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Talent That Fuels Growth



Here is an article written by  Catherine Farley and David Gartside for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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For most of the world’s companies, growth appears to have regained its place at the top of strategic agenda, displacing the cost-control mentality that has dominated boardrooms and executive suites for the past three years. That’s good news, but are companies prepared for the economic recovery?

Do they have the talent they need to grow?

According to the most recent Accenture High Performance Workforce Study, which is based on a survey of 674 C-level executives around the world, the answer for many companies is not hopeful.

The study, conducted between January and May 2010, found that persistent challenges in improving enterprise skill levels, workforce performance, HR organization productivity and effectiveness can substantially impede a company’s ability to capitalize on emerging growth opportunities as economic prospects brighten in most parts of the world.

Workforce Actions During the Downturn

There’s no doubt the recession had an impact on workforces around the globe, and that impact has been most visible in job eliminations: 62 percent of executives in the survey reported their organization had reduced the number of full-time employees during the downturn. Layoffs were much more prevalent in developed markets than in emerging economies.

When determining which employees to let go, 52 percent of companies claimed to eliminate employees in the lowest tier of performance. Future competitiveness also played a role in the decisions of many companies, with approximately four in 10 executives saying eliminated employees either had skills that were not critical to the organization’s future business or were in workforces that were not deemed important to the organization’s focus areas going forward.

But at the same time companies were laying off employees, about eight in 10 also were adding staff, mostly for strategic reasons such as strengthening workforces critical to the success of the business or addressing specific people needs related to a launch of a new product or business.

The study also revealed that the use of analytics is not pervasive. Only about one in 10 respondents strongly agreed they have a formal analytics capability that can help them make fact-based decisions about the skills needed to drive growth and the changes necessary to improve HR and training performance and effectiveness.

The net result of companies’ workforce actions during the downturn was a smaller workforce for 47 percent of organizations, a larger workforce for 34 percent and workforce of about the same size for 19 percent.

Workforce Skills and Performance

Such workforce actions notwithstanding, Accenture’s research revealed many companies will likely encounter major skills challenges that could make it difficult for them to achieve their growth objectives.

For instance, although sales and customer support and service were cited as the two most important functions by survey participants in the previous three editions of the study, many executives expressed concern about the performance of these workforces.

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Please click here to download a PDF of The talent to grow study co-authored by David Smith, Catherine S. Farley, Diego Sánchez de León, and Stephanie Gault.

Please click here to read the full text of Managing Talent in Uncertain Times.

Catherine Farley and David Gartside are managing directors in Accenture’s talent and organization performance practice. They can be reached at


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