Cutting headcount is CEOs’ top concern as worry about skills downgraded

Workforce skills are no longer the primary challenge facing chief executives in 2008 – the issue has fallen to seventh place this year.

The 12th annual global survey of business leaders by professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) found that CEOs’ main concern last year, the availability of skills, had dropped seven places.

Instead a quarter of the 1,100 chief executives surveyed worlldwide said they are looking to reduce headcount this year and 35% of CEOs in the UK want to cut jobs over the next 12 months.

While no longer an immediate matter, however, the war for talent was seen as a strategic concern by 97% of respondents. UK chief executives, in particular, expressed concerns about the limited supply of candidates with the right skills – 78% of them saw this as a problem, compared to 69% globally.

Recruiting and integrating younger workers was seen as a challenge by 61% of chief executives globally. Less than a third (30%) believed they had a good understanding of their employees’ needs and views.

Michael Rendell, partner and global head of HR services at PwC, said: “CEOs are walking a tightrope to balance keeping the people they need to compete through and beyond the downturn with urgent pressures to reduce costs. They are still in the dark on critical issues – including employees’ views and wants, the impact of cost-cutting and collaboration.”

Earlier this month a leading HR director called on employers to stop focusing on the war for talent and instead concentrate on developing employees internally.

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