What Can We Learn from the 2012 Global CEO Survey?

PriceWaterhouseCoopers does an annual global survey of CEO’s. This year, 160 chief executives participated in the survey from across the planet.   So, what’s on their mind, and what are they fearful of?  Here are at least 4 areas that struck me as interesting.

1)      They are getting accustomed to a new volatile world

The Roller Coaster of Wall Street, Greek Debt Crisis, instability in the Middle East, and just some of the topics remaining in the headlines.   Yet in spite of this, 3X more CEO’s today are more confident in their company’s growth prospects than they are in the vitality of the global economy.

Recession fears top their list of sleep preventers.  How are they responding?  75% of them, at least have launched cost reduction initiatives in the past 12 months.

Many are looking to emerging markets to offer these growth opportunities, which will also expose them to more risk.  Yet 68% of CEO’s feel emerging markets are more important to their growth than their prior domestic ones.

Possible Implications:   Emerging markets may bring more risk and uncertainty – making business results and stock prices more volatile. There may be less hiring in mature (domestic) markets?  Volatility may likely keep cost cutting on most agendas.

2)      They are Confident about growth over the next 3-5 years

While only 40% felt confident about their company’s revenue growth prospects, 47% were more confident about increased sales over the next 3-5 years.

Possible Implications:  Hiring may increase (60% said they plan to hire in the next 12 months)

3)      Talent Shortages are a Growing Concern

While nearly half of CEO’s feel their firms will grow, only 30% felt they have the talent they need to support it.  In fact, 1 in 4 CEO’s said they had to delay or pass on new market opportunities or missed overseas sales growth goals because of limitations in leadership and employee skills.  2/3rds rank improving leadership talent and employee skills as their 2 top priorities.

Interestingly only 15-25% of them felt they were getting sufficient information (data) about their human capital assets including: ROI on human capital investments, productivity, costs of turnover or employee needs.

They also feel instinctively that human costs are rising more rapidly than expected (43%).

Possible Implications:  HR and L&D officers may have opportunities to strengthen professional development efforts, but they need to get better at measuring the benefits of their spending.

4)      More are Counting on New Products/Services to Drive that Growth

2X more senior exec’s today say that their future growth will come from new products and services than was the case 5 years ago.  Many speak of this as needing to innovate on many fronts.  They see innovation as being not only about R&D, but generally finding new/better ways of doing things across the board.   The describe these as needing to be cross-functional and aligning market facing initiatives together WITH process change.

What were the two highest ranked aspects of their innovation agenda?  1) Developing new products and services, and 2) Improving operational excellence to reduce costs.

Possible Implications:   Innovation effectiveness is now becoming more of a strategic imperative.

If you go to the PWC link at the top of this piece – I encourage you to play the various short video clips of the interviewed CEO’s.  From my perspective they add richness to the findings that the raw data seem to miss.


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Filed under Innovation, Leading, Strategy

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