CEOs Turing to Talent and Tech to Counter Uncertainty

CEOs Turning to Talent and Tech to Counter Uncertainty

Jan. 22, 2020
Investing in people and helping them continually develop their skills should be embedded in a company’s culture.

It’s hard to plan ahead when many variables are uncertain.

So PwC, in its annual survey of CEOs, talked to 1,581 CEOs in 83 territories and found that confidence has plummeted compared to the 2018 survey. “This year as CEOs look ahead to 2020, we see a record level of pessimism,” the report states. “For the first time, more than half of the CEOs believe that the rate of global GDP growth will decline.”

This pessimism was also reflected in the CEO's view of their own organization, with only 27% very confident about revenue growth in 2020. That level of discouragement has not been reported since 2009, Pwc said.

“Navigation the rising tide of uncertainty,” the firm’s 23rd annual global CEO surve,y found that in order to deal with this uncertainty, 89% of U.S. CEOs plan operational efficiencies to help drive growth vs. For the rest of the world’s CEOs that number is 77%

In addition to operational efficiencies, the CEOs are looking on ways to improve and find new upskilling programs this year as well since  only 17% of U.S. CEOs say their upskilling programs have been “very effective”

“Investing in people and helping them continually develop their skills should be embedded in a company’s culture,” said  Jim Keane, CEO of Steelcase, in the report. "That doesn’t just mean training people in what the company decides is important to them. At least a portion of the learning agenda should be based on what the individual chooses to learn about.”

Here are some highlights from the U.S. portion of the survey:

Fourth industrial tech will become even more critical

--This is a time to protect digital technology investments that form a bedrock for growth in any cycle

--Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, IoT, virtual reality, 3D printing, and combinations of these, are viewed as cost-cutting and revenue-generating opportunities.

--Most businesses (63%) say the 4th Industrial Revolution (41R) provides protection during a sluggish economic period, according to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series survey of 4IR adoption.

Underwhelming returns on upskilling program

 --U.S. employers are investing in ambitious upskilling programs. They recognize the need for the entire organization to gain fluency and confidence in the new tech-enabled ways of working.

-- CEO responses indicate the returns on their upskilling programs have thus far been moderate.

--For example, just 17% are prepared to say their upskilling programs have been “very effective” in achieving higher workforce productivity (vs. 30% of CEOs globally)

--While 20% say upskilling has been “very effective” in accelerating digital transformation (vs. 30% global)

 Upskilling programs are often not designed and implemented for business growth

--Only 21% of US CEOs report “significant progress” in defining the skills needed to drive their growth strategy for the future.

--And yet most employees (77%) want to learn new skills now or completely retrain to improve their future employability, according to PwC’s Upskilling Hopes and Fears survey.

--In fact, U.S. job seekers are even willing to forgo up to 12% of their salary to get the training and flexibility they need, according to our Future of Recruiting survey of 10,000 respondents.

 Note: The Global CEO survey can be found here. 

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