February 2015

Executives Forecast Increasing Connection Between Business Outcomes and Workforce Development

CrossKnowledge and Future Workplace, an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace, released survey results revealing that C-level executives are increasingly focused on the importance of workforce development in driving business results. This evolution means an increasing demand for employees with digital & global competencies.

The research, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of CrossKnowledge and Future Workplace, surveyed 295 executives from global companies spanning a range of industries to explore how workforce development contributes to a company’s brand and bottom line.

When executives were asked which employee competencies are most important to their organization now and which will be most important in three years, the answer was clear: leadership development. What was most telling, however, was the competencies that executives expect to gain the most momentum in the next three years: global mindset (15 percent to 26 percent), managing virtual teams (15 percent to 22 percent) and social media literacy (15 percent to 18 percent).

“The fact that executives are signalling a move towards a more digital business model means much more than just companies looking for candidates with basic Twitter and Facebook skills. It means a broader shift towards a larger, interconnected network and, ultimately, a fundamental change in the way companies and people will do business.” “That positions Millennials, a uniquely connected generation, for success.” said Steve Fiehl, chief innovation officer at CrossKnowledge.

The survey also points to the growing importance in understanding how to conduct business across countries and work in a boundary less world where knowing how to lead global virtual teams and adopt a global mindset will become critical skills for a business leader’s success in 2020,” said Jeanne Meister,  Founding Partner at Future Workplace and co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Today.”

The increasingly digital marketplace will also mean a larger need for workforce development – something most (82 percent) executives believe has already contributed to the success of their business. Pairing that need with the projected digital direction of the business landscape, it will be more important than ever for companies to adapt learning initiatives to their employees – whether that be in-person, online or blended learning.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • Executives believe investment in learning and development will be more important than workplace flexibility, corporate social responsibility, profit sharing, and recognition and incentive programs to attract and retain top talent over the next three years (35 percent compared to 29 percent, 23 percent, 16 percent, 12 percent and 12 percent, respectively).
  • Organizations focus on mentoring, opportunistic work assignment and peer-to-peer learning (57 percent, 56 percent and 52 percent, respectively) – soft, naturally present people skills – to develop employees.
  • More than one third of companies foresee the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) inside the company for workforce development.
  • Companies increasingly rely on informal and social learning strategies for development with 57% using mentoring 56% work assignments, 52% peer to peer sharing and only 26% relying on business school open enrollment programs.
  • More than four in ten (43 percent) of executives note that the most common obstacle to workforce development is lack of sufficiently developed learning management systems.


Download the complete survey



In June 2014, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted a survey of 295 executives, sponsored by CrossKnowledge and Future Workplace. The survey sample is global and balanced across four regions: Asia-Pacific (27 percent), Latin America (25 percent), Europe (25 percent) and North America (22 percent). About half of respondents’ organizations have annual revenue of more than $500 million and about one-quarter report $5 billion or more. Respondents represent a wide range of industries and functional roles.