CEO priorities

Gartner lists CEO priorities for growth, resilience, and sustainability in the post-pandemic era

5 Mins read

The latest findings from the 2023 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey reveal a significant shift in CEO priorities and strategies as they navigate the post-pandemic landscape. The survey indicates that executive leaders are moving away from short-term reactivity and embracing relative stability, allowing them to cautiously return to long-term planning. However, the pandemic has permanently transformed consumer and employee behaviors, necessitating the adaptation of longer-range strategies to capitalize on these changes. Read on to know the top CEO priorities for the years ahead.

1. Business growth tops the list of CEO priorities

CEOs are on a mission for growth, but they’re starting to approach it with a fresh perspective. While nearly half of them (49%) still consider growth a top priority, that number has dipped slightly from last year, likely due to factors like inflation.

However, CEOs are feeling positive and don’t anticipate any major economic downturns soon. With this newfound confidence, they’re turning their attention to the bigger picture, focusing on building strategies that will fuel growth over the next three to seven years.

CEOs are recognizing the pivotal role of business productivity in shaping their strategies. They’re looking ahead to 2025 and realizing that productivity deserves a spot in the top five CEO priorities. To make this happen, CEOs are exploring exciting avenues like data science, which helps them uncover innovative ways to cut costs and boost output.

They’re also eagerly embracing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, cobots (collaborative robots), and blockchains to propel their businesses toward remarkable digital productivity breakthroughs.

2. Tech and automation remain key for CEOs

Technology and automation are taking center stage in the business world, according to the survey. One-third of senior executives see it as a top priority. Automation has experienced a remarkable surge compared to the previous year, indicating its increasing significance. CEOs are also keeping a close eye on digitalization and digital transformation, recognizing their potential to revolutionize their organizations.

What’s fascinating is how CEOs are now drawing a clearer line between “information technology” and “digital capabilities.” This distinction is causing a shift in investment focus, with CEOs prioritizing digital initiatives that hold the most promise and deliver the highest value.

To effectively convey their plans and investments, CEOs must use strategic messaging that goes beyond traditional IT terminology. Terms like “digital modernization,” “digital productivity,” and “digital workplace” capture the essence of their forward-thinking approach.

By emphasizing these digital concepts, CEOs can ensure that attention is appropriately directed towards areas that truly drive value and align with their strategic goals.

3. CEOs expect to tackle talent and workforce challenges

Talent and workforce-related challenges continue to be a pressing concern for CEOs. The survey reveals that talent shortages and inflation rank higher on CEOs’ worry list compared to recession or rising interest rates.

Attracting and retaining talent emerges as the most important component of the CEO’s strategic business priorities, reflecting the ongoing struggle companies face in finding the right people. The pandemic has contributed to talent shortages through early retirements, prolonged sickness, and shifting expectations around pay and work conditions.

Compensation is another significant talent issue, especially in the current inflationary environment. Although employee pay concerns tend to grow during periods of inflation, the unusual dynamics of the labor market – characterized by low unemployment despite economic weakness – mean that employee pay demands are unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

To address these talent and workforce issues, CEOs must respond to ongoing demands for flexibility and hybrid work options from employees. It is also crucial for organizations to conduct rigorous workforce planning exercises to identify key talent shortages and understand how they may impede business growth.

4. CEOs want to invest in a diverse workforce for business resiliency

According to IDC, more than half of CEOs acknowledge the need for enhancing or completely transforming their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices. Embracing diversity within the workforce brings invaluable perspectives essential for innovation, making DEI practices crucial in fostering resilience within organizations.

In addition, the C-Suite faces a significant challenge in terms of digital business initiatives: the lack of digital skills throughout the organization. While automation can assist existing employees, the digital skills gap remains a top concern for business leaders. This is because digital skills play a vital role in driving innovation and keeping pace with rapid technological advancements.

To tackle these obstacles, 39% of CEOs are planning to increase investments in attracting and retaining top talent and skills in 2023. This highlights the growing realization that talent and skills are fundamental drivers of organizational resilience in the digital era.

By prioritizing DEI practices and fostering the development of digital skills, organizations can cultivate a workforce that is better equipped to foster innovation and navigate the complexities of an increasingly competitive business landscape.

5. CEOs embrace cost management strategies to navigate the post-pandemic era

In the wake of the pandemic’s economic impact, CEOs and business leaders are now placing a renewed emphasis on cost management to steer their organizations toward success in the post-pandemic era. Recognizing the need for efficiency and eliminating waste, these leaders are implementing innovative strategies to reduce costs and improve operational effectiveness across their businesses.

By investing in cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and process automation, leaders are streamlining operations and reducing labor costs. Repetitive tasks that were once performed by human workers are now being automated, freeing up valuable time and resources. This shift not only drives cost savings but also enhances overall efficiency.

CEOs must prioritize lean operations, identify opportunities to minimize waste, and improve efficiency in every aspect of their organizations. By identifying inefficiencies and implementing lean principles, businesses can optimize their operations, reduce costs, and enhance profitability.

They must diligently identify potential risks, such as market volatility, economic uncertainty, and cybersecurity threats, and develop comprehensive strategies to mitigate those risks. Moreover, CEOs must implement robust monitoring and management systems to forecast future cash flows, for effective management of working capital, and to ensure sufficient liquidity. By maintaining a healthy cash flow, organizations can withstand unexpected challenges, seize growth opportunities, and foster financial stability.

By implementing strategies to reduce costs, enhance efficiency and financial stability, and eliminate waste, CEOs can build agile and cost-effective organizations that can thrive in the post-pandemic era.

6. Environmental sustainability takes center stage as CEOs prioritize green initiatives

In a groundbreaking shift, environmental issues have risen to prominence, securing a spot in the top ten CEO priorities, according to a recent Gartner survey. The survey revealed that 9% of respondents ranked environmental sustainability among their top three priorities, marking the first time it has made such a significant impact on the business agenda.

The growing attention given to environmental sustainability can be attributed to mounting pressure from various stakeholders, including customers, investors, regulators, and employees. As awareness of the urgent need for sustainable practices intensifies, business leaders are stepping up to prioritize environmental sustainability and drive positive change.

CEOs and leaders recognize that by making environmental sustainability a priority, they can make a profound impact on the environment, society, and the economy. From energy efficiency to waste reduction and sustainable supply chains, there are numerous avenues through which leaders can champion environmental sustainability within their organizations.

  • One key area of focus is energy efficiency. By adopting energy-efficient technologies, practices, and processes, leaders can significantly reduce their business operations’ energy consumption, lowering their ecological footprint.
  • Another crucial aspect is tackling the carbon footprint. Leaders can identify and minimize greenhouse gas emissions across various aspects of their operations, such as transportation, manufacturing, and office buildings, ultimately working towards a low-carbon future.
  • Furthermore, waste reduction strategies play a vital role in environmental sustainability efforts. Implementing recycling programs, composting initiatives, and actively reducing the use of single-use plastics can have a substantial positive impact on the environment.
  • Leaders can also prioritize sustainable supply chains by sourcing materials, products, and services from suppliers that adhere to eco-friendly practices. This approach ensures that the entire value chain operates sustainably, from sourcing raw materials to the end product.

CEOs are entering a new phase where they must pause and pivot, taking a more measured approach to planning while prioritizing business productivity and adapting to the evolving talent landscape. By embracing digitization, leveraging emerging technologies, and strategically managing their costs and workforce, CEOs are positioning their organizations for success in the post-pandemic era.

Source: Gartner

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