Each year, PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey captures the issues at the top of the agenda for the world’s business community.
Comparing and contrasting the views of business and government enables a better understanding of the policy and delivery responses today, and how public sector organisations themselves can get ready for tomorrow’s challenges.
Over the past 20 years CEOs have seen much change due to globalisation and technological change. But has everyone benefitted?
This is a question that goes to the heart of the debate on inclusive, good growth which has become increasingly important following the last year where electorates have challenged the existing order.
Geopolitical uncertainty is seen as a top 5 threat to growth while 58% of the CEOs surveyed think it's becoming harder to compete on the world stage due to more closed national policies.
There are no silver bullets but policy action can help if directed to support the top drivers for growth, identified by the CEOs surveyed as innovation, technology and human capital.
People worry that globalisation will take away their jobs; they’re even more nervous about the impact of technology. Yet CEOs are still hiring – and looking most for skills that can’t be replicated by machines, such as creativity & innovation (77%), leadership (75%) and emotional intelligence (64%).
The challenge is finding those skills: 77% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills, while 39% of state backed CEOs are extremely concerned.
In response, CEOs are searching more widely for talent. For many public bodies facing pay restraint and job cuts, it is therefore even more important for public leaders to invest in their people and offer attractive careers.
Trust has been climbing steadily up the CEO agenda, and technology has exacerbated the challenge. In a more digitised world, CEOs say it's harder to gain and keep trust in areas like data privacy and ethics, IT disruptions and artificial intelligence.
State backed CEOs are particularly concerned about the speed of technological change (78% compared with 69% in the private sector) and almost one third (31%) agreed strongly that how they manage people’s data will differentiate their organisations. Meanwhile over a quarter (27%) believe confusion around who owns digital assets will impact negatively to a large extent on stakeholder trust levels in their industry.
Trust is really the currency of the digital age and those CEOs with government backing appear to appreciate this most acutely.
The vast majority of CEOs (90%+) think globalisation has helped to facilitate trade, connectivity and a skilled workforce. But sizeable percentages of CEOs don’t believe globalisation has helped at all to: close gap between rich and poor (44%); enhance the fairness and integrity of global tax systems (35%); and avert climate change and resource scarcity (28%).
Government action is needed but on its own is not enough: business has an important role too. CEOs believe that collaboration between business and government is needed to drive the kind of systemic change which can result in the proceeds of globalisation and new technology being distributed in a way that can help to close the gap between rich and poor.
The Chinese economy continues to undergo complex structural reforms to ensure balanced and steady development and growth. Business outlook for executives in China appears quite positive. To achieve this growth, numerous challenges combined with global economic uncertainty have to be overcome. Intense industry competition, the pace of technological development, changes in consumer spending and behaviour, difficulty with recruiting employees with advanced skills and lack of trust in business were cited as main threats to growth prospects.
Business leaders today have a great opportunity and responsibility to lead through the disruptions by demonstrating purpose and increasing trust. Find out more from our China report: Leading through disruption.