Priorities change in a business; they evolve all the time to match the societal landscape around them. Following a major worldwide disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the focus for CEOs has shifted to match the way our outlooks and challenges have changed.
Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about their 2022-23 priorities and found that – for the first time – environmental sustainability has made its way into the top 10. Additionally, workforce issues are a bigger priority than ever before.
Mark Raskino, VP Analyst at Gartner, said of the results: “In 2022, the Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey showed that, catalysed by multiple macro trends and economic factors, business leaders are reprioritizing some key areas of enterprise purpose and management focus.”
The last time there was such a dramatic change in the priorities of CEOs was in 2009-10, during the recovery from the last major recession. Here, we’ll dig into the key challenges for CEOs in 2023…
While growth remains the primary challenge, with 51% of respondents stating that it’s in their top three priorities, it’s actually down 8% from 2021-22. Gartner has surmised that the reason for this is that, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, business leaders are less focused on driving up demand if they don’t necessarily know whether they can supply. Many organisations are working hard to revamp and improve their supply chains, but uncertainty remains and nobody wants to make promises that they can’t keep.
Technology has also dropped slightly as a top three priority, though it remains the second biggest focus at 34%. While the survey respondents are 5% less concerned about tech-related issues than in 2021-22, it’s still hugely important – especially as the world recovers from the pandemic.
Many businesses have taken the pandemic as a sign that they need better digitalisation, as a lack of that made the transition to home working difficult for some. Additionally, cybercrime is a major concern, especially when ensuring employees have the hardware and software they need to work safely from multiple locations.
A focus on the workforce is up 32% from 2021-22, putting it at 31% in third place. This is the second consecutive year that workforce has become more of a priority, and there are multiple reasons for this.
Attracting and retaining employees is a challenge because older generations are retiring and there aren’t always enough replacements for specific roles. Plus, the younger generations joining the workforce are more likely to align themselves with businesses they truly believe in, meaning they are more picky, so organisations have to be the best they can and transparent with it.
Additionally, diversity, equality, and inclusion are bigger focuses than ever, and these have been boosted by the spotlight being shone on such topics during the pandemic. All in all, almost half (49%) of CEOs agreed with the statement that ‘it is very difficult for us to find and hire the kind of people we need in our business’.
At 29%, corporate has dipped only a little since 2021-22 – just 5% – and remains a top priority. Corporate includes company structure and culture changes, and this is a focus right now due to the challenges of employee retention, as well as the drive towards digitalisation. Corporate change is required to improve business efficiency and performance, hence its position on this list.
The financial side of business has decreased in importance to CEOs for 2022-2023, dropping by 27% since 2021-22. However, it’s still in the top three for 20% of respondents. CFOs are making a major push towards finance transformation through technology to boost efficiency in their departments. Despite the ongoing challenge of building digital competencies in finance, 82% of CFOs have reported that their investments in digital are accelerating and exceeding investments in many other areas.
Products & Services
Products and services remain in the top three spot for 15% of respondents, up 43% from 2021. As the world recovers from the pandemic, the products and services a business produces are in the limelight. Competition is more fierce than it’s ever been, so innovation is key to remain in the best position.
The customer as a priority is up 26% from 2021-22, at 15% – and it’s no surprise. Linking into products and services, and the challenge of hiring the latest generation of workers, costumers have very high standards and hard work is required to impress them and retain loyalty.
In a Gartner survey about customer service trends, 74% of respondents stated that improving operational excellence to create a seamless customer journey is either ‘important’ or ‘very important’, and the survey found that business growth is best achieved through positive customer experience outcomes.
Nine per cent of respondents to the Gartner survey stated that environmental sustainability is a top three priority – up a huge 292% from 2021-22. This is the first time it’s broken into the top 10, which is telling. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to do more when it comes to their own environmental impact. Many leading nations are aiming to be carbon neutral within the next few decades and being more sustainable undeniably leads to growth.
Also at 9% is cost, which is actually down 24%. Despite it being less of a concern than in 2021-22, cost remains a major focus. Supply chain shortages and the government support offered to help people through lockdowns have driven inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made that worse. As a result, we’re seeing the prices of products from the region shoot up, and those cost increases inevitably become the problem of business leaders.
While it’s number 10 (6%) on Gartner’s list of priority areas, sales is a 77% bigger priority in 2022-2023 than it was in 2021-22. Sales falls into a similar category to cost; with rising inflation comes an inability for customers to spend as freely as they once may have, making the landscape more competitive. Having said that, as we touched on with growth, sales aren’t necessarily being driven to the same degree due to supply chain disruptions.