Challenges: Key Issues for Executives

The world is being transformed from a blue-collar world of order-followers into a white-collar world of decision-makers. When the key work was on the assembly line, your workforce just needed to follow instructions. Their decisions were relatively simple. Today, the key issues are in the marketplace dealing with business competition. And the decisions that the workforce must make are much more complex. Most are simply not getting the tools they need.

What the Research Tells Us

A six-year study of the challenges facing today's organizations by the Ken Blanchard Companies® identified the main issues facing executives. This study intervi

ewed over 4,900 executives, line managers, and training and HR leaders from a range of companies, industries, and countries. The people painted the picture of a world  in which people's roles are changing.

These people said that their most pressing needs were to create an more engaged workforce, manage change, and develop potential leaders. The

top four challenges they listed were competitive pressures, economic challenges, growth and expansion, and skills shortages.

All of these issues revolve around the changing nature of work in the information age.

Competitive pressure directly impacts your front-line people. Since few are trained in competitive decision-making, they waste resources in unnecessary competitive conflict. The shortage of people who can make good decisions inhibits growth and expansion. The expertise most in demand is the ability to make the creative decisions under competitive pressure but historically that skill comes only from years of experience.

The Top Challenges

When asked to rate the top challenges facing their companies, everyone gave answers related to the changing role of the workforce. Twenty-three percent saw this primarily as an economic challenge. Eighteen percent said it was a culture change. Thirteen percent said it was the competitive pressures. Twelve percent said the skill shortage. And twelve percent saw it as a problem with innovation and creativity.

When asked to to choose the top five issues they would focus on, the issues were:

  1. Creating an engaged workforce (58%),
  2. Managing change (55%),
  3. Developing potential leaders (53%)
  4. Selecting and retaining key talent (50%)
  5. Communicating mission, vision, values (39%)

Issues that were once topped this list, such as controlling costs, declined dramatically over the six years of the study, from 58% to 38%. Meanwhile, the top issue, creating an engaged workforce continues to grow steadily in importance over this same period of time. It just keeps getting worse because traditional training doesn't address is. When asked to pick just one issue to focus on, the most popular response was creating an engaged workforce.

Workforce Training Challenges

When it comes to expressing what this transformation of the workplace means in terms of employee trainng, executives found many ways to they express the challenge.

A large majority (

78%) see the challenge in terms of "performance management." How do you judge the quality of people's competitive decisions? Managers cannot evaluate each decision without making their people feel that their every decision is second-guessed. This is one of the problems executing strategy. Most managers have no idea how to evaluate people's decision-making skills in a generic way, non-threatening way. 

Nearly as many


also see this as a problem with "management skills" because decision-making has traditionally been a management job, even though developing front-line decision-making skills is different from traditional management training. Interpersonal communication skills


63%), team building skills (59%), customer relationship skills (58%) and the ability to innovate (42%) all part of this picture of training your people to be more effective for the future.

Key executives are clearly aware of the need to engage their people into thinking and acting more competitively. However, most are at a loss for ways to actually do this.  This failure is seen in terms of executing corporate strategy which has been traced directly to the problems with front-line decision-making.

Competitive Arenas: