Nothing is a priority when all is a priority. And many CEOs find themselves making decisions from this ambiguous place as they try to make sense of the post-COVID business world.
Two years ago, only a small percentage of CEOs saw the value of having crucial capabilities in areas like cash flow management, workforce resiliency, corporate agility, cost control, and crisis management. Top executives now, though, give a different account. According to recent statistics from the IBM Institute for Business Value, executives are currently prioritizing each of these skills. Our findings suggest that during the next two years, we should expect another large shift in priorities. We have no doubt that executives want to prioritize worker safety and security, company agility, and cost management.
Possibilities for a new age
Executives’ top objectives are significantly shifting as businesses prepare for an unknowable future.
The only constant still changes
Higher criteria are being applied to leadership initiatives. The two benefits they desire most from ongoing digital transformation are workforce resilience and competitiveness. The majority of businesses are also speeding up their change. It is surprising to see, nevertheless, that a greater emphasis on change seems to come at the expense of clients and joint venture opportunities.
This one-of-a-kind IBV Trending Insights study brings together new data from business leaders from various industries who collectively oversee USD 3.7 trillion in revenue with the results of several proprietary consumer and executive surveys conducted between April and August 2020. Our inescapable conclusion is that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the reality that enterprises must now deal with. Whether they are focusing on the now or the future, business leaders’ expectations for flexibility and speed have greatly increased. As a result of ongoing disruption, shifting customer expectations, and an unprecedented rate of change, old barriers are being erased. Their viewpoints seem to be more distinct than before. Motivation is increasingly existential rather than aspirational.
Our research identifies five crucial insights from top executives for the post-pandemic corporate environment, offering new perspectives on digitization, the future of labor, openness, and sustainability. They provide active leaders who are aware that the days of operating, in the same manner, are over with a manual.
Those insights are:
- The digital transformation has never been centered on technology alone
- The secret to success is the human factor
- Traumatic stress has supplanted corporate strategy
- Some will triumph. Some people will lose. But few people will go it alone
- The secret to sustainability is good health
1st Insight: The digital transformation has never been centered on technology alone
Anecdotal examples of “game-time” pivots—moving hordes of people to distant networks, rethinking and rebuilding supply networks, and moving production—show that they can be more than simply temporary financial contortions when it comes to producing in-demand protective gear. Now that quicker change rates are the norm, businesses must have the ability to remain flexible.
The COVID-19 outbreak has advanced digital transformation in 59 percent of the businesses we surveyed. And 66 percent say they were able to carry out tasks that they had before encountered difficulties. Cost reduction is the main advantage cited for transformation programs, which adds to the defensive aspect of this cultural shift.
However, something more significant and durable is now being worked on. Prior to the pandemic, many businesses seemed to have had misgivings about their own technical prowess and labor capacity. However, amid the blur of this year’s pandemic-related responses, those concerns turned out to be largely unfounded.
The need for tech platforms increased, and those platforms and the business teams using them produced results. It’s not that new technology was developed and applied overnight. Rather, the tools that were already available were used more effectively. Prior to implementation obstacles were brusquely removed. And those who went first had very instant results. The COVID-19 epidemic has fundamentally altered how companies operate globally. The epidemic has “resulted in irreversible adjustments to our organizational style,” according to 55% of survey respondents. The percentage of respondents who say COVID-19 has “improved process automation” and “changed our approach to change management” is noticeably higher at 60%. While 64 percent acknowledge that company processes are becoming more cloud-based.
Because they are more confident in what technology is capable of, executives are pursuing digital transformation. They claim that they would invest in cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, cloud, AI, and IoT as part of their recovery strategy for COVID-19. Organizational leadership now more frequently acknowledges the benefits that technophiles have long praised. In order to position themselves for success, organizations must make sure that their staff is long-term capable, robust, and flexible.
2nd insight: The secret to success is the human factor
The key to success resides in human resources, even though CEOs intend to increase practically. All IT competencies during their upcoming digital revolutions. Our research of one IBV data set indicates that business competencies focused on people and customers, like workforce development and customer experience management, account for the majority of an organization’s anticipated growth.
Amazingly, however, executives appear to have missed these elements. After COVID-19, more than three-quarters of CEOs anticipate that changed consumer behavior would persist. Face-to-face encounters are being replaced by increasing online buying and customer service interactions. To that end, 84 percent of CEOs, up from just 35 percent just two years ago. Agree that customer experience management will be a major priority during the next two years. On the list of advantages that CEOs hope to gain from the digital transformation, “better customer service” is ranked in the bottom half.
Given that 60% of CEOs stated they would use AI-based customer engagement solutions to achieve their goals, this is perplexing. Additionally, during the epidemic, several businesses handled up to 80% of customer service traffic with chatbots. We ask how they will enhance customer experiences if not fully through digital transformation. If executives are unsure about how they should interact with customers, their performance with their team suffers significantly. Employee satisfaction has received less attention than worker safety, skill development, and flexibility. Executives claim that one of their main goals is the satisfaction of the workers. Even though they are conscious of the tremendous burden placed on them. Our research demonstrates a remarkable disparity between what executives think and reality.
