Regions Central Virginia

Business executives say staffing is most challenging issue.

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Staffing is the most significant business issue executives are facing, according to an annual survey.

The fourth-quarter 2013 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that hiring, retaining and training employees is a key concern.

Among executives of small and midsized companies participating in the survey, 35.9 percent said staffing is the most important business issue, a slight decrease from the 39.4 percent Q3 2013 findings.

Economic uncertainty increased with 20.3 percent of executives saying it is the most significant issue, up from last quarter’s 19.7 percent.

When asked how their company’s U.S. employment will change in the next six months, more than 55 percent of the executives said they expected higher or significantly higher employment compared with only 50 percent responding the previous quarter.

“We see in these data a bit of a decrease in optimism,” said Jeff Pollack, assistant professor of management at the Robins School. “Indications are more neutral (no change expected) with regards to sales in the next six months by a greater number of CEOs, 25 percent relative to last quarter’s 21 percent — though still a large majority, 68.8 percent, anticipate sales increasing.”

Views about capital spending are more pessimistic, he added, at 15 percent relative to last quarter’s 9 percent, though a majority of executives anticipate no changes.

“Staffing issues, slow growth and economic uncertainty are the top three areas of concerns noted by the current sample of CEOs,” said Pollack.

The Virginia Council of CEOs and the Robins School jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which is intended to help Central Virginia companies anticipate business decisions and plan for growth. The most recent survey collected responses from 126 CEOs. Industries represented in the sample included construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail.  The average employment of the member companies for the survey was 49.

Pollack adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally.

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