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New York, N.Y. -- Aug. 2
Attracting and retaining skilled staff ranks highest on executive agendas for 2005, according to a global study released by Accenture.


The study, which Accenture conducts annually, comprised interviews with 425 senior executives at leading organizations in North America, Europe and Asia to identify and prioritize the issues of greatest concern to senior management, understand how their priorities shift over time and identify key forces behind the issues.

Workforce improvement-issues dominated the top priorities, comprising four of the 10 most-selected concerns, including the top two. For instance, the greatest number of respondents, 35 percent, selected "attracting and retaining skilled staff," followed by 33 percent who selected "changing organizational cultural and employee attitudes." Other workforce issues in the top 10 are "improving workforce performance" (selected by 28 percent to rank 7th) and "developing employees into capable leaders" (selected by 26 percent to rank 10th).

"The most powerful theme emerging this year is a strong and consistent focus on people," said Peter Cheese, global managing partner of Accenture's Human Performance practice. "Even though the business conversations have centered on global competition and the need for execution, business leaders are increasingly aware that nothing happens unless people-talent is engaged in the right way."

Customer-retention issues also occupy top spots on executive agendas. Both "acquiring new customers" (32 percent) and "increasing customer loyalty and retention" (29 percent) were popular responses across all countries surveyed.

Innovation also rose on the executive agenda, ranking relatively higher and making it back into the list of top 10 issues on executives' list. "Developing new processes and products to stay ahead of the competition" is the fourth-highest-ranked executive concern, selected by 29 percent of respondents. Another top 10 issue is "being flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing market conditions," selected by 26 percent.

"Innovation, like expansion, seems to be an issue that rises in importance when the economy improves. That may be natural, but it is also short-sighted," said Cheese. "Innovation should never be out of mind - possibly even more so in tough times."

The only IT issue in the top 10 is "using IT to reduce costs and create value," selected by 27 percent of respondents to rank 8th, a sharp decline from its number two ranking in each of the past two years.

"Although ranked relatively lower, the use of IT continues to be a major focus, as businesses are becoming more demanding in driving value from IT in the form of improving employees' productivity, engagement and capabilities," said Cheese.

As part of an annual study to identify senior executives' top concerns, Accenture conducted a survey of 425 senior executives at many of the world's largest organizations across all major industries and the public sector in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and Canada. Respondents included executives at the highest levels of senior management ("C-suite" executives) as well as heads of key functional areas, such as human resources. Fieldwork was conducted from October 2004 through January 2005.

Top 10 Current Business Issues for Senior Executives

  1. Attracting and retaining skilled staff. (35%)
  2. Changing organizational culture and employee attitudes. (33%)
  3. Acquiring new customers. (32%)
  4. Developing new processes and products to stay ahead of the competition. (29%)
  5. Increasing customer loyalty and retention. (29%)
  6. Managing risks. (29%)
  7. Improving workforce performance. (28%)
  8. Increasing shareholder value. (27%)
  9. Using IT to reduce costs and create value. (27%)
  10. Being flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing market conditions. (26%)
  11. Developing employees into capable leaders. (26%)

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