Employers vastly overestimate the effectiveness of their support and training activities, despite the fact that they are caring for their employees and how those employees genuinely feel. Only around half of employees appear to believe that their employer genuinely cares about their wellbeing. Given that the majority appear to be struggling. Obviously, managers that can execute this correctly have a great opportunity.
3rd insight: Traumatic stress has supplanted corporate strategy
Executives are responsible for outlining the vision of the company. But it can be challenging to focus if they are continually putting out fires. The epidemic has increased both recent and long-standing corporate fears, even while cost containment, worker safety and resilience, and organizational agility appear to be the top priorities in the short- and long-term. What happened? Executives are paying attention to the current priority.
Since the start of the year 2020, there have been a few changes in executive priorities, most recently in the most recent few months. They look to be focusing on internal operational capacity at the moment, which may be deflecting attention away from the customer service experience at a time when it may be essential.
Prior to COVID-19, agility, AI, data and analytics, or other new technologies received more attention. Over the next two years, business agility will receive top emphasis, according to 87 percent of CEOs. As a result of a greater awareness of the risks, the likelihood of gaining a competitive advantage has increased. Over 65 percent of respondents say that investing in IoT, cloud, and mobility would be a priority, and an astounding 94 percent of respondents expect to participate in platform-based business models.
Everything is therefore vital. Improving the customer experience is the only thing that can help drive performance and growth when the competition is hidden in the mist.
4th insight: Some will triumph. Some people will lose. But few people will go it alone
Not all firms and industries have been similarly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation resembles what some experts have dubbed a “K-shaped” consumer environment, where some enterprises thrive while others fail. The split in the stock market, where the biggest customer tech platforms increased while other shares fell, is one illustration of this divergence. Consider Amazon, which has grown by 78% this year. Due to its expansion, more than 50% of the other consumer sector companies’ decreases were somewhat mitigated. Or take a look at Apple, which has increased by 60% and is now bigger than the bottom third of the S&P 500 companies combined. While there are few successful lone wolves in the world, like Apple and Amazon, most businesses need partnerships and ecosystems to succeed.
According to our research, executives thought the health sector will most likely experience growth following the crisis. Telecommunication and entertainment were all expected to perform well with the help of stay-at-home directives and habits. The transportation and travel industry, along with businesses that depend heavily on manufacturing, like the auto industry, are at the top of the list of losers. Sectors are increasingly anticipating that a larger audience will help choose the winners. Furthermore, our findings show a growing reliance on system marketing tactics and business alliances, with 70% of CEOs planning significant industry-to-industry partnering efforts and 57% looking outside. In any event, they project a more than 300 percent rise in such involvement compared to the previous two years.
Additionally, exceptions were made for services deemed essential when epidemic lockdowns were put in place. As a result, “vital workers” rose to the position of society’s most cherished and praised citizens a renewed focus on “the fundamentals” throughout every organization. And for all budgets have accompanied this rise in appreciation for those who enable others to live, work, and enjoy.
5th insight: The secret to sustainability is good health
Prior to the coronavirus, sustainability plans tended to concentrate on issues related to the environment, such as the risks that pollution, climate change, and other comparable variables bring to global health. Consumers were increasingly taking products into consideration, inspiring passion and devotion. as well as businesses that demonstrated credibility in these fields. The interests and concerns of the regulators were similar.
However, when there was an issue with human health, concerns about personal safety and environmental sustainability began to converge. More consumers than ever before want disposable masks, gloves, and individual packaging. To avoid stepping out in public and save lives, they have been receiving delivered products. These measures seem to put the preservation of human health and the environment at odds. Our research shows that the public is still quite interested in environmental issues. In actuality, sustainability now encompasses health and safety in a new, broader, and more nuanced way. As businesses work to meet their present sustainability goals, such as reducing their carbon footprints and improving their waste management. While also complying with new health and safety laws, they are already up against new hurdles.
This could be one of the more challenging—and significant—effects of business after COVID-19. New processes, instruments, and data types will also be required to meet this standard. For illustration: What is the environmental cost of meat spoiling or being thrown away as opposed to using additional plastic to make it safer? How can last-mile deliveries and supply networks meet customer and company needs without idly wasting resources? Leaders will need to provide knowledgeable, nuanced replies to more difficult questions.
Next, what should do?
The epidemic acted as a wake-up call that the improbable and the unexpected are real and realistic in more ways than anyone had previously imagined. For many, it has been a dreadful, costly, and unresolved reality. A small group of other fortunate people has received an unexpected windfall as a result, but businesses have failed to capitalize on it. In any scenario, executives must accept that the epidemic’s effects on strategy, leadership, operations, and budgeting goals are long-lasting. There will be a rapid increase in cloud usage, transformation, and investment in digital technologies. The main barrier to development continues to be organizational complexity. More than twice as many CEOs as in the past mention it as a barrier. Another related issue is employee burnout. The findings indicate employee overwork and exhaustion, which may be a manifestation of this complexity.
This offers a new chance to build stronger organizations and a more just society. Fostering employee trust and confidence will be essential, starting with giving diverse staff the tools they need to perform at their best. The way children are treated today will have a big impact on how people view and regard them in the future.