The C-suite's guide to 2018

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The C-suite's guide to 2018

By Gina Acosta - 01/18/2018

Fears of a recession are fading in the C-suite, but CEOs are still worried about human capital heading into 2018, according to a new report.

The C-Suite Challenge survey by the Conference Board shows that attracting and retaining talent ranks as the foremost concern not only among CEOs but also the rest of the C-Suite, including CHROs and CFOs.

“Businesses appear to be starting 2018 with a healthy sense of confidence, a sentiment reinforced by our recent projection of three percent global economic growth for this year,” said Bart van Ark, report co-author and Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “However, the optimism remains tempered by a few factors – among them, a continuation of geopolitical and social tensions, uncertainty around global policy issues, talent shortages, and the disruption caused by emerging technologies.”

A desire for organizational cultures that are inclusive, engaged, high-performance, customer-focused, and resilient is signaled throughout the responses to this year’s survey. The desire for a “culture of innovation” ranks as the number-one innovation strategy in every region (Asia is the one exception, where it is third), every industry, every size company, and among CEOs and C-Suite executives alike. Also, the report finds the impact of the New Digital Economy is clearly being felt in the daily processes and practices of organizations, and through the emergence of new competitors from every part of the globe.

The report also asked business leaders about their “hot-button issues” – issues that will require a special focus this year. Some of the key findings include:

  • Fear of a global recession has plummeted. For 2017, CEOs globally ranked it as their number-one concern; for 2018, they moved it down to their 19th. However, CFOs are more concerned than CEOs about a global recession. They ranked it as their 7th top concern.
  • The top concern of CEOs is attracting and retaining talent. This is also true for the rest of the C-Suite, including CHROs and CFOs.
  • The 2nd top concern of CEOs is creating new business models because of disruptive technologies. This is also true for the rest of the C-Suite, including CHROs and CFOs. (While the C-Suite is aligned in their 1st and 2nd top concerns, they differ in their prioritization of other hot-button issues.)
  • Concern about income inequality has risen sharply. For 2017, CEOs globally ranked it 18th; for 2018, it is their 7th biggest concern. It is of special concern in China, where it ranks 3rd.
  • Anxiety about global trade has increased. For 2017, CEOs globally ranked threats to global trade systems as their 15th biggest concern; for 2018, it is their 8th.
  • Europe’s CEOs remain concerned about Brexit. For 2017, CEOs in Europe ranked the effects of Brexit as their 8th biggest concern; it ranks the same for 2018, an indication that Brexit remains on their collective radar. Overall, however, Brexit ranks a relative low 26th on the global list.  

Business leaders also detailed strategies they are employing to improve performance in six areas: Human Capital, Innovation, Operational Excellence, Customer Relationships/Corporate Brand and Reputation, Regulation and Risk, and Sustainability. Some of the key findings pertaining to Innovation and Human Capital include:

Less than half of CEOs (48 percent) see their organization as a technology leader in their industries. Moreover, less than 10 percent of CEOs globally say they are “extremely satisfied” with their organization’s ability to innovate, and they continue to struggle with how to measure innovation.

Fewer than half (41 percent) of CHROs think their workforces in the next three to five years will be comprised predominantly of traditional, full-time employees.

The Conference Board’s C-Suite Challenge surveyed more than 1,000 leaders between early September 2017 and early November 2017.