CEE edition of PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023

Turning on the transformation mode: How can business leaders support their employees in the reinvention journey?

hopes and fears
  • Insight
  • 15 Minute Read
  • October 05, 2023

Central and Eastern Europe is rapidly emerging as a tech hub and home of unicorns and innovation. Businesses in the region have been making huge progress through the fourth decade since the fall of communism. The CEE edition of the Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey reflects this progress but also shows some challenges the region faces if it is to maintain this momentum. 

 

The responses from CEE provide actionable insights for business leaders in the region and beyond, particularly in relation to business transformation, the role and future of leadership, workers’ behaviours and views, the cost of living crisis, upskilling and the impact on the workplace of artificial intelligence (AI).

 

Adam Krason

CEE companies must transform to remain economically viable — so leaders in the region should know it’s their people who will implement the changes needed to future-proof businesses. The CEE results of PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 show leaders should listen carefully to the employees' voices and ask the right questions — Do they feel valued and empowered? What worries them? What skills do they need to develop? Addressing these issues can be critical for a company's reinvention. Caring for people, supporting their development and responding to their needs is the basis for successful transformation.

Adam Krasoń, CEO at PwC CEE

Key findings

Only have a minute? Consider these notable findings from this year’s survey.

Transformation is on the horizon. Significant numbers of both CEE CEOs (45% — as in PwC’s 26th Annual CEO Survey — CEE edition) and employees (27%) see an urgent need for their businesses to change to ensure their economic viability beyond the next ten years. This suggests CEE leaders have to support employees to come with them on the transformation journey. 

Promotion and leadership are not as high on the agenda for employees in CEE. The survey shows that while some CEE employees are extremely or very likely to seek promotion (22%) and see leadership skills as extremely or very important in the future (49%), they are less likely to do so than their peers globally (35% and 63% respectively). 

The findings should compel business leaders to give careful thought to their role both now and in the future, and to look for ways they can motivate people to develop. PwC’s recent CEE Family Business Survey, for example, found companies to be growing, with significant levels of ambition. However, the survey suggests this ambition is not shared by all employees, so perhaps they need to ask whether their people are on board with their vision. And if not, why not?

CEE and global attitudes to work environment and culture are converging. Similar proportions of CEE and global employees agree on aspects of their actions at work, particularly proactively solving problems, giving and receiving feedback and seeking out opportunities to develop new skills. The aggregated numbers of those who are likely to follow these behaviour patterns among CEE and global workers differ just slightly — from 0% to 6%.

The views of CEE employees on organisational alignment differ from those of their employers. In the CEE region, 56% of CEOs believe dissent and debate are often encouraged by managers in their organisations. However, only one quarter (25%) of employees agree. Also, 41% of CEOs in CEE believe managers tolerate small-scale failures, but this perception is supported only by 29% of employees. 

The cost of living crisis acutely affects CEE workers. Over half of CEE employees have little or nothing left once they pay their monthly bills. One third do not believe they are fairly compensated for their work. The cost of living crisis affects employee well-being, morale and productivity. Thus, to tell the next chapter of the CEE growth story, companies can only succeed if their people are fully engaged, which is difficult if making ends meet is their primary concern. 

The picture of future skills is not clear for CEE workers. CEE employees are less likely to believe the skills their job requires will change significantly in the next five years compared to their global counterparts. CEE workers are less likely to view each of the range of skills cited in the survey, such as leadership, core business, data and specialist technical skills, as “extremely important” or “very important” than workers globally.

CEE employees are open to AI. The most common response when asked about AI’s effect on CEE employees’ jobs is that it will not affect them. Overall, CEE employees are less excited about the potential of AI but simultaneously less fearful of adverse effects. Business leaders might consider how they can harness CEE employees' open attitudes to AI and the region’s status as a flourishing tech hub.

CEE Webcast: Equal pay and empowerment: Supporting transformation in CEE.

This webcast discussed the historic, yet very current topic of gender pay equality. The panel also put what CEE companies can do to empower female employees under the spotlight. The panellists shared their perspectives on the potential of the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) to change company cultures in relation to equal pay and employment.

Oana Munteanu, People and Organisation Director at PwC Romania, moderated the discussion, which was hosted by Michał Grzybowski, Partner, CEE People & Organisation Leader, PwC CEE hosted the event and also presented findings of the CEE edition of PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023.

