Almost half (45%) of UK HR professionals and senior leaders expect 2014 to be a year of growth marked by increased spending on talent management initiatives, according to Talent Management: Accelerating Business Performance, a global survey by Right Management, the career and talent management experts within ManpowerGroup.

More than 2,200 HR professionals and senior leaders globally participated in the survey (including 150 in the UK), which identified a growing optimism and focus on investing in talent rather than further cutbacks and restructuring. This was further reinforced by 40% of respondents agreeing that senior management ‘gets’ the connection between investing in talent management and its business impact.

However, despite this renewed optimism there are clear challenges ahead. Globally, one in two respondents reported that their executives are only ‘somewhat confident’ that these efforts are paying off and 15% of UK respondents said that their senior management team is pressing for more rigorous measurement on the business impact of talent management initiatives.

Ian Symes, General Manager, Right Management UK & Ireland comments: “It’s encouraging that senior decision-makers recognise the value of talent management, but these efforts could be undermined if programmes don’t deliver clear business results. A one-size fits all approach won’t work for individuals and it won’t deliver ROI. Instead, businesses need to take time to assess the talent they have, identify the talent they need and from the resulting gap analysis, create a roadmap for talent management that supports individuals and the overall business direction.”

Right Management’s survey identified that leadership development was a key priority for over half (54%) of UK organisations but, currently, just 17% of UK organisations seek to identify key contributors and target them for development. This is particularly low when compared to the Americas where 30% of organisations are making a distinct effort to identify their key contributors.

Symes concludes: “The success of any talent management programme starts with talent assessment. You cannot ignite change without first understanding the skills, behaviours and challenges that already exist in the business. With so many companies facing talent shortages, skills mismatches and weak leadership pipelines there has never been a more pressing time for businesses to assess the competencies they need to develop today to build the business of tomorrow.”

Three key ways in which organisations can assess their talent:

Competency Modelling

Competency modelling identifies the knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, motivations and personality traits an organisation’s workforce must develop to realise future and present goals. Competency models can provide organisations with accurate criteria for optimising talent management as well as talent assessment, hiring, redeployment, succession management and promotion systems, and should be regularly refreshed to take business changes into account.

Organisational Assessment

This assessment provides a clear understanding of how factors such as strategy, communications, leadership skills, employee processes, engagement levels, retention rates and cultural alignment drive productivity and performance. This data can then be used to increase employee engagement and retention, improve productivity and support the realisation of business goals.

Individual and team assessment

The entire organisation can benefit when individuals are developed, based on accurate and in-depth assessment of that person’s current ability and future potential. This form of assessment can be based on competencies and behaviours and is a key step for identifying high-potential individuals.