Ironic as it may be, despite record-high unemployment and the perception of a surplus of talent, human resources (HR) professionals may be forced to choose from limited quantities of high-skilled workers, a new Deloitte study shows. Moreover, the widening skills gap may put the country’s ability to compete globally in a vulnerable position.

The 2012 Top Five Total Rewards Survey from Deloitte and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS) reveals talent as the most significant challenge to organizations over the next three years. One quarter of all survey respondents expressed concerns about talent, particularly the shortage, motivating and retaining talent — a substantial increase over 16 percent last year. Talent shortage concerns are highest among insurance and professional services firms.

“The survey exposes a widening gap between the dwindling supply of skilled workers in America and the growing demands of the modern workplace,” said David Lusk, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and author of the report. “A key challenge ahead for employers will be working to help close this skills gap to maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.”

The 2012 Top Five Total Rewards Survey was conducted by Deloitte in conjunction with the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS). The survey reveals talent as the most significant challenge to organizations over the next three years. One quarter of all survey respondents expressed concerns about talent shortage and motivating and retaining talent. The survey’s 330 respondents ranked the top five priorities for 2012 as follows:

  • The cost of providing health care benefits to active employees
  • The willingness or ability of employees to pay for benefit plan coverage and to manage their own reward budget
  • The ability of reward programs to attract, motivate and retain the talented employees needed to effectively run the organization
  • The ability to adjust to and comply with current and future provisions of health care reform legislation
  • Clear alignment of Total Rewards strategy with business strategy and brand

Report highlights

Job security: 45 percent are worried about the future of their own job security.

Health care: 48 percent of those surveyed seem to be taking a “wait and see” approach, indicating no plans to make any changes to their coverage. Of those planning to make changes, 17 percent are simply looking to avoid the new mandates by making plans to consider dropping employer-sponsored coverage for full-time employees and pay the penalties. Another 37 percent are planning to maintain their grandfathered health plans as long as possible and 23 percent are considering reducing the hours below the threshold for part-time employees to avoid mandatory health coverage.

Retirement readiness: 83 percent of respondents said they continue to be concerned about their ability to afford retirement and post-retirement health care. More than 40 percent of all respondents plan to delay their retirement. 36 percent plan to provide employees with better tools for their retirement planning.

Employer vs. employee: Employees ranked health care costs fifth overall while employers ranked it the number one Total Rewards challenge. For employees financial concerns, such as affording retirement, inflation, job security and investment performance, dominated personal challenges. In contrast, employers are focused on more strategic concerns around talent, health care reform and rewards program strategy and alignment.

Additional findings

  • 85 percent of respondents believe benefit costs per employee will rise over the next five years as a result of PPACA.
  • 68 percent of employers surveyed are planning to redesign their Rewards Program expect to re-evaluate their benefits strategy in light of PPACA.
  • 70 percent are considering expanded wellness programs to help manage health care costs.
  • 1 in 5 organizations has integrated social media into their Total Rewards communication campaigns.
  • Outsourcing is gaining high marks among employers, but organizations are still looking for improvements.

Original Sources: Market Watch (Wall Street Journal) and Deloitte 2012 Top Five Total Rewards Priorities Survey