2009 Cornerstone Senior Management Survey ‎


Part One – WELCOME!

By: Alan Davis

Welcome to the Cornerstone 2009 survey of senior management expectations, sampled on a worldwide basis.

As one of the world’s leading networks in human resources consulting, our job is to inform and advise businesses on a wide range of issues having both near and far term consequences for each enterprise. This survey is just one of many ways of sharing the latest management
opinions among our members and clients.
As a cooperative product, the Annual Survey by Cornerstone International Group has three key attributes:

  • It reflects the real-life experience of business leaders around the world
  • It covers a broad range of industries and interests
  • It is timely, released within one month of the conclusion of data gathering

With over 100 offices worldwide, we are able to survey small, medium, and large employers – corporations and institutions, profit and non-profit – throughout Asia, the Americas, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Africa.

Part Two – The Respondents

Business conditions in many countries are reflected in the findings of our 2009 survey, which attracted a response 35% larger than last year.
The survey was completed over a six-week period and findings compiled in May, 2009.
Respondent positions:
Of total respondents, 60% are described as Senior General Management Executive, indicating CEO, COO, Chairman, etc. The balance is made up of senior executives, notably from finance, marketing, and human resources.
Size of enterprise:
The larger pool of respondents in 2009 skews to smaller firms, with 28% having revenues under $10 million, double the percentage of 2008. The next largest group – just under a quarter of the total – comprises businesses with revenues in the $100-$499 million range, the leading group a year ago.
annual revenue of participants



We don’t normally expect one year to reveal major shifts in business conditions, but this was no ordinary year. As the economic climate continued to deteriorate, business leaders took appropriate and significant actions that altered the shape of the 2008 survey. Major changes included a pullback from growth strategies, a slowdown in hiring, and skepticism over government sponsored stimulus plans, despite a slightly more optimistic
economic outlook. Priorities and challenges: Business priorities reflected these new realities with a strong shift towards consolidation and reduced risk. Respondents pursuing growth strategies fell from 81% of the total in 2008 to 53% this year. Those opting for stability more than doubled to 32% and consolidators jumped to 15% of the whole compared to 5% a year ago.
business priorities
This is accompanied by a focus on issues of Finance/Accounting/Risk which shot into prominence, moving from sixth place to second in importance as a
growth sector. This strategic mindset is also confirmed in what respondents see as their greatest challenges in 2009. Last year’s
undisputed leader – Performance Excellence – is replaced by Business Development; Finance, in last place a year ago, is rated the third greatest challenge by our business leaders.
areas of challenge

Calling the recovery?

A year ago, fully one quarter of respondents were unsure of global economic recovery. In 2009, almost half of them committed to a position – but did so in both directions. Those anticipating recovery this year rose slightly to 32% of the total; those in disagreement also grew to 56%, leaving
the glass still half empty.
rating the global economy
Expectations are also negative and ratios similar when considering recovery in local economies. Most respondents do not expect significant benefit from
massive government spending to stimulate the economy. The pessimists outnumber the optimists 47% to 35% with 18% unsure.

Hiring turns cold:

Hiring plans underwent a sharp reversal during the past 12 months. The large number (68%) who expressed intent to hire more employees in 2008 was cut in half (34%) this time around. Not only do 59% of respondents not expect to be hiring, but 42% expect to reduce head count in 2009. The HR/Organizational Development function crossed the ledger from “likely to grow” in 2008 to “likely to shrink.”
hiring more people

Part Three– Survey Findings

On the executive floor

Criteria for evaluating the performance of senior managers remain unchanged. The amount of profit and revenue growth continue to be by far the dominant metrics, followed by market share increase and improvement in stock value. More companies in 2009 will evaluate the performance of senior management without assistance from outside consultants.

Finding the talent:

Senior management teams appeared slightly more stable in 2009, with 65% of firms surveyed expecting no key replacements, up from 59% a year earlier.
c level stability
Three quarters of respondents will work with retained search companies to meet their recruiting needs. This is down from 2008 (84%), possibly influenced by the larger percentage of smaller businesses in the sample.
search firm presence

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