Employers are more optimistic on prospects for business growth and increased spending on talent development in 2013, according to a global survey of more than 2,000 senior human resources executives in 14 countries by Right Management, the talent and career management experts within ManpowerGroup.

employer table
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A majority of the 650 U.S. executives participating in the survey expect recovery in 2013, up from only one-third who were bullish a year ago.

Nevertheless, two in four assume this year will be similar to 2012, characterized by sluggish growth and delayed HR initiatives.

Just ten percent of American respondents anticipate more cutbacks or restructurings.

The global findings were slightly less optimistic than those for the U.S. with 47% predicting recovery and 33% merely sluggish growth. Nineteen percent, for the most part in Europe, foresee stagnation and reductions in force.

“The prevailing caution of 2013 seems to have given way to a much more positive outlook for the year ahead,” said Gerald Purgay, senior vice president at Right Management. “Another shift appears to be wider recognition of the strategic need to invest in talent. We know that HR executives are tuned into senior management’s thinking and planning, and they’re saying that talent development initiatives have become a top priority as their organizations build for the future.”

Limited hiring

Despite the new optimism, however, corporate hiring plans remain tentative, added Purgay.

“According to our findings, a majority of U.S. employers (56%) see limited hiring in order to fill specific openings, and 31% say that hiring will increase only somewhat.”

Just 13% expect significantly more hiring prompted by strategic business needs.

The global prospects for new hiring tracked closely with those of U.S. respondents: 55%, 31% and 14% respectively.

With respect to specific countries, HR executives from Brazil, China and India were the only ones more hopeful than their U.S. counterparts with 68%, 73% and 80% respectively expecting recovery.

But European respondents were considerably less upbeat, particularly Belgium, France and Netherlands with scarcely 11%, 19% and 14% anticipating recovery.

The U.S. findings are drawn from Right Management’s annual global survey, “Talent Management Challenges in an Era of Uncertainty,” which was conducted in December 2012. Participating were 2,360 senior-level HR executives in 14 countries from the government, non-profit and private sectors.