Re-Leased Blog

Re-Leased Blog

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What’s on the mind of the world’s CEOs?

Re-Leased 29 December 2017

Today’s business world means that CEOs, regardless of the industry they work in, have more to think about than ever before. The ecosystem is moving at an increasing pace and there is an almost permanent sense of disruption thanks to a stream of new innovations, each promising new possibilities.

With so much to think about, a recent survey from PWC offers some fascinating insight into the thought processes and priorities of over 1,300 CEOs from around the world. Here’s a summary of what they had to say about the things that occupy their minds.

Digital Trust

As human interaction in business reduces and automation increases, 69% of CEOs say it’s harder for companies to build and sustain trusting business relationships.

On top of that, 87% of CEOs believe social media could have a negative impact on the level of trust in their industry over the next five years. Social media is an open medium where anyone can say anything about anybody, including big business. Put simply, increased transparency means that businesses are more exposed than ever before. That’s why 93% of CEOs agree that it’s now more important to have a strong corporate purpose that’s reflected in the values, culture, and behaviour of the business.

There is an underlying belief among many CEOs that this new search for trust is an opportunity as well as a risk, and that the best way to maintain trust and integrity in a digital world is to prioritise the human experience at all times.

The whole world is undergoing a Digital Transformation and the way business is done is changing by the day.  New solutions and products are arriving on the market and each one brings something new for CEOs to think about. Today’s profits must be measured against tomorrow’s potential, and best practices that have served the company well for decades must be analysed, questioned and improved.

This is all part of the required transition from the old into the new. CEOs around the world are investing heavily in technology that helps make this transition as seamless as possible. To this end, cloud-based software solutions are proving particularly useful thanks to their ability to create ease and efficiency through accessibility and automation.

The adoption of new technology is also being driven by the need to offer the best possible customer experience. People now expect a more personally tailored service as opposed to something that feels ‘off the rack’. CEOs know that the only viable and affordable way to offer such a service is through technology.

The Digital Transformation and arrival of increasingly sophisticated technology is leading many workers to fear for their future job security. It is widely reported that more and more jobs can be done by robots and AI. But, according to this survey, it seems CEOs don’t share the same concern.

In fact, instead of cutting people in favour of technological solutions, 52% of CEOs say they are looking to increase the number of employees in their organisation. New technology brings with it a need for people with specialised knowledge. As such, more jobs, not less, are on the horizon.

77% of CEOs see the lacking availability of key skills as the biggest threat to their business. Not only is there pressure to hire people with the appropriate skills, there is also a race to get them before competitors do. The most talented workers are in high demand, and CEOs are having to think long and hard about how to attract them.

As a result, 60% of CEOs are rethinking the ways that their HR department works. Not only do they need to find the right people with the right skills, they should also be working to “identify skills gaps, anticipate needs, spot potential and build the workforce for the future”.

Interestingly, many CEOs are most worried about maintaining a workforce with strong soft skills. In this digital age where technology drives everything, it’s becoming increasingly hard to maintain a workforce that is technologically apt whilst also excelling in communication and interpersonal skills. Ensuring that their team has emotional intelligence is a key area of concern for today’s CEOs.

Drive for Innovation
23% of CEOs believe that innovation within their businesses is the best way to establish a competitive edge.

True innovation is achieved by combining technology and talent together. This means that, in order to innovate and therefore gain a competitive edge, CEOs must balance their focus perfectly between the technological tools they adopt, and the people they bring on board to use them. Focusing on just one or the other does not work; their relationship is symbiotic and real success is reliant on a productive pairing of the two.

Diversity and workplace etiquette
Diversity and equal rights are at the forefront of every CEO’s mind, if only because the subject is now a semi-permanent fixture in the news headlines. Women and ethnic minorities are still vastly underrepresented in the workplace, and many CEOs consider that an essential issue to address.

Not only does equal representation need to improve but, as we are all now aware, the internal culture of businesses needs immediate attention, too.  For too long, toxic masculinity and presumed superiority has created an unacceptable dynamic between men and women.

CEOs now know that addressing this issue is vital. As such, both time and money must be invested to re-educate the workforce and change age-old attitudes.  To do this, a focus is being placed on open communication, the creation of an environment where all, both men and women, feel safe to speak out against inappropriate behaviour, rather than being threatened or intimidated into silence.

We live in a world that is fully connected; geographical location is less and less important and CEOs are increasingly aware of this. But while globalisation has brought with it many positives, it also brings downsides.  For example, although bringing global markets closer together is definitely a good thing, it has, in many ways, resulted in even more difference of opinion on matters such as corporate values and best practice.

Yet, despite the fact that the uncertainty of globalisation does indeed worry many CEOs, 38% of them still state that they have great confidence in their company’s ability to grow over the next 12 months.

It’s also interesting to note that just 35% of CEOs believe that globalisation has increased the fairness and integrity of global tax systems, a result of which means that big businesses aren’t doing enough to ensure equal opportunities based on geography, gender, and economic standing.

In the race to become a technological leader and a global presence, the human factor has been ignored. Many CEOs now recognise that moving forward into 2018, more must be done to care for our fellow man instead of profit margins and global expansion.

Nothing about being a CEO is easy, and very often you experience conflicting priorities; never has that been truer than today. CEOs have to make more choices than ever before; choices which can drastically affect the success of the business, the life of employees and the health of our society as a whole.

No longer is it enough for a CEO to look after themselves and their company. In today’s business environment, they must also show a willingness to contribute to a fairer and safer future for everyone.

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