand and supply of your labour force, and strategic use of technology should form the cornerstone of today’s workforce planning.

Learning and Development

As careers pivot as quickly as technology, employers are being tasked to re-skill in real time to rapidly redeploy and retain talent. On the other hand, employees are increasingly expecting hand curated, constant on-job learning. Against this backdrop the survey found that 53 per cent of respondents have “always on” learning platforms with 39 per cent allowing for employees to curate bespoke programmes. As developing talent becomes a growing part of the talent ecosystem, 37 per cent of those surveyed have a structured academy, apprenticeship or corporate university model. King comments, “it’s encouraging to see that 70 per cent of respondents describe themselves as having a learning culture”.

Top HR Priorities for 2019

  1. Retaining talent
  2. Attracting key talent
  3. Leadership development and succession planning
  4. Employee wellbeing
  5. Performance and reward
  6. Creating a more connected, collaborative workforce
  7. Designing an agile organisation for high performance
  8. Developing human skills and competencies through more agile learning
  9. Better use of people analytics to drive talent decision making
  10. Creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce
  11. Preparation for Gender Pay Gap Disclosure
  12. Citizenship and social impact
  13. Contingency planning for a Hard Brexit
  14. Implement/use artificial intelligence/automation/robotics