The results of Charter's latest survey on 500 business leaders' priorities, including strategic HR, working arrangements, and caregiving benefits (or lack thereof)

Even the organizations that have figured out their working arrangements—whether that means fully in person, fully remote, or somewhere in between—aren’t confident that those arrangements will hold over the coming year.

That’s one of the surprises we found in our recent survey of 507 business leaders, including CHROs, CEOs, CFOs, and their deputies. Going into 2023, our research team wanted to understand these leaders’ fears and fascinations for the year ahead. What are their priorities? How do they define effectiveness around the talent agenda? How do they anticipate their return to office and/or flexible-work strategies will evolve?

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About these business leaders: The most frequent job titles were general manager, president/CEO/chairperson, owner or partner, CFO, and CTO, followed by HR leadership titles (CHRO, Chief People Officer, or head of HR). A bit about them:

  • Respondents came from a range of industries, with high representation from leaders in internet and technology, financial services, and manufacturing.
  • Most represented for-profit organizations (71%), followed by non-profit organizations (13%) and government organizations (9%).
  • Their organizations spanned all sizes, from smaller than 250 employees (22%) to more than 10,000 (8%).
  • Slightly over half of all respondents (57%) were men.
  • Most respondents self-identified as white (61%), followed by Black (15%), Hispanic/Latino (9%), multiethnic (9%), and Asian (4%).

Now let’s dive in. Here’s what we learned:

1. Professional development and employee wellbeing remain unresolved priorities for these business leaders, but a surprising set of topics seem “solved” for their organizations

What we asked: Which of these considerations feels most and least addressed for your organization at present? We requested that respondents put each of the topics in the chart below in a bucket to indicate whether it is unsolved, being solved for, or solved.

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What we found: The top topics leaders are currently focused on solving include hiring (45%), addressing societal issues (44%), employee mental wellbeing (44%), and professional development (43%).

We were surprised by how many leaders said their organizations had already solved for productivity (54%) and DEI practices (53%), given how frequently “productivity paranoia” and DEI policies are discussed in mainstream media and modern workplaces. The portion of leaders who viewed DEI practices as solved was largely consistent between white (55%) and non-white (51%) respondents.

Moving forward, we want to know more about what it means to have “solved” these topics: does this refer to having a policy in place, having high confidence in current approaches, or fatigue (or ignorance) around what can seem like intractable challenges?

What to do about it: Senior leaders need to assess their collective priorities and identify any differences in how they perceive the urgency of addressing  these thorny topics.

2. Caregivers continue to lack substantive support from most employers

What we asked: Which of these benefits does your organization offer to full-time employees?

What we found: The most frequently offered benefits are what you might expect: medical coverage, paid time off, and sick leave, all of which are offered by about two-thirds of surveyed employers. One in four offers professional development coaching, mental health days, and/or education cost relief.

As Charter co-founder and COO Erin Grau has mentioned in her HR Brew column, gym memberships were a more common offering (14% of employers surveyed) than sponsored or subsidized childcare (11%) or backup childcare (8%). We expected larger organizations to offer more benefits to their employees, but found no correlation between organization size and benefits generosity.

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What to do about it: These results underscore the importance of offering more caregiving benefits to employees to attract and retain talent, no matter the organization size. Organizations should adopt a holistic view of caregiving that goes beyond childcare, to capture the needs of the more than 70% of employees who have some form of care responsibility.

3. Where employees will work from in the near future remains unknown

What we asked:

  • Regarding where your teams work, which best describes your organization currently?
  • What is the primary motivation when staff come to work in-office?
  • Looking ahead 12 months, which of these scenarios seems most likely regarding staff locations?

What we found: Workplace location remains a major area of ongoing focus among the leaders we surveyed. Most work for organizations that are in-person at least some of the time (91%). For most of them (83%), in-office days reflect manager mandates and agreements, not individuals’ preferences (17%).

Leaders largely expressed that this is a topic they’ve already solved for (63%). Yet we found that these leaders are not confident in what the future holds: only one-third think their organizations’ current location arrangements will stay the same over the next 12 months.

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What to do about it: A change may not be necessary. Conducting employee listening will be critical to getting this right for your workforce. (Research shows that hybrid work can even boost productivity.)

4. HR leaders have license to act more strategically

What we asked: To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement regarding people operations or human resources within your organization? “We would be well served if our human resources leader operated more strategically.”

What we found: Both HR leaders and their executive colleagues want to see HR leaders act more strategically: two-thirds of both HR leaders and their executive counterparts agree.

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What to do about it: In this data, we see that many HR leaders would be well served to be clearer about their talent and other strategies in priority areas. For each one, senior leaders should gather the input of their c-suite colleagues on their teams’ biggest needs. Questions to ask include:

  • What’s going well?
  • What’s not going well?
  • What’s most pressing?
  • What are your biggest blockers?

Using these executive strategy sessions can help pinpoint the reasons behind any mismatch in perceived urgency—why, for example, might some leaders see retention as less of a priority? This information can help define the topic areas where your organization is being reactive instead of proactive, which can help leadership uncover where more strategic approaches are needed.

What we asked: To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement regarding your organization’s board of directors? “The board of directors should be playing a more active role in our talent strategy.”

What we found: Leaders across disciplines want their board of directors to be more involved with their overall talent strategy: 61% agree.

What to do about it: While talent strategy is usually the domain of HR teams, more collaboration at senior levels, including board directors, can be highly advantageous. Assessing your organization’s board composition is a good place to start.

What you can expect next from Charter research

We’ll be fielding these and related questions with business leaders across industries again in the coming months. Reach out to with what you want to know. And watch this space for upcoming research on ways to aid over-burdened middle managers and how to establish internal mentorship programs that boost retention.

A bit about us: Melissa recently came to Charter after 13 years as a forecaster for NielsenIQ BASES. Emily previously led the audience research practice at The Atlantic. Illustrations by Eric Trott.

Key takeaways:

In our survey of 507 US-based leaders representing key functional areas in September 2022, we learned that they don’t know the locations where their teams will be working later next year.

Regarding staff benefits, we found no correlation between organization size and generosity of benefits. Child caregiving benefits are universally among the least offered benefits to full-time employees.

We were surprised to find that more than half of respondents think DEI considerations are "solved" for their organizations, which we examine here and will be continuing to ask about in upcoming surveys.