The study showed the number one priority for business leaders this year is a reshaping of workplace culture, with employee engagement and better leadership at the core of the plans.
CEO Challenge 2014, based on a survey of CEOs, presidents, and chairs from more than 1,000 employers around the world, identifies and ranks the most pressing challenges businesses are facing and their strategies for addressing each one.
The study found the number one challenge is how best to develop, engage, manage and retain talent. This is closely followed by issues linked to corporate brand and reputation.
Rebecca Ray, The Conference Board's senior vice president, human capital, said although strategies vary from region to region, business leaders worldwide are working to optimise their greatest resource - their employees.
"Building a culture that supports engagement, employee training, leadership development, and high performance is something companies can control, and is making the difference between growing market share and simply surviving in 2014," said Ray.
"If the focus of individual companies is sustained, human capital may well be the engine that revives economic growth."
The study also asked CEOs to identify the leadership attributes most critical for future success. Integrity was rated number one globally, suggesting bosses have learnt lessons from recent high-profile ethical scandals.
The other top five most important leadership attributes were leading change, managing complexity, an entrepreneurial mindset and the ability to retain and develop talent.
Petra Wilson, CMI's, director of strategy, said: "Building world-class workforces is a top challenge for CEOs, who are looking to help their organisations hit new levels of performance in 2014.
"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."