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What Does the Future of Business Look Like? Ask 1,379 CEO’s

What Does the Future of Business Look Like?  Ask 1,379 CEO’s

While we would all like to know the future, crystal balls are in short supply.  Instead, Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) offered up its 20th annual global CEO survey, released recently in Davos, Switzerland.

While a small business struggling to meet its bottom line, or even a medium-sized enterprise beginning to develop recruiting reach, may not be looking too far down the line, the annual PwC survey provides a view from leadership on the ground right now.

Each year, PwC talks to CEOs and others about their perspective on important impact points.  This year the survey included feedback from 1,379 executives from 79 countries in addition to public surveys taken by PwC.  Let’s take a look at some of the findings:

  • Global commerce in an age of disruption: Anger at income inequality may impact world trade, even as the trend itself is naturally slowing.

National sentiments in North America and Europe have fueled protectionist movements and resulting outcomes.  The voices of the survey express interest in prospecting in a wider variety of countries, in addition to emerging markets.  The top five countries where execs are considering for expansion include the US, China, Germany, the UK, and Japan.  In 2011, the top five were China, the U.S., Brazil, India, and Germany.

Perhaps encouraged by promises of deregulation, 51 percent of respondents were “extremely positive” about longer term possibilities for increased earnings, an increase from 49 percent in 2016.  According to the global C-suite, things are looking up.

  • Automation: The machines have landed, and job displacement is underway. Machine learning and automation are making humans redundant.  Productivity increases, as well as discontent, when humans are pushed out of high-paying jobs.  Not a surprise, this trend has been foreseen for several years.

In a larger sampling of over 5,000 workers in 22 countries, 79 percent felt tech would cause job losses in the coming five years.  PwC points out that predictions of how many jobs will be lost fluctuate, but notes that experts believe machines will replace humans in areas of every sector.

Survey respondents note the difficulty of recruiting for jobs that cannot be performed by machines.  These are positions that require problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, emotional intelligence, and creativity.  Despite the incursion of machines, more than 50 percent of companies surveyed indicated they will be hiring, while 16 percent have plans to terminate positions, in the coming year.  The most sought-after skills are those that spur innovative thinking, a highly desired attribute of the worker of the future.

Part of the numbers game around automation depends on how long older technologies will persist before they are supplanted. As tech integrates into an industry, job loss—and replacement by automation—will be determined by when resources are available for the transition, and when increased revenue from using machines could be expected.

  • Recruiting strategies: Overall, CEOs are looking at enlarging the pools in which applicants are sought to fill the jobs of the future.  A robust sense of engaging human capital permeates the responses in the PwC report.  From hiring the “best people,” regardless of “who and where they are,” to delving into better mechanisms for worker management, rewards, mentoring, and feedback, CEOs are seeking to create diverse, creative, management and work teams that reflect each other, in order to drive innovation and attract talent.

In the survey, more than 75 percent of responding CEOs reported a change in their recruiting and employment strategies to better attract and retain workers with the skills and attributes they need.

  • Network and data security: Turbulent trends in social media create concern for CEOs.  With the realization that trust is essential to brand value, that quality can quickly be lost in the face of data loss or network breach.

In a public survey, PwC reports 84 percent of respondents say they lose trust in companies when there is a data or ethics breach by the company.  Along those lines, 78 percent of people say IT downtime and disruptions cause them to question their trust in a business.

Enterprise security, with its reliance on third party vendors, is acknowledged as a “big problem.”

But effective surveillance and business continuity is not enough.  Across the board, consumers are looking to put trust in companies that are not only addressing the safety of their own data assets, but providing support and engagement to industry and governmental stakeholders, as well as helping customers manage their own “technology footprint.”

While these are just some of the concerns addressed by the global body of CEOs surveyed by PwC, they offer a cross section of the issues facing any company at present.  Maintaining economic growth amid continued volatility, developing a future-resilient workforce, and managing digital security are all essential. We will keep you posted as these issues develop.

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