Top Executives Say Skills Shortage Is “Serious Concern”

CEOs have never been known for getting much rest, but the threats keeping them up at night these days are particularly alarming. PwC asked 1,344 CEOs in 68 countries about the biggest issues that will transform their business over the next five years and the results were, well, eye-opening.

A full 86% are worried about advancing technologies that undermine their business models. At the same time, 69% are concerned that demographic shifts will result in secular changes away from their go-to-market strategies. Want more? (I see CEO heads shaking “No.”) Another 28% are focused on the enormous shift that mass urbanization will require; a challenge no business leader has faced in nearly a century.

The good news is that they recognize the need to change and the critical role that talent will play in getting through it, with a full 63% citing the availability of key skills as a serious concern.

The bad news? The skills aren’t there.

This should serve as a call to action to every link in the human capital supply chain. To close the gap, we must first look at where CEOs are making the greatest changes:

  • Customer growth and retention strategies: 41% of CEOs said change is already underway or complete, with another 52% considering or planning change
  • Use and management of data and data analytics: 62% of CEOs are considering or planning change in this space, and 28% said change is either underway or complete
  • Technology investments: 48% are considering or planning change while 40% of CEOs said they’ve already made progress and have initiatives that are underway on this front

Knowing where to focus is half the battle. Winning the day will take a good bit more.

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It’s about more than hiring fresh talent: Take another look at the talent within. It can be a distinct advantage for CEOs who are able build up intellectual capital by continuously cultivating the next generation.

A new kind of talent management strategy is needed: As companies continue to rebuild and prepare for the future, never underestimate the power of morale. To forge ahead full steam and achieve maximum results, CEOs need to get employees excited about the strategic vision for the business, and show them you’re willing to take risks to get there.

All skills get old if you don’t dust them off: Make it part of your leadership approach to encourage constant learning and skills gathering among employees — whether that means seeking opportunities for continuing education inside or outside the workforce, learning a new skillset, upgrading an existing one or gaining a working knowledge of social media.

I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this mismatch between supply and demand on the skills front. How do you think companies are reacting to it? What could they do better as they look at the waves of change coming over these next few years?

Robert Gruman is Russia advisory managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and heads PwC's global sports mega-events center of excellence. Contact him at


3 Comments on “Top Executives Say Skills Shortage Is “Serious Concern”

  1. There is no skills shortage.

    Plenty of skilled people who are out of work.

    They’re just “too old”
    or they’re discriminated against because they’re out of work.
    or they didn’t go to that Ivy League School you like so much.
    or they’re male (and you are pressured to hire more women)
    or they’re white and you are pressured to hire more minorities
    or they got rejected after a “six second” look at their resume (knee-jerk evaluation only!)

    So stop pushing the fake “skills shortage” – and actually hire the people who are applying. They have the skills.

    1. I think that there are valid points in this response – I happen to believe the last one, is an HR problem, and I have seen enough of it to know that your incoming candidates are only as good as those that vet them! Less-than-skilled HR recruiters will only bring what they deem as qualified – there needs to be a more holistic look at an employee – I personally hire the will, not the skill. I would rather have an employee that has a good work ethic, is honest, and will become invested in the company over time, than a hotshot who comes in with all the skills, but will leave 6 months later for a few dollars more… One man’s opinion.

  2. This is a problem that on the surface seems very difficult to solve – if you take just a little bit of the multi-million dollar CEO bonus, and invest that in training and incentives – you can create the skilled workforce that is needed and retain them. The problem is that so many are stepping over the dollar to pick up the dime – viewing people as a commodity, rather than a corporate asset. Companies of any size, where the employee is always the last concern, will grind it out and never reach a level of performance that is sustainable. #formingstormingnormingperforming $.02

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