By Philip Whiteley
Chief executives will have to become "chief human resources managers", the World Economic Forum in Davos heard last week.
Speakers said the shortage of key professionals and managers would intensify with economic growth and demographic pressures.
"There is no question that human capital is going to be more important to companies than financial capital in the future," Windle Priem, chief executive of headhunter Korn-Ferry, told the summit meeting of political and business leaders.
"Chief executives, particularly in Europe, have not traditionally paid much attention to human resources, but now they are having to become chief human resources managers of their companies as well as looking after the financial side."
The growth of Internet companies and the greater mobility of the most sought-after professionals lie behind the developments, he said. Compounding this is a demographic squeeze, as the proportion of the population of working age is shrinking in most industrialised countries.
Korn-Ferry reported that about 800 of the 7,500 positions it placed last year were Internet-related posts, compared with just over 100 the year before. In the US, more than one in 10 IT posts cannot be filled.
Paul Otellini, executive vice-president of microchip giant Intel, said all companies are addressing retention and reward strategies as a matter of urgency.
"With the Web, people can post their résumés and get job offers day in and day out. Companies need to respond to such changes."
The summit also addressed workplace conditions for low-income individuals.
President Clinton hinted that the US would push for a global policing body for standards in the workplace.
"We have a well-developed WTO for dealing with the trade issues. We do not have very well- developed institutions for dealing with the social issues, the environmental issues, the labour issues, and no forum within which they can all be integrated."
By Philip Whitely