The Feature the World’s Most Admired Companies Share

The 2023 edition of Korn Ferry and Fortune’s most respected organizations is out. Most of the firms emphasize this business practice far more than their peers do.

The businesses of the world’s most respected firms don’t have much in common. Some may focus on technology, others retail or automotive. But regardless of industry, executives at these organizations feel that one business practice makes them stand apart: finding and developing employees.

When asked to list their biggest workforce challenges today, nearly two-thirds of executives from the World’s Most Admired Companies cited either “re-skilling and upskilling current workers” or “hiring talent to staff new capabilities,” according to recent research from Korn Ferry. Further, 66% of WMAC execs and directors said “shortage of human capital with key skills” was a top challenge to their future growth prospects, ahead of the pace of technological change, changing customer behaviors, or government actions. “Talent is the area where these organizations are most focused from the present into the future,” says Mark Royal, a senior client partner for Korn Ferry Advisory and a leader of the WMAC study.

Each year since 1997, in collaboration with Fortune, Korn Ferry identifies the World’s Most Admired Companies and examines how these highly regarded and highly successful firms stand out among their peers. This year, Korn Ferry analyzed more than 600 firms in 25 countries and surveyed more than 3,700 executives and directors. Of the nine attributes of reputation Korn Ferry uses to rank firms, the ability to attract, develop, and retain talented people consistently emerged as an area where the most admired companies stand out relative to others, Royal says.

Indeed, 54% of WMAC executives gave their organizations high marks for developing people for new or different work, versus 39% of peer company executives. And 76% percent of WMAC executives viewed their organizations as effective in hiring the right people, as compared with 68% of executives in peer companies.

If anything, the most admired firms have placed greater emphasis on talent since the pandemic, says Laura Manson-Smith, Korn Ferry’s global leader of organization strategy consulting. Business models have changed and new skill sets are needed, she says, and the most admired companies are committing additional resources in order to ensure they have what they need now and in the future. “Today, it’s really become about your people. Talent is so much more important,” Manson-Smith says.

The most admired firms are also systematic about talent development. Seventy-seven percent of WMAC executives indicated that their organizations conduct strategic workforce planning once or more per year. Being systematic is critical, Manson-Smith says, and particularly essential for firms going through major transitions. For instance, companies in large-scale energy production not only must promote and develop new talent in renewable-energy roles, but also motivate existing employees focused on fossil fuels, whose work will help finance the sustainable initiatives. “You can’t do that by chance,” she says.

For more information about the World's Most Admired Companies research and to see the 2023 list, click here.