Companies’ inability to hire the “right employees” and retain current workers is the top concern of executives, according to Duke University’s latest business survey.

The findings reflect those of a survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants last week.

A lack of workers thus inhibit expansion plans, says the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook, which was published Friday.

The shortages, especially in information tecnology, is also likely to drive up wages some 3 percent, the survey says.

“Firms are having a much harder time finding the right managerial talent, and a somewhat harder time hiring rank-and-file workers,” said John Graham,finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business who is director of the survey. “In addition, many U.S. companies indicate that their currently employed managers do not have enough bandwidth to oversee an expanded organization. Hence, their firms pull back on expansion.”

It’s the second straight quarter that hiring the “right” employees has been employers’ top concern.

And the concern has become so strong that 89 precent of surveyed firms say they will not puruse all projects that might improve their companies.

Top employer concerns, 1-10, are:

  1. Attracting and retaining qualified employees
  2. Government policies
  3. Cost of benefits
  4. Economic Uncertainty
  5. Data Security
  6. Regulatory requirements
  7. Employee productivity
  8. Weak demand for product/services
  9. Corporate tax code
  10. Rising wages and salaries

Other key findings:

• 36% of CFOs say their firm currently faces more uncertainty than normal about the economic outlook and governmental policies. 58% say the level of uncertainty is normal.

• Among the 36%, about 60% say that they are delaying or proceeding more slowly on expansion plans in response.

• The top four items about which uncertainty is causing firms to proceed slowly or delay are listed next (with the most common action taken in response in parentheses):

o Health care policy (delay hiring new employees in general, except perhaps to deal with specifics of health regulations)

o Regulatory policy (wait and see, delay until dust settles)

o Economic growth (delay investment, reduce hiring)

o Tax policy (delay investment)

More coverage:

  • VIDEO: Watch an overview about the report at