What will keep CEOs awake in 2020?

What will keep CEOs awake in 2020?

The challenges faced by CEOs across the next year and coming decade will be many and varied. Entire industries and sectors are being disrupted by technology while political and societal changes are also coming into play. Any gathering of CEOs, however, is also likely to generate common discussion in areas such as the war for talent, innovation and reskilling. So what are the most pressing concerns for both CEOs and the C-suite?

Finding the right talent

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace, new industries, sectors and roles will be created while others will be displaced and disrupted. Ensuring organisations have the right talent will be difficult but leaders must have robust strategies in place to deliver on this front. For in the age of automation and artificial intelligence, it will be people, not technology, that will be a key differentiator in areas like customer experience and innovation. While there is high demand for digital acumen soft skills must not be overlooked and will prove equally important.

Continual innovation

Securing the right talent will also help CEOs to crack one of the other big challenges they face: the ability to continually innovate. According to research and advisory services firm, Gartner, nearly 90 per cent of organisations have digital initiatives focused on improving current products and services while four-fifths have digital initiatives focused on creating new products and services.

The extent to which an organisation is successful at identifying new opportunities, determining which opportunities to pursue, and adjusting business processes to act on those opportunities, is described as their “innovation effectiveness”. Improving the innovative effectiveness of an organisation can increase annual revenue by as much as $8,800 per employee, Gartner claims.


Alongside recruitment and retention, CEOs face a huge challenge when it comes to reskilling and upskilling their existing employees. A report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) warns that 54 per cent of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling in the next three years. It is already something that weighs heavily on the minds of many CEOs with recent PwC research revealing that four-fifths of CEOs are extremely concerned about their workforce’s existing skills.

To meet the challenge, CEOs must work with C-suite directors from across their functions to identify as well as anticipate the skills that will be most required and ensure a culture of continuous learning is in place.

Building trust

The ongoing change that has taken place in the world of business in recent years and the era of digital transformation has proven unsettling for many workforces. Leaders need to ensure their people are aligned with the organisation and its strategies if they are to be successful. Which is why building trust will remain one of the biggest challenges for many CEOs. But they must work hard to achieve trustworthiness with honest and transparent behaviours and actions that make people want to follow them.

A force for good

Alongside these individual – though interlinked – challenges, leaders around the world also face a big picture test which involves rethinking role of business in society. This requires a different approach to leadership than in the past. Employees, customers and other stakeholders increasingly want businesses to embrace societal change. Fortune magazine reports that two-thirds of individuals in the US reckon a company’s “primary purpose” should be making the world better. And it isn’t just politicians that need to have climate action or infrastructure investment on their agendas but business leaders, too. This means leaders must be more philanthropic and altruistic and become involved in initiatives that position their personal and company brand as a force for good.

Win-win situation

This will have internal benefits too though and, ultimately, help leaders tackle all the above challenges. Top and diverse talent will want to work for the organisation and go the extra mile when it comes to performance and in areas such as innovation. It will also be easier to build trust in such a company. In short, it’s a win for business and society.

Rialto Consultancy wants to help CEOs and business leaders confront the challenges of the 21st Century as well as help them ensure they have the right pipeline of leadership talent for the future. Call us today on (0)20 3043 8640.


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