Senior Execs Say Workforce Lacks Essential Skills

June 21, 2006 ( - New research from Accenture finds that senior executives believe their workforces lack the skills needed for their companies to be industry leaders.

According to a press release, the study revealed only 14% of executives polled described the overall skill level of their firm’s workforce as industry leading. In addition, only 20% said the majority of their employees understand their firm’s strategy and what is needed to be successful.

Respondents to the survey said even functions they consider critical – sales (cited as critical by 62%), customer service (43%), finance (23%) and strategic planning (23%) – were not performing as strongly as they should, the release said. Among those who rated these functions among the top three, just one-quarter assigned the highest rating to the performance of their sales function, 25% to the performance of their customer service function, 19% to finance and 33% to strategic planning.

Reasons cited by Accenture for the shortcomings come from additional findings of the survey, including:

  • Just 11% of respondents reported being very satisfied with the performance of his or her human resources function, while only 10% were satisfied with the firm’s training functions.
  • Only 36% of respondents said their companies tailor their HR and training support to each function’s needs and contributions to the organization.
  • More than 40% do not evaluate the impact of their HR and training efforts against profitability, and half do not evaluate those efforts against revenues and sales.
  • Four in 10 (42%) respondents described capturing and sharing knowledge as a challenge or a severe challenge for their companies. The most commonly cited impediments to better knowledge capture and sharing were: a lack of a common business culture across different locations (38%); no knowledge support infrastructure with dedicated people (37%); and knowledge sharing is typically not rewarded in the organization (32%).
  • Sixty percent of respondents reported that, over the next five years, they expect to begin feeling the impact of the aging workforce and the impending retirement of baby boomers. Of those, 28% said they are feeling the impact now. In addition, 43% of participants described talent sourcing as a challenge or a severe challenge, primarily because of a smaller or shrinking talent pool from which to choose.
  • Respondents said the heads of customer service (29%), finance (31%), sales (34%) and strategic planning (37%) at their companies are highly involved in human capital management initiatives.

The research identified a group of companies that Accenture refers to as “human performance leaders” – companies in which the three functions their executives deem to be the most important perform at the highest levels. The leaders are more likely to be successful in addressing the organizational issues that contribute to strong financial performance such managing customers, managing the workforce, and generating superior business value from technology investments.

“A company’s ability to manage its workforce strategically and develop its capabilities will set it apart from its competitors,” said Peter Cheese, global managing partner in Accenture’s Human Performance practice, in the release.

Accenture surveyed 250 senior executives from large corporations in the United States, Europe and Australia for its research.

Research from Accenture can be viewed on their Web site at .