Global Survey Finds CEOs Working to Bolster Capability in 2016's Sea of Uncertainty

Jan 14, 2016, 10:00 ET from The Conference Board

NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Chief executives worldwide have made organizational capability their priority for 2016, according to CEO Challenge 2016, a global survey and report released today by The Conference Board. These leaders are improving internally to counteract a mass of external risks—economic, demographic, geopolitical, and more—in the year ahead and beyond. On a foundation of engagement, inclusion, and continual improvement, they are seeking to build high-performing cultures that can support growth and spur innovation amid widespread uncertainty.   

"Deep-seated anxieties about talent and human capital pervade this year's survey results," said Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., a co-author of the report and Executive Vice President, Knowledge Organization at The Conference Board. "From their hot-button issues for 2016 to their long-term strategies in multiple business areas, CEOs are wide awake to the risks posed by rapidly changing skill requirements, on one hand, and a historic slowdown in working-age population growth on the other." 

"We are in a slow-growth world with significant downside risks for the year ahead," said Bart van Ark, Ph.D. another report co-author and Executive Vice President, Chief Economist & Strategy Officer at The Conference Board. "At the same time, technology continues to accelerate at an incredible pace, promising great rewards to organizations capable of seizing the initiative. To do so, they need to be aligned, agile, and innovative like never before—and our survey finds CEOs focused urgently toward that end." 

The Conference Board CEO Challenge® 2016 is the latest in a survey series first conducted in 1999. Between September and early November, 605 CEOs, presidents, and chairmen from across the globe responded to researchers' questions on the most pressing challenges facing their organizations. For 2016, the survey was redesigned to provide additional context for the six key business challenges consistently selected by CEOs as core concerns in previous years. From lists of choices vetted by a panel of CEOs and other experts, respondents detailed the critical strategies they are employing to improve performance in each of the six areas: Human Capital, Customer Relationships/Corporate Brand and Reputation, Operational Excellence, Innovation and Digitalization, Regulation and Risk, and Sustainability.      

Alongside these perennial strategic challenges, survey participants were also asked which "hot-button issues" were likely to demand enhanced vigilance and tactical responses in 2016. Worldwide, the failure to attract and/or retain top talent was the most cited concern, followed by the need to develop next-generation leaders. Slowing growth in emerging economies, new global competitors, and volatility in cash flow round out the top five hot-button issues named by CEOs.

Additional key findings from CEO Challenge 2016:

  • Human Capital strategies have shifted noticeably in recent years from a belief that talent is readily available on the marketplace toward internal development and engagement.
  • CEOs consider inclusion fundamental to the Innovation and Digitalization challenge.
  • Five of the top ten Operational Excellence strategies named by CEOs relate to human capital.
  • Human capital is also intimately tied to Customer Relationships—CEOs recognize the importance of a culture in which everyone shares customer/brand responsibility.
  • Cyber security is the leading concern for CEOs in the area of Risk and Regulation.
  • CEOs take a holistic view of Sustainability, with an emphasis on integrating it with brand identity and marketing strategy.

The conversation continues on Twitter. Follow @Conferenceboard and #CEOChallenge16.

For complete details, including a strategic implications for CEOs, CHROs, CFOs and General Counsels: 

About the Conference Board
The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest. Our mission is unique: To provide the world's leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society. The Conference Board is a non-advocacy, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States.

SOURCE The Conference Board