CEOs Say Tight Labor and Retaining Talent Are Top Concerns

The possibility of recession, the certainty of intense competition, a tight labor market and global trade and instability, are the top worries of corporate CEOs worldwide.

Only in China, with a population of 1.4 billion, are executives less concerned about the labor market, but even they rank attracting and retaining their best talent as their number one internal worry.

The annual survey of the world’s CEOs by The Conference Board, found unanimous agreement about the outside issues that concern them. Recession, which was at the top of the list of external issues everywhere but the US last year, is now in first place. In Japan, with a rapidly aging and shrinking population and limited immigration, the tight labor market nudged recession fears to second place.

“The ongoing concerns about recession risk among business leaders reflect the slowing economy of the past year and the uncertainties about the outcome of the trade disputes and other policy concerns,” said Bart van Ark, chief economist at The Conference Board.

Of the many internal issues CEOs confront, attracting and retaining their best talent is the leading worry.

“The global challenge in acquiring and retaining talent requires companies to be more strategic – knowing not only what qualities and skills to recruit for, but also how to recruit more efficiently and effectively,” said Rebecca Lea Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board.

Two of the other issues among the top five globally are also workforce focused: leadership succession and innovation.

For US leaders developing “Next Gen” leaders is a concern just behind the disruption technology is causing. In other parts of the world, CEOs and the C-suite also consider both among their two or three biggest worries. But in the US, where disruptive technologies are often born, data analytics/data collaboration is a greater concern than elsewhere.

Everywhere, though, creating a more innovative culture is a priority concern.

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