Executives report shift from cost control to growth strategies
NEW YORK; July 19, 2010–More than half (54 percent) of large U.S. businesses that reduced staff in the past 12 months plan to rebuild their workforces to pre-recession levels within two years, according to a study released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
“The Accenture High Performance Workforce Study” found that among all U.S. companies surveyed, only 13 percent of executives said that they plan to reduce their employee base over the next 12 months.
“The outlook is improving,” said David Smith, managing director of the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance practice. “But as companies grow their staff, it is more critical than ever that they understand their skills needs and approach the expansion of their workforces strategically.”
The survey confirmed that companies are shifting their focus away from cost control and returning to growth. The percentage of U.S. companies focused primarily on cost control will decrease from 41 percent in mid-2009 to 18 percent in 2011, according to the study. And the percentage of U.S. companies focused primarily on investment in growth-oriented activities, such as hiring, will increase from 24 percent today to 37 percent within the next 12 months.
However, as companies focus on growth, a shortage of high-quality skills may be cause for concern for many businesses. 15 percent of U.S. executives surveyed described the overall skill level of their workforces as industry-leading.Only
“A lack of relevant skills may present a hurdle for companies as they position themselves for growth,” said Smith. “Companies need to rethink how they equip employees with the skills required to be competitive today. They must also consider new strategies for hiring and developing untapped talent currently available in the market.”
Companies’ sales and customer service workforces are the employee groups identified as most important by executives surveyed. However, many of the executives reported significant skills challenges in both of these critical areas. Among those executives who rated sales or customer service as one of their organization’s most important workforces, only 23 percent reported that their sales forces perform at a high level and 34 percent said the same about their customer service workers.
“As they emerge from the recession, organizations can’t afford to have employees with outdated skills on their front lines,” said Smith. “There’s a big opportunity for companies to outperform their competitors by elevating the skill levels of their employees.”
- Nearly one-half (47 percent) of executives do not anticipate changing the size of their workforce in the next 12 months.
- Almost two-thirds (65 percent) have reduced the number of full-time employees in the past 12 months.
- When asked what criteria they used to determine which employees to let go, the top reason cited by 53 percent of executives was low-performing employees. Following closely behind, 52 percent of executives said they let go of employees whose skills were not critical to the future direction of the business. Only 11 percent said high salaries were the determining factor.
- Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of companies added full-time equivalent employees in the past 12 months. When asked the reasons for adding employees during the downturn, 46 percent of executives cited specific needs for new staff to support the launch of new products or businesses or their entry into a new market; 45 percent cited the need for more/different skills to drive the business in the future; 45 percent said they wanted to strengthen the workforces that are most critical to the success of their businesses and 39 percent cited the opportunity to add high-quality talent who are difficult to find during more robust economic times.
- Only 14 percent of companies indicated that their workforce is extremely well prepared to adapt to and manage change through periods of economic uncertainty.
- About three in 10 companies said they either cut back or completely eliminated campus recruiting, recognition programs and incentive compensation in the past 12 months.
- Only one-fourth of respondents strongly agree that their company has the leadership necessary to help the enterprise navigate periods of economic uncertainty and the leadership development programs to prepare the organization’s future leaders.
The Accenture High Performance Workforce Study is a research project that explores trends, issues and developments in human capital management at large companies around the world. This year’s study was conducted by GfK NOP Limited on behalf of Accenture between January and May 2010, and includes completed surveys with 674 senior executives around the world who represent companies with revenues in excess of $250M, 80 percent of whom represent companies with revenues in excess of $500M. More than half (55 percent) of respondents are chief executive officers, chief operating officers, chief financial officers or chief information officers; 43 percent are heads of HR or chief learning officers. Respondents represent 24 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland, Portugal and Indonesia. The survey includes 117 respondents in the United States.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 190,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home page is www.accenture.com.