 

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1:04:49

Special guests Anda Turlute, Compensation and Benefits Area Manager at Swedbank Latvia and Oana Preda, Head of People and Culture at UniCredit Bank Romania shared their valuable insights and personal stories. Katarzyna Komorowska, Partner, Social Aspects ESG CEE Leader, PwC Poland, shared her knowledge and experience on ESG regulation and CSRD.

1. Business transformation: increasing numbers are ready to reinvent CEE companies

Very significant numbers of CEOs and employees see a clear and current need for business transformation. Approaching half (45%) of CEOs in CEE believe their companies won’t be economically viable a decade from now if they continue on their current path — and 27% of employees think the same. CEE CEOs see the need for transformation as more urgent than the 39% global average. However, CEE employees (27%) see transformation as less critical than global figures (33%). 

CEE employees are increasingly aware that business transformation is imperative, but CEE leaders have some work to do to support and encourage more employees to come with them on the transformation journey. 

Question: Assuming your employer continues on its current path, how long do you think the company will be in business?
Question: Assuming your employer continues on its current path, how long do you think the company will be in business?

Note: Source for ‘employees’: PwC’s CEE Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023, excluding respondents who work in Government and Public Sector. 
Source for ‘CEOs’: PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey — CEE edition.

Business transformation impacts workers on different levels — including renewed responsibilities, evolving hard as well as social or leadership skills required for jobs and changing work cultures. These changes need employers’ attention on multiple processes simultaneously as transformation impacts — workforce strategies, upskilling programmes, human capital management approaches and many other spheres. At PwC Central and Eastern Europe, we keep our finger on the pulse of workforce trends in our region. Studies like the Hopes and Fears Survey help us assist our clients in knowing their employees better and to provide them with solutions for navigating transformation and to be prepared for future challenges.

Michał Grzybowski, Partner at PwC Poland, People & Organisation Leader in Poland and CEE

2. CEE employees are likely to ask for a raise — but are more conservative than global averages in career progression

CEE employees are likely to look to improve their employment conditions by asking for a raise or a promotion, or even by changing jobs. While less likely than their global peers to take any of these steps, overall CEE patterns are similar, with the notable exception of seeking a promotion. Over half (55%) of CEE respondents said they are “not likely” or only “slightly likely” to ask for a promotion. Just 40% plan to actively ask for a promotion, responding “moderately” or “extremely/very likely,” notably fewer than the 55% of global respondents. 

Question: How likely are you to take the following actions in the next 12 months?
Question: How likely are you to take the following actions in the next 12 months?

The survey results, particularly the lower number of people planning to seek promotions, suggests that the fallout from the Great Resignation is not as stark in CEE as in other regions.

3. CEE attitudes to work environment and culture are converging with the global picture

CEE is a developing region and the survey reflects this in areas pertaining to work environment, culture and behaviours. These include — job satisfaction, workload, learning and developing new skills, receiving and giving feedback, bringing innovation and ideas, taking on additional responsibilities, advocating for their company and recommending it as a good place to work. That said, there are signs that workplace attitudes in the region are converging with those globally. 

Job satisfaction

A clear majority (62%) of CEE employees are satisfied with their jobs. However, the number of workers in CEE who reported that they are “moderately” or “very” satisfied is significantly less than worldwide — 43% vs 56%.

Question: How satisfied are you with your job(s)?
Question: How satisfied are you with your job(s)?

Workload

Responses to questions on the manageability of workloads are a notable area of conformity between CEE and global survey results. As many as 20% of CEE employees feel that their workload has been unmanageable over the last 12 months, which is just less than the global figure of 22%. There is also convergence in survey findings for CEE and global employees on the reasons why workloads are unmanageable.

Question: In the past 12 months, how often have you felt like your workload was unmanageable?
Question: In the past 12 months, how often have you felt like your workload was unmanageable?

Work behaviours

Although responses show CEE workers are less inclined to certain behaviours (such as learning new skills, using feedback to improve performance and taking on extra responsibilities) than their counterparts globally, the results overall outline similar trends. CEE and global employees are most likely to strongly or moderately agree that they proactively solve problems. On the other hand, CEE workers are less likely to advocate for their company publicly, recommend their company as a good place to work and bring new innovative ideas to their teams.

