To gain findings for the Emergenetics Industry Insights Survey, we surveyed more than 150 professionals from all levels and industries, to gain access to the brightest minds in training and development and talent management.

Every organization faces both unique and not-so-unique challenges on a daily basis. Overcoming many of these challenges—especially in areas like Management, HR, and Learning and Development—relies on understanding.

What is your top organizational priority for employee development in 2012?

Our final question cuts right to the heart of what we (and the industry itself) want to know—what are the most pressing and critical issues for organizations right now! We peered into the minds of HR and Organizational Development leaders and what we found was a clear indication of the importance of people development in all ways. The results for this question both resonate with the rest of our survey and paint a detailed picture of major trends within the training and development field.

Leadership development is the number one priority of HR and organizational development leaders, with 25% of respondents putting it at the top of their priority list. With organizations needing to meet ever higher financial goals and growth targets, the emphasis on people development provides a window into the way companies are seeing their ability to rise to the top.

An emphasis on talent development over competencies need metric points that show why positive advancements in organizations must start with people. The second highest response for organizational priority was employee engagement, with 22 % of respondents.

What is this telling us? Perhaps a trend towards realizing that the goals of an organization (innovation, growth, financial, etc.) can come through empowering all individuals within the organization to create action. Instead of top-down mandates or calls to innovate, empowering and engaging people begins with developing leaders who have a deep understanding of their staff, make decisions based on emotional intelligence, lead by example, and operate with transparency.

Additional research from HR Magazine highlights the link between developing strong leaders and how focusing on employee empowerment can create an environment that yields increased innovation. Research from SHRM goes a step further, showing that companies that create high employee engagement ultimately attain a clear competitive advantage.

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that innovation was cited as a top priority by just 12% of respondents (the low percentages in innovation are seen in the previous findings as well). The need for innovation is clear. In a fast-paced, globalized marketplace, the ability to come up with fresh, effective, and overall creative ideas can prove to be the difference between success and failure, and companies everywhere seem to be flaunting it, looking for it, or strengthening it. It seems surprising then, that only 12% of respondents put it at the top.

However, if you step back and look at the data as a whole, a picture emerges that tells a different story. Innovation is important, but Organizational and HR development professionals are seeking to generate innovation organically through a leadership-driven, engaged organizational culture. The advantage of using empowerment to foster innovation is that it encourages individuals at all levels to take ownership of their work and creates a cascade effect.

This also ties into the next highest response: managing and leading change (19%). Empowering employees at all levels and instilling organizational values can create a greater likelihood for solutions and improvements on a ground level. With buy-in at all levels, businesses have a greater responsiveness to rapid market changes. Change is the new constant and organizations are prioritizing it in many ways.

Nearly a fifth of respondents (18%) stated that metrics and measurement of objectives and goals was their number one priority. This numbers-driven focus hints at an issue we previously reported in two other questions—an inability to relate the value proposition of HR to executives. This focus on metrics is no surprise – the key will be finding ways to measure leadership effectiveness and employee engagement in the bottom line terms, which should go a long way toward improving executive level buy-in.

Finally, the lowest priority given by respondents was a focus on recruitment and retention, at just 4%. We don’t think this is to say that attracting the best talent to an organization is not a priority, but rather that this element could be more highly influenced by other factors, including the economy and expanding job market. Additionally, companies are looking to do more with less, discovering how they can attain greater efficiency and productivity for a lower cost by investing and empowering their workforce. Again, research on leadership development and engagement indicates a causal link to increased retention rates.

So there you have it – the final Emergenetics Industry Insight Survey question! We’ve discovered a lot of great information about top industry trends, and we hope you found some great insights too!

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