Company chief executive officers (CEOs) around the world are set to adopt a 'worker-centric' approach to their operations in order to maximise future growth, according to new research.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and business membership group The Conference Board released a study suggesting that a reshaping of workplace culture is the top priority of corporate leaders worldwide this year.

Employee engagement and better management are expected to be at the heart of these initiatives, with the eventual aim of improving competitiveness, winning new customers and boosting productivity.

The CEO Challenge 2014 study was based on a survey of chief executives, presidents and chairmen of more than 1,000 companies around the world.

Findings suggested that workforce management efforts are likely to focus more on the development of an internal talent pipeline than bringing in new staff.

Nine of the top ten human capital strategies selected by respondents focused on current workers, including the provision of training and development, increasing employee engagement and stepping up efforts to retain key talent.

When asked about their strategies for building human capital, European CEOs put 'improving leadership development programmes' at the top of the list.

Globally, this goal rose from tenth place on last year's survey to fifth this year.

The study also highlighted the growing significance of ethical working, with business leaders listing integrity as the most important leadership attribute.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy at the CMI, said building world-class labour forces is a key challenge for businesses targeting "new levels of performance" in 2014.

She added: "It's good to see European leaders in particular recognising that leadership development is critical to getting this right.

"Leadership attributes like integrity, leading change and managing complexity are fundamental to cracking the challenges facing managers and leaders in the year ahead, and will be absolutely key to future success."

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