Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Hidden Message - The 2010 IBM Global CEO Study

I really look forward to IBM's bi-annual Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) studies. This year's study titled "Capitalizing on Complexity" was like having to wait for the World Cup or Olympics since the 2008 Global CEO study,titled "Enterprise of the Future." During the time between the 2008 and 2010 studies the landscape in the private and public sector has changed significantly. Additionally, the studies have historically provided some great insights and perspectives in the thinking of two key groups that I am interested in understanding...CEOs and CHROs/CHCOs.

So first...hats off to IBM for another quality study and kick-off even where the results were streamed live over 24 hours. You can get to the recordings here.

This week there were a number of organizations that picked up and focused on the main message of the 2010 study and that was creative leadership. Austin Carr at Fast Company wrote a great article earlier this week highlighting the study results ("The Most Important Leadership Quality for CEOs? Creativity") as well as a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog by Prasad Kaipa, Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja titled "How To Ignite Creative Leadership In Your Organization." Because of this immediate focus this week on the 2010 study...I think we can count on seeing a number of books and new vendor training that will tell and show us how to create armies of creative leaders. But for today's blog...I am going to focus somewhere else and the more subtle or hidden messages that global CEOs may have been communicating that we need to understand as strategic Human Capital Managers.

My interest is on the overall trends in external forces with the greatest impact on their organizations. Since 2004, when the first study was conducted, one of these factors considered by CEOs was People Skills. It was in a strong second place and had increased in importance, while maintaining its second place status from 42% to 48% between 2004 to 2008. In the 2010 study however, People Skills goes from 48% to 37% and fourth place on the list (Please see attached chart). Now rated above People Skills are Market Factors, Technological Factors and Macroeconomic Factors. The only significant hole in the study in my opinion is no discussion on why this has occurred. So we are left to hypothesize for now...

Trying to understand why this may have occurred, let's look at what has happened in last two years. Mass layoffs, whole companies disappearing, recession, and slow growth. Part of the surprise for CEOs is that massive cuts still left a workforce able to do more with less. This of course has led to trust issues in many organizations because of how this all transpired. This HBR Blog post by Tammy Erickson titles "Restore Trust with Employees? Forget About It" details challenges organizations will face.

Some questions that will need answering...

1. Did the shift in employee demographics after layoffs change CEO perspective on what is needed to be successful?
2. Did organizations during the layoffs actually layoff the right people...those without high performance and/or high potential allowing a more capable workforce to stay at the organization?
3. Did organizations have the proper alignment of people skills to strategic direction within organizations meaning that HCM had prepared organizations for the future events between 2008-2010?

What I hope is that the 2010 Global CHRO/CHCO Study will answer some of these me that is the hidden message to understand and learn.



  1. Good piece of info that you’ve obtained on this web site submit. Hope I might get some a lot more of the stuff on your own we blog. I will arrive again

    Mark | CEO Write Networks

  2. Hi Mark...Thanks for reading...I don't quite understand what you are asking/saying though...can you elaborate?