The last 12 months will go down as a year of both exceptional challenge and incredible achievement and ingenuity for Irish businesses. Some of these challenges involved the acceleration of trends that were already on the CEO agenda pushed to fast forward, making the important urgent. We have seen Irish CEOs respond to severe adversity with incredible fortitude, agility and ingenuity. Despite the extraordinary constraints imposed by the pandemic, Irish CEOs moved rapidly to transform their businesses to meet changing customer demands and expectations. That response is reflected in the results of the EY Ireland CEO Imperative Survey 2021.
We believe a new DNA for thriving businesses is emerging. CEOs are embracing the opportunity to transform and grow. Here are some areas that will continue to focus the minds of CEOs everywhere into the future as they drive their businesses forward.
1. People at the centre
Today’s CEO must be authentically human centred, putting people, customers and communities at the core of all of decision-making – something that became especially clear during this pandemic. Demonstrating compassionate leadership and focusing on talent strategies and organisational culture matters a great deal to thriving CEOs. Our new research shows that Irish CEOs in particular understand the intrinsic value of human connection and emotional intelligence.
2. Set up for resilience, agility and transformation
Resilience, agility and transformation will be the hallmarks of successful organisations in the new post-COVID world. Leadership teams and organisations must be set up to act, react and transform on a continuous basis. Business in the future will be characterised by ongoing transformation and permanent evolution. The impacts and after-shocks of the pandemic will continue to be felt for some time to come, as will the disruption generated by geopolitical events. New opportunities will emerge, and the most agile and responsive businesses will be best placed to take advantage of them. This requires fostering a culture of trust and transformation across organisations and with a broader range of stakeholders. This is where real, long term value is generated.
3. Beware sustainability blind spots
The most successful businesses in the future will be those that are best at generating long-term, sustainable value. True sustainability requires a fundamental rethink of how we all operate. It takes real commitment, dedicated leadership and significant investment - something we see Irish CEOs really understand.
4. Investing in the right people in the right places doing the right things
It all comes back to people in the end. CEOs must continue to ensure that they have the right people in diverse teams dedicated to doing the right things. The world of work has changed fundamentally over the past 12 months. The most successful CEOs are already embedding new flexible workforce models in their companies so that they are best position to attract and retain world class talent.
A final theme that ran through this year’s EY Ireland CEO Imperative Survey is the fact that Irish CEOs are looking ahead to brighter days. They are focused on investing in growth and transformation and in setting the foundations that will help them to build back better and braver.