PWC at Davos – 4 concerns that keep CEOs awake at night


PWC at Davos – 4 concerns that keep CEOs awake at night

1.    Being ready to flex in a world of flux

Brexit and the U.S. presidential election are two recent examples of how difficult it’s become to predict the future. Unsurprisingly, CEOs ranked uncertain economic growth and geopolitical uncertainty among their top concerns.

With globalization shifting to a multi-dimensional tug-of-war among power centers, economic growth, and geopolitical threats, most CEOs are now dealing with multiple value systems, frameworks, and trading blocs. CEOs are also looking at a different mix of markets for expansion opportunities around the world.

2. Building (not busting) trust

58% of CEOs worry that lack of trust in business could harm their company’s growth (VW being a good example)

A significant number of the CEOs we surveyed are convinced that gaining and retaining trust is harder in the digital era. Notably, they also emphasize the growing importance of establishing a strong corporate purpose and reflecting that purpose in their organizational values, culture, and behaviour–recognizing that the definition of trust has changed—specifically, expanded. 

a company based on integrity and transparency will be strongly positioned to speak directly to its customers and stakeholders–both present and future–outlining all that was done and will be done to preserve data privacy.

Trust has become an equalizing force, moving power from top-down to peer-to-peer.

This means that while trust is an increasingly challenging issue, organizations that succeed in earning and retaining trust have much to gain. When businesses effectively articulate their purpose, act transparently, and stand by their values, trust and success can go hand in hand. Sustained execution is key.

One fact is indisputable: the role of business in society has never been more important. Hand-wringing over uncertainty will not lead to success. But leaders who step up to collaborate across sectors, borders, and markets and the public at large will forge ahead.

3. Tackling the talent challenge day

The competition for talent is as fierce as ever, as the global population ages, the nature of work changes, and companies look for the skills they need to grow – now and in the future. 77% of the CEOs we surveyed voiced concern that skills shortages could hinder their organization’s growth, and 52% plan to hire more employees over the next year.

Despite greater automation in the workforce, CEOs realize they can’t rely on digital skills alone. To innovate, they need good problem-solvers and people with creative skills and high emotional intelligence. These are also the hardest skills to find. As LRN’s Dov Seidman explains it, companies and leaders that recognize and put the human connection at the center of their strategy will be the enduring winners.

As LRN’s Dov Seidman explains it, companies and leaders that recognize and put the human connection at the center of their strategy will be the enduring winners. Indeed,

 “Machines can be programmed to do the next thing right. But only humans can do the next right thing.”

 In a recent New York Times article, Thomas Friedman also writes “The technological revolution of the 21st century is as consequential as the scientific revolution, argued Seidman, and it is “forcing us to answer a most profound question — one we’ve never had to ask before: ‘What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines?’”

28% of CEOs relying more heavily on temporary workers. A laser focus on delivering results, a drive to find the right skills, and ability to execute are what distinguish the CEOs that have higher confidence in their companies

4. Reimagining the leadership model

All of the above require CEOs to rethink the role of business in society, and engage with multiple players including those in government to create viable solutions.

For example, many CEOs told us they struggle to define the extent of their company’s social obligations and to prioritize long- over short-term performance due to greater emphasis on shareholder value. And the events of the past year have shown us that companies that ignore people power risk stymying their growth.

Giving and receiving feedback, collaborating widely, and leveraging more decentralized decision-making will all be core attributes for successful leaders as C-suites expand and boardrooms diversify.

Executives who embrace this changing paradigm may well blaze a trail that reintroduces the human factor and a sense of inclusiveness, fuelling growth along the way, creating opportunity, and developing a meaningful relationship with the public.

Interestingly, CEOs are relatively optimistic amid the upheaval. Compared to last year, a higher percentage of CEOs said they are very confident about their organization’s 12-month revenue outlook (38% up from 35% last year). This positivity indicates that many CEOs have grown accustomed to navigating stormy, uncertain seas and are increasingly focused on opportunities created by unpredictable circumstances.

Leaders that live their values and scale them will create organizations with the resilience to navigate this complex, rapid-fire, disruptive world.

So, if these are the 4 concerns that keep CEOs and Board Directors awake at night… How can you start making a difference quickly?

An important and intelligent place to start is with data, i.e. customer knowledge you either have, or don’t  have. Cracking ‘big data’ is not the answer, because it’s the TINY data that matters more… are you really putting the customer at the heart of your organisation?… do you actually know how to do that in a sustainable way so that everyone working with you gets it?

Why is there a ‘sense of urgency’ creeping up in a very scary way? With the looming deadline of GDPR / ePrivacy law enforcement now is the right time to a) scope and b) act to overhaul and recondition your data and customer knowledge across the whole organisation; (more background information here).

Would you like to get to grips with this new Board responsibility and at the same time get 2 bangs for the proverbial buck’?

1)     the 5Ws fitness check for GDPR enforcement (the what-why-who-when-where of data responsibility)

2)     new revenue and profit nugget discovery in your data.

Organisations that fall foul of GDPR will face fines up to 4% of turnover (that’s £40K per £million) with the inevitable publicity and damage to their REPUTATION and TRUST rating by consumers and stakeholders, let alone what it might do the share price or value of your organisation.

Before something else diverts your attention do email or call me now (07968 095746) to set something up.

All the best

Rick Pullan