Our CEO Imperative and Capital Confidence Barometer studies look at now, next, and beyond the pandemic to how leaders can reframe the future of their organizations.
Where was your company when COVID-19 struck? It’s tempting to assume strategy, in the broadest sense, mattered little in the past 12 months. After all, extraordinarily well-run organizations overnight found markets had disappeared, while a rising tide in other sectors lifted all boats. Yet our research into how companies weathered the short-term impact of the pandemic, are now navigating the medium-term, and where that leaves them in the long-term reveals a universal truth: leadership matters.
This CEO Imperative study finds the performance of companies is highly correlated with their trajectory before the pandemic. Thrivers (34% of organizations surveyed) were growing before the crisis and are leaning into this pivotal moment, accelerating their existing transformation agenda. Survivors (32%) were already experiencing declining revenue, will keep seeing flat or declining growth over the next three years, and are slowing their transformation priorities. Between them are maintainers (34%), which are companies more likely to have had low or flat growth before the pandemic and whose growth will remain flat or grow moderately over the next three years.
Does that mean companies are trapped on their current trajectory? No. But for survivors to narrow the gap to thrivers, CEOs must urgently accelerate their transformation efforts. The CEO cut of our latest EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer provides a window into that effort. It finds 13% of CEOs – what we call “value visionaries” – have embraced new practices to reframe their enterprises. They view COVID-19 as a wake-up call to fuel their bold growth ambitions, which will yield value for a broader range of stakeholders, not just shareholders. The remaining 87% – “pragmatists” – are leaders who recognize the need to re-orient for a post-pandemic business landscape but have not fully committed to action plans.
So, where’s your company? And which kind of CEO are you? Where you are today isn’t necessarily where you’ll be tomorrow. But our research shows the importance of moving from intention to execution, and closing the key capability gaps to acquire the DNA of the future enterprise: one built around human-centered transformations that increase ability and innovation while driving long-term value.