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RISMEDIA, January 30, 2010—Since initiating its year-long study of global talent trends and strategies, Deloitte reveals in its latest research report that economic optimism has reached its highest level among surveyed executives since the study’s inception. According to Deloitte’s December 2009 survey, more than one-third of the 335 surveyed executives now believe the worst of the recession is behind us as companies look to move forward to find the right balance between offensive and defensive talent strategies.

“Looking into the recovery, companies can no longer depend on the recession as their primary retention strategy for keeping critical employees,” said Jeff Schwartz, principal, Human Capital, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “We expect executives to continue to shift their talent portfolios from ‘defensive’ measures, such as cutting headcount and focusing primarily on costs, to ‘offensive’ programs, including retention of critical leaders and workers and increased spending on training and development with a focus on leadership. In addition, our research shows that companies committed to world class leadership programs maintained their focus during the recession and are continuing to invest in developing new career paths for their top performers and to cherry-pick the best talent available in the marketplace.”

Since January 2009, Deloitte has been conducting a longitudinal survey to gauge how senior executives and talent managers are positioning their workforces, both in deep recession and emerging recovery. The results of the December survey- the final edition in Deloitte’s year-long, longitudinal survey of global talent trends and strategies- revealed the following key findings:

Companies are (Cautiously) Optimistic
In December, more than one-third (35%) of the executives surveyed predicted the worst of the economic crisis is behind us- the highest level of economic confidence since the survey began in January 2009. Cutting and managing costs remains the top strategic issue for the executives surveyed in December, just as it has in every previous survey. However, 50% of surveyed executives named “acquiring/serving/retaining” customers as a strategic issue capturing the most management attention.

Talent Priorities are Shifting, Albeit Slowly
Reducing employee headcount remained the leading current talent priority, ranked No. 1 by 35% of the executives and talent managers who participated in this survey, followed by retention (28%) and training and development (25%). A ranking of talent priorities over the next three months produced a virtual dead heat, with reducing employee headcount at 31%, training and development at 29% and retention at 27%. Heading into the first quarter of 2010, only 39% of talent managers and executives who participated in this survey anticipate additional layoffs in the next three months, compared to 51% who see no layoffs on the horizon.

Training and Development Yield World-Class Talent
More than four in 10 executives surveyed expect their companies to increase programs aimed at developing high potential employees (47%) and cultivating corporate leaders (43%). Nearly three-quarters of surveyed executives believe that leadership development was either critically important (27%) or very important (45%) at their companies. And, an overwhelming eight out of 10 either agreed (55%) or strongly agreed (25%) that their companies have a clear leadership development strategy. Despite near universal agreement on the importance of leadership programs, surveyed executives do not have a high sense of confidence about their efforts in this area. Only 10% of survey participants describe their leadership initiatives as “world-class across the board.”

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