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April 02, 2003
Executives See Workforce Issues as Greater Priority
Despite the weak economic environment and cost-cutting pressures, workforce-related issues top executives' list of strategic priorities, and these business leaders are also concerned that their workforces lack critical skills, compromising their companies' ability to compete effectively, according to a survey from Accenture.

Based on interviews with 200 senior executives in the United States, Europe and Australia, the research found that three in four respondents (74 percent) reported that people-related issues are more important to a company's success than they were a year ago.

In addition, when asked to choose their companies' top strategic priorities, respondents chose workforce-related priorities as four of the top five. These were "attracting and retaining skilled staff"; "changing organizational culture and employee attitudes"; "changing leadership and management behaviors"; and "improving workforce performance" -- all chosen by more respondents than "industry consolidation," "cost reduction" and "competitive pressures." "Customer care and service" was the only non-workforce-related priority among the top five.

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Three-quarters of respondents said their companies increased or maintained their human resource (HR) and training and development budgets (73 percent and 78 percent, respectively) over the past year. However, only 17 percent reported that they are very satisfied with the progress they've made on their training programs, and only one in four said they believe that most of their employees have the skills to execute their jobs at industry-leading levels.

More than half of respondents (57 percent) said their companies never or rarely measure their training investments against employee retention, and the same number said their companies never or rarely measure the impact of HR investments on employee satisfaction. Additionally, more than one-third said their companies never or rarely measure investments in human resources or training against customer satisfaction (39 percent and 35 percent, respectively).

"Since people are the greatest competitive asset for most companies, senior executives must create an environment in which staff can thrive," says Peter Cheese, managing partner of Accenture's Human Performance service line. "Investments in human resources, training and development enhance employee satisfaction and improve workforce performance, but measuring the impact of those investments is key to ensuring companies' ongoing success."

Among other findings of the research:

  • 72 percent said their companies offer some HR services via the Internet, and 67 percent said their companies offer some training and development services via the Web.
  • 50 percent said their companies offer some "just-in-time" training, and 42 percent said their companies offer "extensive" opportunities for such training.
  • 55 percent of respondents reported that their companies have processes for sharing knowledge across their companies.
  • 57 percent of the respondents who said they have outsourced reported outsourcing some HR activities, and 71 percent reported outsourcing some training and development.
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