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Survey Shows Companies Struggle With Developing Adaptive Workforce

October 24, 2007

As countries like India are facing changing economic environments, companies are forced to focus more closely on developing a workforce that can weather such changes over time. In the contact center industry, one that is wrought with high employee turnover and consistent changes, developing an adaptive workforce is critical.

IBM recently conducted a study that surveyed 400 HR executives, in both public and private sectors in 40 countries and found that more than 75 percent of respondents are concerned with their ability to develop an adaptive workforce that will lead to future leaders.

Key challenges in developing leaders in the workforce identified by executives included the passing of information from older to younger employees, and a lack of sufficient employee skills.

Of those surveyed, 52 percent said that a significant challenge facing their organization was the inability to rapidly develop skills to address the current and future needs of the business. Another one-third of respondents claimed their employee skills were not aligned with current organizational priorities.

Another concern highlighted in this survey was the continuing increase in employee turnover with almost half of respondents saying there had been a significant increase in employee turnover in their organization in the last two years.

The companies that expressed the most concern with their ability to develop strong workforces that create leaders were those in southeast Asia at 88 percent and Europe at 74 percent. Such results indicate that leadership development and workforce management have to an extent been overlooked due to rapid growth in the global market since 2005.
"The ability of an organization to look ahead and identify the skills it will need in the future, and then rapidly develop a critical mass of individuals with those skills in a cost-effective manner, will be a core competency for those companies looking to compete in the globally-integrated world," said Randy MacDonald, senior vice president of human resources for IBM.

While the development of a workforce adaptive to change is considered vital to the growth and survival of the company, the reality is that only 14 percent of executives said their workforce is capable of adapting to change. This number supports the stigma in the contact center industry regarding high turnover is being somewhat addressed, or at least identified.

Respondents also identified areas where improvement was needed. These included the ability to predict future skills, specifically anticipating future business scenarios to know what key competencies to target in advance of market shifts.

In reality, the contact center has come a long way in focusing on the development of its workforce as well as creating an environment that lends itself well to employee advancement. At the end of the day, however, this is still a tough industry with a long way to go.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.