There’s been a lot of talk about purpose, and now is the moment for businesses to show who actually means it.
A C-suite for a post-pandemic world
Rapid C-suite change was well under way before the pandemic. The 2019 EY CEO Imperative Study found only a third of Forbes 2000 CEOs, their board members and institutional investors surveyed would say the current C-suite model is very well-suited to the challenges and opportunities of the next decade.
Nearly all the CEOs reported adding a C-level position in the past five years, with chief innovation officer, chief digital officer and chief strategy officer the most frequent additions. Three quarters of CEOs in our study said they were currently considering changing or adding C-suite roles, with digital transformation, innovation and artificial intelligence seen as key capability gaps.
This wave of C-suite change is likely to be accelerated in line with the changing nature of the issues senior leaders face: our study found a majority (57%) of CEOs of Forbes 2000 companies believe it’s in the best interest of large companies and their leaders to take a much more active role in addressing global challenges.
Climate science and the ability to address the growing corporate decarbonization imperative is critical. Similarly, the need for expertise in behavioral science is rising, given the shock of the pandemic and the fear and uncertainty of resulting lockdowns. Will people now prize in-person interactions or prefer social media? Will the shared experience of COVID-19 enhance social trust and solidarity or diminish them? How will modes of meeting, collaboration and entertainment change?
Given the extremely high stakes of executive decision-making, now is the time for business leaders to assess their C-suite in light of the imperatives and opportunities that will present themselves in the wake of COVID-19.
Leaders versus laggards
There are clear distinctions between leaders and laggards on this issue. Leading CEOs link their corporate purpose to addressing global challenges and integrate a plan on addressing them into corporate strategy. They also leverage their organizations’ economic power to drive needed change in areas such as supply chain, purchasing, regulatory and workforce.
EY CEO Imperative study80%
of leading CEOs expect to become more active on global challenges
The CEO’s mindset and approach are important differentiators. Much more than laggards, leading CEOs take personal responsibility for assessing the global challenges they will address and actively engage with their boards and investors to secure support for needed investments. It’s not surprising that 80% of the leading CEOs expect to become even more active on global challenges over the next five to ten years.
With C-suites focused on business continuity and recovery, it’s easy to lose sight of the opportunity to shape the new normal that lies beyond. The economic and social dislocations of the COVID-19 crisis represent a global reset, accelerating some trends, creating new ones, and ending others. Within this, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity for business to lead in the creation of a better new normal — but the C-suite must be prepared.