Question: In thinking about your actions as an employee, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Question: In thinking about your actions as an employee, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

CEE workers paint a somewhat more negative picture of their jobs and workplaces through their survey responses than global averages. However, there is also clear evidence of convergence that suggests CEE is quickly catching up with global trends, particularly on aspects of the workplace such as workloads, giving and receiving feedback and seeking out opportunities to develop new skills.

4. Organisational alignment and empowerment — progress but the journey must continue

As in their attitudes towards the future of their companies, there are also differences in perception between CEOs and employees on organisational alignment. CEOs are more likely than employees to believe that dissent, debate and small-scale failure are tolerated by managers. This is true globally but is slightly more evident in the CEE region.

Overall, there is convergence in survey results in relation to organisational alignment and empowerment, suggesting that CEE is catching up with other regions in various workplace attitudes. 

Organisational alignment

Globally and in the CEE region, 56% of CEOs believe that dissent and debate are often encouraged by managers in their organisations. However, only one third (33%) of employees globally believe that their manager encourages regular discussion and debate. For CEE employees, this figure is one quarter (25%). Similarly, while 45% and 41% of global and CEE CEOs respectively believe managers tolerate small-scale failures, just 35% of global employees share this perception. In CEE, even fewer employees (29%) see small failures as being tolerated.  

Question: For each of the statements below, please indicate how frequently these occur in your company
Question: For each of the statements below, please indicate how frequently these occur in your company

Note: Only "Usually/Often" responses are displayed.
Source for ‘employees’: PwC’s CEE Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023, excluding respondents who work in Government and Public Sector. 
Source for ‘CEOs’: PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey — CEE edition. 
The question wording was slightly modified for CEOs vs employees.

Empowerment

In terms of employee empowerment, a clear majority of CEE workers (60%) report that their manager takes their views into account to some degree in their decision-making process and over half (53%) responded positively that they are fairly financially compensated for their work. However, over a third (36%) of CEE workers “moderately” or “strongly” agreed that they are able to work in ways that suit them, notably lower than the global average of 47%. 

There is convergence on views of job fulfilment between CEE and global employees, with 68% of CEE workers finding their job fulfilling compared to 72% worldwide. Similarly, 46% of CEE workers “moderately” or “strongly” agree that they can be themselves, less than the 53% global figure.  

Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your current work environment?
Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your current work environment?

Global statistics show that women are paid about 20% less than men on average. That's why it's important for employers to address such issues and make sure that all employees are equally rewarded for the same work.

Our approach to equal pay was audited by PwC and received Equal Salary Certification. We are only the second certified company in the Czech Republic and Plzeňský Prazdroj is among the top 150 companies with the fairest remuneration system in the world. We wanted to have the external view on equal treatment as it is a basic building block for what we want to achieve in the long-term, which is diversity in terms of people, thoughts and perspectives. However, it is a journey that requires strong leadership commitment and hard work across the organisation as on the way you have to deal with local contexts and different cultural patterns.

Dragos Constantinescu, CEO at Plzeňský Prazdroj

5. Cost of living crisis — acutely affecting CEE employees

The survey shows that CEE employees are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis and are less likely than their global peers to have money left for savings. A majority of employees (53%) in the region, compared to 42% globally, report they have nothing or little left at the end of the month after they cover their bills and expenses. 

Financial situation

Among CEE employees, 30% say their household is comfortable in paying its monthly bills while having something left over for savings, holidays and extras, 8% lower than the global figure. A notably higher than average proportion of CEE workers reported that they can pay the bills but have very little or nothing left for savings, holidays and extras, at 53% versus 42% globally. On the other hand, a marginally smaller percentage of CEE employees (11%) reported that they struggle to pay the bills, compared to a global average of 14%.

Question: Which of the following best describes your financial situation?
Question: Which of the following best describes your financial situation?

Additional jobs

Despite feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis, CEE employees are slightly less likely to take on additional jobs. Of CEE workers, 82% have a single job compared to 79% globally.

Question: How many jobs do you currently have? 
How many jobs do you currently have?

Reasons for secondary role

Those CEE employees who take a second job do so mainly for financial reasons, with 73% compared to 69% globally citing monetary motivation. Other motivations cited in the survey for taking on additional employment include — the opportunity to learn new skills, finding rewarding work, greater flexibility, increased career options, more job security and using the job as a stepping stone to starting a business. Overall, CEE employees are less likely than global peers to cite such non-financial motivations for taking on a second job.

