One Survey’s Focus: Lots of Growth, But Little on the Workforce and Driving It

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Aug 19, 2015

Wait – what?

I’m looking at a new survey analysis/report from KPMG titled Setting the course for growth: CEO Perspectives. Unlike every other CEO survey I’ve looked at, people, talent and culture are barely addressed in the survey results at all, but rather in sidebars by the good consultants at KPMG.

The only places talent shows up are in the first and last areas of key findings: “Confident on economic outlook, hiring,” and “Risk management not regularly discussed.”

According to the report, the areas that 400 surveyed U.S. CEOs are most concerned about are:

  • Confident on economic outlook, hiring (55 percent);
  • Optimistic about business prospects (62 percent);
  • Strong focus on growth (72 percent);
  • Product relevance as a top concern (72 percent);
  • Surge in Operating Model Transformations (76 percent);
  • Adapting to government regulation a high priority (34 percent);
  • Risk management not regularly discussed (27 percent).

It all depends on the questions you ask

Contrasted with the pwc CEO survey I wrote about earlier, talent issues don’t seem to be top of mind for the CEOs in KPMG’s survey pool. I think this is pretty interesting.

Of course, surveys are all about the questions asked and the answer choices provided. If talent, people and culture aren’t part of the answer or topic choices, then they won’t show up in the results. If KPMG didn’t put them in, and pwc did, I think that’s pretty interesting, too.

Back to the KPMG report: Headcount growth projections are significant from the surveyed CEOs, but a concern about any skills or talent shortage that would provide headwinds to this growth isn’t mentioned even though 216 of 400 CEOs say that they expect to grow their headcount 6 percent or more during the next three years.


Workforce doesn’t get much focus in this survey

Here’s where people do show up in the survey — as one of five “top concerns about my company:”

  1. Financial performance;
  2. Risk management concerns;
  3. Workforce issues;
  4. Operational issues;
  5. Ability to innovate.

These “workforce issues” show up in the risk management section, but there is no description of what those issues are and how they show up as risks. Or how to mitigate them.

That’s also interesting.

Based on the survey analysis, the report’s conclusion gives these final recommendations to CEOs:

  • Transform or wither;
  • Stay relevant;
  • Become an information-driven organization;
  • View everything through the lens of efficient growth.

These would work for HR, too

This is not what I expected based on almost every other CEO survey report I’ve seen this year. But if I step back a minute and forget that this report is focused on the CEO, wouldn’t these four recommendations work just as well for the Chief HR Officer and the HR Department as a whole?

Yes — yes they would.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at