Corporate leaders say growth is their No. 1 priority for 2004 but they are voicing less confidence about America‘s employment picture, according to Chief Executive’s latest CEO Confidence Index, to be published in the magazine’s forthcoming November issue. CEOs also showed a slight decline in confidence about the overall economy.
Nearly half of the 283 respondents – 48 percent – said their greatest challenge was “growing the top line” in the coming year. About 25 percent said coping with global competition was the major challenge and only 8 percent said that corporate governance would be their main priority.
But even though they want to achieve growth, CEO confidence about hiring in October declined 6.6 percent from the September Index. CEOs faced with global competition may be more inclined to continue investing in less expensive jobs overseas, rather than to rebuild more expensive workforces at home. “I sincerely hope we’re misreading these signals because so many people are waiting for large scale hiring to begin in the United States. Our data, however, suggest that CEOS want growth, but want to squeeze it out of their existing organizations and infrastructure,” said Editor-in-Chief William J. Holstein.
Despite the less than rosy employment outlook, corporate leaders expressed greater confidence that they would be able to increase business investment. “Confidence in investment,” according to the magazine, grew by 2 percent. The overall CEO Confidence Index dipped slightly to 133.8, from 134.7.
The decline in CEO confidence in October comes after a steady rise over the past year. “It’s important to remember that Chief Executive’s overall measure of CEO confidence has increased more than 30 points since the CEO Confidence Index began in October 2002,”said Edward M. Kopko, chairman and chief executive of the Chief Executive Group. “The important thing is that CEOs are signaling that they want to invest. Sooner or later we should feel the benefits, but maybe not as quickly as we’d like in the near term.”
The Index is released on the third Tuesday of each month. For additional information regarding the confidence of public- and private-company CEOs, details about regional CEO attitudes on employment, investment and business conditions, as well as confidence differences between service and non-service industry CEOs.
Chief Executive is a controlled circulation magazine that reaches 42,000 chief executive officers and their peers. It is published 10 times a year and reaches a total readership of 143,000. Chief Executive Group facilitates “Chief Executive of the Year,” a prestigious honor bestowed upon an outstanding corporate leader, nominated and selected by a group of his or her peers. Jack Welch, Bill Gates, John Chambers, Michael Dell and Sandy Weill are just some of the leaders who have been honored throughout the award’s 17-year history. Chief Executive also organizes roundtable meetings and conferences to foster opportunities for top corporate officers to discuss key subjects and share their experiences within a community of peers.