People issues appear to be dropping down the priority list for today's senior executives as new research finds that managing risk has overtaken improving the workforce as management's top priority.
The annual survey by Accenture of 436 bosses in North America, Europe and Asia looked at the areas of greatest concern to senior management in an effort to understand how their priorities have shifted over the past three years.
After managing risk the next most important priority was "achieving growth while increasing profitability", followed by acquiring new customers and using IT to reduce costs and create value.
Changing organisational culture and employee attitudes came fifth on the list, followed by the need to increase customer loyalty and retention, improve workforce performance, increase shareholder value, apply innovation to stay ahead of the competition and, finally, attract and retain skilled staff
"This latest study illustrates that companies realise they must address the increased risks associated with geo-political instability, globalisation, aggressive growth, increased competition and the information explosion," said Walt Shill, managing director of Accenture's strategy practice.
"These risks have ushered in a new era in corporate strategy in which high performance companies are those that sense potential issues and opportunities, and then respond and execute their strategies more quickly," he added.
In each of the three previous surveys, workforce-improvement issues have ranked at the top of the executives' priority list but had now been overtaken by external competition issues, said Accenture.
This included attracting and retaining skilled staff, and changing organisational culture and employee attitudes.
Yet, while human-resource issues had dropped in the latest study, Shill believed they remained big priorities.
"Human resource issues are embedded in the issues at the top of the list. For example, to effectively manage risk, a company needs to have Ė and retain Ė the industry's top talent," he pointed out.