As a result of COVID-19, CEOs of the world’s most influential companies have identified talent risk as one of the most significant challenges to growth, and are examining their wider societal contributions and company purpose. In the first study of its kind to measure how CEOs priorities and concerns have changed during the global pandemic, KPMG conducted two surveys, one at the onset of the pandemic in January and another in July/August.
The 2020 KPMG CEO Outlook finds that the agenda of leaders has radically shifted since the beginning of the year, as existing trends like ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) factors, flexible working and digital transformation have accelerated. When reflecting on prospects for growth over the next three years, 32 percent of CEOs are less confident now than they were at the start of the year in the global economy. CEOs, however, are more optimistic about their own country’s growth prospects (45 percent confident), and more confident again in the resilience of their own business over the coming three years.
Bill Thomas, Global Chairman & CEO, KPMG, said: “The significant change in CEOs priorities over the past six months is a clear indication that businesses have had to pivot at breakneck speed to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. Business leaders the world over are seeking to manage uncertainty with decisiveness. This crisis has accelerated strategies that were already in place around digital transformation and social responsibility. However, in other areas planning for the future is a lot harder, particularly thinking about future ways of working and problem solving. So it’s perhaps no surprise that CEOs are focused on the importance of talent to sustain and grow any future business.”
Talent risk rises eleven places, named the largest threat to businesses
In January, CEOs ranked talent risk behind 11 other risks to growth. However, since the start of the pandemic, talent has risen to be named as the most significant threat to their businesses ahead of supply chain and environmental risk.
Personal impact of COVID-19 on CEOs
Four in ten respondents (39 percent) have had their health or the health of one of their family affected by the virus and 55 percent changed their strategic response to the pandemic as a result. Global executives have also been impacted financially, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) citing that they’ve made changes to their compensation as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Digital transformation key to improving operational resilience
CEOs have invested heavily in technology during the lockdown period and they are betting on major dimensions of digital transformation to make their companies more operationally resilient, agile and customer-focused. A majority (80 percent) of leaders have seen the digital transformation of their businesses accelerating during the pandemic. The biggest advancements have been in the digital transformation of operations, where 30 percent say that progress has put them years ahead of where they would have expected to be right now. Twothirds