Employee engagement and productivity biggest HR challenges for UK, report finds

Low employee engagement and lagging productivity is the greatest HR challenge facing UK employers in 2013, according to research from talent and career management company, Right Management.

The global research found this was the key concern for one in three (31%) of UK HR professionals, compared to a global average of one in five (21%) HR professionals. The research suggests after years of economic uncertainty and doing 'more with less', the UK workforce has reached a productivity impasse.

The research of 2,600 senior HR executives across 14 countries found the UK's concerns about staff engagement and productivity levels were in sharp contrast to other countries and emerging markets in particular.

In China, employee engagement was seen as the biggest challenge for only 11% of respondents and this figure drops even lower in Brazil, to just 8%. Out of the 14 countries surveyed, the UK's pessimism was only beaten by Belgium where 35% of HR professionals cited productivity and staff engagement as their greatest challenge.

The research also found UK HR executives held a particularly austere view of hiring intentions and growth in comparison to most territories outside Europe.

Just a third (31%) of UK HR professionals expect 2013 to be a year of growth and recovery marked by stepped up investments in new talent development initiatives; 31% expect this year will be similar to 2012 with sluggish or postponed HR initiatives and a further third (31%) expect the year to be marked by general stagnation.

In contrast, HR professionals in emerging economies have a significantly more positive outlook on the months ahead, with 78% of HR professionals in India, 70% in China and 66% in Brazil expecting growth and investment in new talent development.

Mark Hodgson, talent management practice leader, Right Management, said: "There's a stark contrast between levels of optimism and engagement in the UK and Europe, compared to the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

"It seems many organisations in the UK are still stuck in recession mode but the fact is, the economy is in recovery. Businesses need to start talking about growth and start investing in and inspiring their workforce; putting talent initiatives on hold simply isn't an option."

He added: "Pressing pause will only lead to more stagnation and make it even more difficult for employees to find meaning in their work and make a real contribution to the business.

"Now more than ever, it's time for organisations to take stock of their talent management initiatives and make sure they have the right processes in place to make staff feel engaged in the business and confident in their career trajectories."