Turning CEOs problems into HR solutions: 4 ways to stay ahead of the game

You’ll no doubt have read the plethora of articles about our latest CEO survey on various blogs and opinion pieces. I’ve been having some great conversations about the results with the HRD community- what matters most to them is how the figures affect them and their work, and how they can convert the findings into meaningful strategies for their businesses.

There are opportunities to be had from virtually every piece of data – whether it’s good, worrying or simply interesting for global businesses. And the headline stats are, in general, extremely positive. Short term confidence among CEOs is up by 3% with 39% being ‘very confident’ about their business over the next 12 months, while medium term confidence has remained the same with 46% ‘very confident’ over the next three years. That’s good news, but let’s look at some of the other headlines and see what action you, as HRDs, can consider to help make sure you’re one step ahead of your CEOs’ agenda:

1. Reducing costs, but not losing heads

Globally, 64% of CEOs plan on cost reductions this year but in Western Europe this figure leaps to 86% - which is 3% higher than last year. In the UK the figure is 73% but apparently this doesn’t include headcount reduction and in fact the majority of CEOs globally are expecting headcount to increase. So how are those cost reductions going to be achieved? Are we talking a huge change in the employee mix? More reliance on contingent labour? Cutting third party spend? This could be a good time for you to review the value you’re getting from the different parts of your HR function and the employee resource base to identify where savings can be made.

 2. Making sure your talent is in the right place

Almost a third of CEOs see increasing share in existing markets as their best opportunity for growth. Finding and retaining great talent is becoming a ticking time-bomb as we emerge from recession and job markets pick up. If increasing existing market share is a priority for growth, now is the time to consider how you make sure that your workforce in these markets is retained and your employee value proposition refreshed to attract the new talent and adapt to the more growth oriented environment.

 3. Regulation, regulation, regulation

Over-regulation is seen as the biggest economic/policy threat to UK CEOs (77%) and over 57% think it’s more difficult to attract a skilled workforce due to the regulatory environment. It is important for you to understand how different regulations affect your business and the potential knock-on effect this might have on, say, the way you pay your top talent. It’s important to comply, but you also need to consider ways to overcome the hurdles that regulation places on your recruitment prospects.

 4. Creating a skilled workforce

And then there’s the issue of skills in the workplace. 66% of UK CEOs think the Government should be focusing on creating a skilled workforce and don’t think the Government is being particularly effective in this area, with only 7% saying they’ve done a good job (compared to 74% in Switzerland or 78% in Italy, for example).

To get this right there needs to be proper communication between business and government and it needs the right people to do the talking. There have been some interesting initiatives between government and business in the past, but I’d question whether they are all relevant and useful. For every one of the fabulous schemes like our own PwC Higher Apprenticeship programme, a new degree programme is launched that I struggle to see employers embracing (the new ‘Politicizing Beyonce’ course, offered by Rutgers University in the US, springs to mind!) Have you considered any programmes that might help develop skills in your industry?

It’s the perfect time for HR teams to demonstrate that they are positioned to help CEOs meet their aspirations for the future. Only 34% of global CEOs feel that their HR function is well prepared for the challenges ahead… but that means there’s a great opportunity to make a real difference by being one step ahead.

If you’re doing anything different to keep on top of the demands from the business that you think would be worth sharing, please do comment in the space below or drop me a note.  

Jon Andrews | UK Human Resource Consulting Leader
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