More than half of the large American companies that reduced their staffing levels over the past year plan to rebuild their workforces to pre-recession levels by the middle of 2012, according to a new report by consultants Accenture.
Accenture's "High Performance Workforce Study" found that the proportion of US companies with revenues in excess of $250M that will be focused primarily on cost control will decrease from 41 per cent in mid-2009 to 18 per cent in 2011.
At the same time, the proportion focused primarily on investment in growth-oriented activities, such as hiring, will increase from 24 per cent today to 37 per cent within the next 12 months.
As a result, while almost two-thirds of US companies have reduced the number of their full-time employees over the past 12 months, only 13 per cent plan to do the same over the next 12 months.
"The outlook is improving," said Accenture's David Smith. "But as companies grow their staff, it is more critical than ever that they understand their skills needs and approach the expansion of their workforces strategically."
"A lack of relevant skills may present a hurdle for companies as they position themselves for growth," he continued.
"Companies need to rethink how they equip employees with the skills required to be competitive today. They must also consider new strategies for hiring and developing untapped talent currently available in the market."
In fact, just 15 per cent of the executives surveyed described the overall skill level of their workforces as" industry-leading", with companies' front-line sales and customer service functions causing particular concern. What's more, only a quarter strongly agreed that their company has the leadership necessary to help the enterprise navigate periods of economic uncertainty and the leadership development programs to prepare their future leaders.
"As they emerge from the recession, organizations can't afford to have employees with outdated skills on their front lines," said Smith. "There's a big opportunity for companies to outperform their competitors by elevating the skill levels of their employees."