The 2023 PWC CEO Survey is the 26th edition, documenting the trends and experiences in global leadership. With data from 4,410 CEOs across the world, the CEO Survey gives an interesting insight into the challenges CEOs are facing over the next 12 months, as well as their predictions for future trends and also where their focus is during 2023.
One of the most prevalent themes from the CEO Survey 2023 was the challenge CEOs face in managing today’s conditions while also wanting to create an agenda for the future and how to balance the needs of today with the sustainability of building the business they want to see for the future.
So, with this in mind, the two key areas that were focused on for this year’s survey are resilience and reinvention.
Resilience in 2023
The year 2023 has been a challenging one for many businesses across the world. There have been the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political and social unrest, environmental issues, and economic uncertainty.
Many CEOs have had to adapt and thrive in this complex and volatile context by building resilience in their organizations. Resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks, cope with change, and maintain performance under pressure. And, as Dr. Milly Cohen, a Mexican resilience expert, mentions, resilience is not only an ability but also a process through which we individually or as a group strengthen ourselves as a result of the lessons learned from overcoming these challenges.
In the CEO Survey 2023, it was reported that 52% of CEOs are actively cutting costs, while a further 33% are considering this for the next 12 months. This can come in lots of ways, such as digital transformations and workforce management, including hiring freezes.
Resilience in digital transformation
One of the critical strategies of CEOs in 2023 is to adopt a culture of innovation. While requiring initial investment, opting for digital transformations has helped to reduce costs by driving efficiencies. This has been done by leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and blockchain to improve efficiency, agility, and customer experience.
By fostering a culture of innovation and learning, these CEOs have enabled their organizations to adapt quickly to changing customer needs, market conditions, and competitive threats. For example, one CEO of a leading e-commerce company in Uruguay has launched a digital platform that connects international sellers with local buyers across Latin America, offering them access to a broader market and lower costs.
Another CEO of a major bank in Colombia has implemented a chatbot that uses natural language processing to answer customer queries and provide financial advice, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Resilience in the workforce
The CEO Survey 2023 has highlighted that 19% of CEOs are implementing hiring freezes this year, while a further 24% are considering implementing hiring freezes in the next 12 months. Similarly, 39% of CEOs are actively reducing and planning to reduce the size of their workforce. However, this still means most organizations have no plan to downsize their teams.
That said, CEOs are reprioritizing their people and purpose. CEOs are predicting that elevated churn rates will continue in organizations, which means they must do more to protect their top talent. In organizations, the most valuable asset is their people, and they need to take care of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Consequently, many CEOs have provided their employees with flexible work arrangements, health and wellness programs, training and development opportunities, and recognition and rewards. They have also articulated a clear and compelling purpose for their organizations, inspiring their employees to work towards a shared vision and mission. By prioritizing their people and their purpose, these CEOs have boosted their employee engagement, retention, and productivity.
For example, one CEO of a successful analytics provider in Chile has offered its employees the option to work remotely from anywhere in the world, promoting work-life balance and diversity. Another CEO of a growing fashion brand in Peru has defined its purpose as empowering women through its products and social initiatives, motivating its employees to make a positive impact. A large global food, snack, and beverage consumer company implemented a hybrid scheme for all its offices in Latin America for their corporate office areas and each manager decides which day they meet in the offices with their teams. So far, it has been a successful model.
In terms of managing the current situation, retaining talent remains a priority. By maintaining a strong employee culture and keeping talent happy, it can help CEOs to focus on the following priority of reinvention for the future.
Reinvention beyond 2023
Investing in the future was another key element of the CEO Survey 2023, and the idea of the role CEOs are playing in reinventing their businesses for the future. The last few years of the pandemic, economic uncertainties and geopolitical issues have meant that many CEOs are focused on fighting fires and managing the current situation rather than spending time evolving the business.
Currently, CEOs state that 53% of their time is spent driving current operational performance. Still, in an ideal scenario, this would switch, and CEOs would spend 57% of their time focused on meeting future demands and developing business strategies.
The survey then delved into the ways CEOs want to reinvent their business and the key areas they want to focus on for the future, including:
● Upskilling and training talent in the workforce
● Prioritizing AI, machine learning, cloud-based and future-proofing technology
● Automating processes and efficiency in systems
● Metaverse exploration and strategies
● Bolstering supply chains for the organization
● Responding to the climate crisis and associated risks
The challenge for CEOs is finding ways to develop these areas while managing the current situation. However, there are times when both go hand-in-hand. For example, retaining top talent remains a key priority for 2023. However, the future needs to upskill could come into play now to help increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention rates.
Similarly, workforces are looking for organizations that align with their values and organizations committed to social and environmental causes, such as their response to the climate crisis can also be a significant factor when top talent chooses which organizations they want to work for.
Instead of seeing the CEO work schedule split between 2023 operations and the future, it may be that many of the future strategies can be incorporated into today’s response to not only mitigate the needs of today but prepare the organization of tomorrow too.