Executives and company leaders are somewhat optimistic that the U.S. economy will rebound in 2009, according to the latest in a yearly series of surveys on corporate issues from The Ken Blanchard Cos. On the heels of the 2008 disaster that has crippled economies across the globe, more than 70% of those surveyed expected the U.S. economy to begin its recovery sometime this year. Only a quarter of the respondents thought the downturn would continue unabated into 2010.

The 2009 results represent responses from more than 1,700 executives, line managers, and training and human resource leaders from a range of companies, industries and countries.

Participants in this year’s survey were asked to describe their organization’s overall outlook in regard to the economy, training expenditures, expected cuts and coping strategies. In addition, the survey touched on corporate issues relating to organizational, human resources and management challenges. Responses focused on the most important aspects of future corporate growth and employee development, as well as how employees are prepared to deal with these and other hurdles.

Top responses to selected survey topics include:

Tactics for coping in a down economy:

•    Invest in productivity and performance
•    Cut travel costs
•    Increase focus on branding and differentiation

2009 top organizational challenges:

•    Economic challenges
•    Competitive pressure
•    Growth and expansion

2009 top management challenges:

•    Managing change
•    Creating an engaged workforce
•    Reducing costs

Types of training to be offered in 2009:

•    Leadership skills
•    Managerial/supervisory skills
•    Customer service skills

With the expectation that the economy will begin to recover within the next year, survey respondents also predict that their corporations will not make drastic cuts to training budgets. Fewer than one in five respondents say their organization plans to spend significantly less money on training in 2009, as compared to 2008. This desire to maintain an adequate level of training points to the identification of corporate development as a way to ride out the storm of economic turmoil, while also refining and realigning each organization’s own learning infrastructure.

While recent news has highlighted the downsizing of well-known companies, Blanchard survey results show signs that corporations are looking inward to survive current conditions instead of resorting to the old playbook of cuts, cuts, and more cuts. Companies seeking to decrease costs along all facets of the organizational structure are not, the survey suggests, primarily targeting personnel and marketing. Only 29% of respondents listed personnel layoffs and cuts as ways their companies plan to cope with the down economy, while marketing cuts came in at 14%. More than 60% plan to invest in productivity and performance-maximizing strategies, while another 46% plan to focus on their corporate branding and differentiation.

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