The Conference Board’s annual survey of global CEOs and CHROs indicates that talent acquisition, retention, and workplace culture are among the biggest priorities for C-suite executives in 2024. 

By Maggie Mancini

Despite economic turbulence, labor challenges, and an impending technological revolution, businesses are leaning into the disruption in the hopes of emerging from the chaos as future-ready organizations. The Conference Board’s latest C-Suite Outlook report surveys CEOs and other executives across the globe to identify the most critical issues they face and the strategies they’ve developed to mee them. 

Even as post-pandemic labor markets continue to cool, CEOs rate attracting and retaining talent as their top internal priority at 39%, with CHROs at 51%. Additionally, CEOs and CHROs are aligned in their top-two human capital management priorities: developing workforce capabilities and strengthening organizational culture.  

“Organizations that embody a high-performance culture financially outperform competitors and have higher retention rates,” says Robin Erickson, vice president of human capital at The Conference Board. “Research confirms that high-performance cultures are built and sustained by aligning culture to strategy and identifying and rewarding desired behaviors to achieve strategic goals. Rewards and recognition programs are best when they are based on individual, team, and organizational performance.”  

Erickson says leaders can link company values like innovation and teamwork to employee reward and recognition programs in myriad ways. For example, leaders can introduce employee-sponsored idea competitions to strengthen values or consider team-based incentive rewards based on performance.  

At The Conference Board’s Executive Compensation conference, for example, two executives from AT&T shared how they envisioned their short-term incentive plan to provide year-round, meaningful recognition that better aligns with achievement and culture. To do this, they built team-based incentive plans and empowered managers to utilize the short-term programs. To ensure success, they sought leadership buy-in and worked with HR business partners on program implementation.  

When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, leveraging recognition and rewards can help improve employee loyalty and strengthen their connection to the organization, making them more likely to stay in their position at the company, recommends Erickson.  

Consistent with previous research from The Conference Board, organizational culture, quality of leadership, and work-life balance are the factors that most influence employee retention. But CEOs and CHROs differ in their focus on other priorities. Strengthening the employee experience is a priority for 51% of CHROs but only 25% of CEOs, while diversity, equity, and inclusion is a focus of 24% of CHROs and 10% of CEOs.  

Enhancing learning and development programs can help foster a culture of continuous learning and improve workforce capabilities, helping better prepare employees for the inevitable changes brought by artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.  

“Decades of research provides robust evidence that investments in learning and development programs and well-being initiatives can significantly enhance the employee experience, which in turn can boost talent attraction and retention,” Erickson says. “Learning and development opportunities often rank among workers’ highest priorities when deciding whether to accept a new position and whether to stay with an employer or switch to a new one.”  

Despite previous research from The Conference Board finding that 58% of workers say they are likely to leave their company without professional development opportunities, many organizations have a long way to go to improve L&D opportunities and worker well-being, Erickson says. 

Aligning incentive rewards and benefits to business objectives are among the top priorities for U.S. CEOs, and company-wide recognition programs can help organizations improve workplace culture and boost attraction and retention efforts.   

“Workers are savvy,” Erickson says. “They understand that the economy is volatile and the demand for skills is changing faster than ever. They know the importance of lifelong learning and upskilling, and they expect their employers to give them the opportunity to keep their skills current and competitive. Many have come to understand that burning out benefits neither them nor their employer.”  

By providing opportunities for continuous learning and development, combined with attention to mental health and reasonable workloads, Erickson says that employers can expect to see gains in employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. And when employees are given the skills to grow and develop and the space to decompress and be mindful of their health, they feel more energized and are more likely to stay, she says. 

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