The Chief Executive Officer (CEO)—the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer, in charge of total management. They’re decision-makers, leaders, the aspirational face of employer brand, and responsible for critical business decisions.

As the organizational pilot, how do today’s CEOs feel about the global economy? What trends do they believe will transform business over the next five years? Where does opportunity lie, and are CEOs confident in their organizations’ ability to growth in a time of volatility?

According to pwc’s 17thAnnual Global CEO Survey, which garnered feedback from 1,344 CEOs across 68 countries (with 500+ employees or revenues of more than $50 million), 44% believe the global economy will improve over the next 12 months—compared to 22% in 2013. Moreover, 39% of CEOs report being “very confident” in their ability to achieve revenue growth in 2014. However, despite this confidence, 76% of CEOs have trimmed costs over the past 12 months, and 64% plan to do so in 2014. Why the gap?


In this this week’s edition of Talent Acquisition Fast Facts, we dig into pwc’s latest report for answers:

Which global trends will transform business the most over the next five years? CEOs reported their top three trends:

1.)    81% of CEOs cited technological advance (e.g., social media, mobile devices and the “digital economy”).

2.)    60% of CEOs believe demographic shifts will impact how businesses operate.

3.)    59% cited shifts in global economic power.

Although these trends aren’t exactly new over the past few years, pwc notes the incredible rise of digital has outright replaced the way businesses operate. For example, technological advancement has placed more power in the hands of the employee, and as a result demographic shifts are happening much faster than ever before—giving or taking power from markets instantaneously.

Which of the following five trends provide the best opportunity for business growth in 2014? Based on CEO responses:

1.)    Product/service innovation (35%)

2.)    Increased share in existing markets (30%)

3.)    New geographic markets (14%)

4.)    Mergers and acquisitions (11%)

5.)    New joint ventures and/or strategic alliances (9%)

It’s understandable that product/service innovation is No. 1 on this list, as 86% of CEOs aim to alter their research and development strategies over the next 12 months. 88% indicate that they are exploring better ways to leverage data analytics (Big Data), and 90% are planning to change their investments in technology.

Despite the reported confidence in the global economic rebound (as mentioned in the introduction), there appears to be a gap between organizations’ plans and their actions. Specifically:

  • 76% of CEOs have cut costs in the past 12 months; 64% plan to do so in 2014.
  • Only 27% of CEOs report their organizations have started or completed the challenges they have planned to foster innovation.
  • Only 28% report having made “headway in getting to grips” with Big Data.
  • Only 35% have actually altered their technology investments.
  • Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of surveyed CEOs (65%) believe their organizations’ research and development is “insufficiently prepared” to capitalize on the five trends noted above.

Why the gap between goals/plans and action? What do you believe is causing uncertainty/hesitation? Is it the speed at which technology is changing—that perhaps a large investment could be outdated not 1-2 years from now? Is it lack of confidence in the capabilities of the current workforce? Are we much further away from global economic recovery than statistics might indicate?

We’d love to your thoughts on this issue!