Canadian CEOs are more confident about the future than CEOs globally; Access to top talent remains a concern

Jan 22, 2013, 12:56 ET from PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Global CEO Survey shows how CEOs are delegating decision making, developing future leaders and rebuilding trust

TORONTO, Jan. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian CEOs are generally more confident of their revenue prospects and the economy in the short and longer term compared to their global peers, according to PwC's 16th Annual Global CEO Survey released today in Davos, Switzerland. The survey interviewed over 1,300 of the world's chief executives in 68 countries, including 120 Canadian CEOs. This year's survey looked at key items on CEO agendas around the world including confidence in growth, current threats like the availability of talent, approaches to leadership and the need to rebuild trust.

Highlights include:

  • Canadian CEOs say they are very confident about their company's prospects over the next three years and have a higher confidence level than their global counterparts (60% vs. 46% globally).
  • Canadian CEOs are less likely to provide global mobility and international experience opportunities to develop their leadership pipeline than in other countries. Only 39% of Canadian CEOs are focused on mobility opportunities, compared to the global average (61%).
  • About half  of Canadian CEOs say they expect the economy to stay the same in 2013 (49%), while more than a quarter expect some improvement (26%); Last year nearly half of leaders said things would get worse in 2012 (48%), and few were expecting an improvement (15%).

Bill McFarland, PwC Canada's CEO says, "Canada is a global leader when it comes to stability in our financial sector and Canadian CEOs are responding with greater confidence about their company's prospects. At the same time, our CEOs are watching the economic environment south of the border carefully and paying close attention to the responses of governments in Canada and around the world to how they are managing their deficits and the debt burden."

Developing Canada's future business leaders
Canadian CEOs are characterized for taking a more inclusive approach to decision making. Half of Canadian CEOs said that all of their staff are encouraged to get involved in strategic decision making (compared to 31% globally).

Canadian CEOs also said that involving staff below board level in strategic decision making was effective in engaging their people and developing their pipeline of future leaders (88% vs. 79% globally). CEOs also stay active in succession planning, with 85% saying they are identifying multiple successors for their jobs.

McFarland says, "We are seeing an increasing tendency to flatten the hierarchy that exists in many organizations as more CEOs delegate decision-making and empower people. Nine out of ten CEOs in our survey said this was an effective way to develop their people as part of succession planning."

However Canadian CEOs are less likely to provide global mobility and international experience opportunities to develop their leadership pipeline than other countries including the U.S., the BRIC economies, EU zone and Australia. Only 39% of Canadian CEOs use global mobility as a development tool, compared to the global average (61%).

Moreover, Canadian CEOs were less inclined to say global opportunities are an effective way to develop their leaders (66% compared to the global average of 83%). McFarland says, "This could be a risk, as the global economy changes rapidly and there is an increasing need for Canadian business to penetrate new markets, understand the global marketplace and be a significant player on the world stage."

Access to talent continues to be limited
Whereas the majority of CEOs around the world cited policy concerns over taxes as their top threat to growth (62%), Canadian CEOs say they are more concerned about finding key skills in their workforce (63%), the speed of technological change (45%) and their ability to finance growth (43%).

Canadian CEOs feel the Government should focus its efforts on creating and supporting a skilled workforce, with 72% saying this should be the Government's top priority. Over three-quarters of Canadian respondents said they will be increasing their investment in developing a skilled workforce (76%) and more than half expect to increase their headcount in 2013 (52%).

The need to rebuild trust
Another key theme in this year's survey is that CEOs around the world are recognizing the need to rebuild trust amongst the public by having a stronger social mandate which starts within their own organizations and covers the relationship with all stakeholders. Globally, more than half of CEOs said they are focusing on promoting a more ethical corporate culture over the coming year. In Canada, this is reflected by almost a third of CEOs saying they sense that a "lack of trust" in their industry is a threat to their growth.

"Winning businesses of the future need to be about more than making money - to attract and retain top talent having a social responsibility lense will be a critical success factor," says McFarland.

He continues, "By aligning the value and purpose of your organization with those of your employees and the needs of society, CEOs can build businesses that have a shared sense of purpose where people do the right thing for the right reasons."

In a recent speech to the Economic Club of Canada, McFarland also called for leaders within the professional services firms in Canada to be "leaders of change". "It's important to restore confidence in the markets and inspire and ensure the profession remains relevant for the next generation," he said.

Survey Methodology:
For PwC's 16th Annual Global CEO Survey, 1,330 interviews were conducted in 68 countries during the last quarter of 2012. By region, 449 interviews were conducted in Asia Pacific, 312 in Western Europe, 287 in North America, including 120 in Canada and 167 in the U.S., 165 in Latin America, 95 in Central & Eastern Europe, 50 in Africa and 32 in the Middle East.

The full survey can be downloaded at Copies are also available from the media contacts including related charts and information graphics to help illustrate your stories. To watch a video clip of Bill McFarland's address to the Economic Club of Canada, please visit: a-speech.jhtml.

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