CEO’s Most Concerned About Talent and Recession

A new global survey reveals that CEOs view a recession as their biggest external concern for 2019. They cited attracting and retaining talent as their top internal concern.

Conducted each year by The Conference Board, the findings from C-Suite Challenge 2019™ also show that CEOs feel particularly uneasy about issues including global political instability, leader development, and trade. The report is based on a survey of over 800 CEOs and over 600 other C-Suite executives, primarily from the United States, Asia, and Europe. Participants weighed in on the top business challenges facing their organizations in both the year ahead and well into the future, and their strategies for meeting those challenges.

External CEO Concerns for 2019

The survey asked both CEOs and other C-Suite executives about their external concerns for 2019.

Key findings include:

Recession fears re-emerge

  • Globally, CEOs rank a recession as their #1 external concern for 2019.
  • Just a year ago, in 2018, they considered a recession as an afterthought, ranking it their 19th concern.

Trade threats are a top concern

  • Globally, threats to global trade came in as the 2nd biggest external concern of CEOs.
  • U.S. CEOs rank this issue 4th; China’s CEOs rank it 2nd.

Global political instability is top of mind for Europe’s executives

  • Europe’s CEO’s rank global political instability as their #1 external concern. Globally, it ranks 3rd.

Cyber security is rattling America’s CEOs…much more than China’s CEOs

  • U.S. CEOs rank cyber security as their #1 external concern for 2019. China’s CEO rank it as their 10th.

Internal CEO Concerns for 2019

The survey also asked both CEOs and other C-Suite executives about their internal concerns for 2019. Key findings include:

Talent quality and leader development are top internal concerns

  • Globally, across all regions, CEOs rank attracting and retaining top talent as their #1 internal concern.
  • Developing the next generation of leaders is the 3rd internal concern for CEOs globally.

Anxiety around digital technologies is clearly being felt

  • Globally, CEOs say their 2nd biggest internal concern is creating new business models due to disruptive technology.
  • Compliance with data privacy regulations scores relatively high in Europe at 8th, compared to 10th globally.

The Organization of the Future: How CEOs Plan on Succeeding in 2025

In addition to gauging concerns for 2019, the survey also asked CEOs and other C-Suite executives about what they think the organization of the future will look like and how they plan on succeeding. Key findings include:

 CEOs seem confident about their organizations being able to thrive in 2025

  • Globally: CEOs are most confident that they have the right culture in place to succeed in 2025.
  • U.S: America’s CEOs have the highest confidence level in their culture of any region globally.
  • China: Compared to peers globally, CEOs in China have the highest overall confidence. They’re most confident of any country or region regarding leaders and talent.

CEOs recognize the customer experience is starting to trump the actual product

  • Worldwide, CEOs agree they need to address the shifting customer landscape. The customer of the future will place more value on the experience of using a product or service rather than the actual product or service.
  • Globally, two-third of CEOs say they will need to emphasize servitization, providing services and solutions that supplement traditional product offerings.

 Work redefined: The challenge of valuing and rewarding work done in teams

  • Human Capital executives rank the development of agile project teams as their #1 approach to successfully managing future workforces. CEOs have it 3rd, and CFOs have it 5th.
  • However, HR executives and CEOs not prioritizing a companion strategy to developing agile teams — effectively evaluating and rewarding work done in teams — is a possible red flag. As teams become a centerpiece of human capital strategy, companies need to emphasize the collaborative aspect of culture.

When it comes to investing in leaders of the future, CEOs believe that “broader is better”

  • Along with improving formal leadership development programs, CEOs want their organizations to provide more cross-functional rotational opportunities for high potentials.
  • However, organizations may be missing a critical piece of the development puzzle: exposing leaders to digital experiences as part of their development. Less than one-third of CEOs globally rate this as one of their top three leadership development priorities and only about one in five in the U.S. do so.

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States.