Whilst the cost of living crisis is a global phenomenon, CEE employers should understand that their people are feeling its effects particularly strongly. Given that talent is scarce, even despite a wealth of IT specialists in the region, CEE employers might consider examining the packages they provide and how they recruit and retain talent. Employers might also consider creating an environment where employees can be open about the financial challenges they face. Other initiatives might also help employees weather the financial storm such as creating employee assistance programmes and offering confidential debt counselling and providing financial literacy learning opportunities. 

6. Skills and the large talent pool in CEE: a leadership challenge?

CEE’s talent pool is one of its key strengths and the region is on the road to becoming a global tech hub. Fittingly, CEE and global respondents gave similar answers on the topic of their job’s requirement for specialist qualifications and training. There are also, however, some key areas of divergence. These are most notable in relation to future skills: a markedly smaller proportion of CEE employees saw leadership skills as being of the utmost importance compared to the global average. 

Specialist skills

As many as 49% of CEE employees, compared to 53% globally, responded that their role “moderately” or “strongly” requires specialist skills. Also, 26% of CEE employees and 36% of workers globally believe the skills integral to their job will change significantly in the next five years. What is more, while the gap is not as wide (16% versus 12%), a higher proportion of CEE workers have moderate/strong opinions that their role will not change in this time frame compared to the global averages. 

Question: Regarding your current role, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Question: Regarding your current role, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Note: Only "Strongly agree” and “Moderately agree" responses are displayed.

Future skills

Fewer CEE employees than their global counterparts have a clear sense of how the skills required to do their job will change in the next five years. Eight percent fewer CEE workers (58% versus 66%) agreed that they understand how the skillset will change (including those who slightly and strongly/moderately agree). CEE employees are less likely to view each of the range of skills cited in the survey as “extremely important” or “very important” than their counterparts globally.

Particularly noteworthy is that just under half (49%) of CEE respondents look upon leadership skills as “very” or “extremely” important compared to a global average of 63%. Additionally, core business skills are notably seen as less important, with 39% compared to a global figure of 53% seeing them as “very/extremely” important.  

Question: How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?
Question: How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?

Skills-first hiring

Asked if employers focus too much on their job history and not enough on their skills, CEE employees responded marginally less than the global average that they strongly or moderately believe this to be the case (21% in CEE versus 27% globally). On the whole, however, the feedback was fairly similar in CEE and worldwide. 

Question: Based on your experience, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Question: Based on your experience, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

A key talking point for business leaders is that CEE workers report to value leadership skills as substantially less important than global averages. Leaders should consider if this points to wider issues with leadership in CEE. Does this apparent lack of value placed on leadership skills, taken in tandem with CEE workers being less likely to seek promotion, have implications for who will lead CEE businesses in the future? 

At a time of ongoing economic uncertainty, employees have increasing expectations of higher pay and a sense of greater meaning in their work. Leaders looking to transform their businesses, increase profits and reduce costs, should be aware that taking care of these needs is critical. A key part of this process is also ensuring access to a new talent pool, as transformation requires our employees to have new skills, which without effective recruitment, will not happen. Developing the skills of the workforce with technology and respect for diversity can contribute to sustainable economic, business and social benefits.

Katarzyna Komorowska, Partner at PwC Poland, People & Organisation Team

7. Usage of AI — CEE employees are open to artificial intelligence in the workplace

One of the key stories of the global survey is that increasing numbers of workers are ready to embrace artificial intelligence. CEE employees on the whole are not fearful of AI, but simultaneously are less enthusiastic about the positive effects the technology may have on their careers. 

The most popular answers to the question on AI’s impact on jobs support the perception of CEE workers’ neutrality: 31% of global employees believed “AI will help me increase my productivity/efficiency at work," while 29% of CEE employees responded “I don’t think AI will impact my job.” A lower percentage of CEE employees indicated AI will increase their productivity (20% compared to a global average of 31%). Similarly, fewer CEE workers believe AI will create opportunities for them to learn valuable new skills, at 20% versus a global 27% 

A lower percentage of CEE workers (13% against 18% globally) believe AI will require them to learn new skills that they are not confident they have the capacity to learn. This pattern was reflected across a range of questions, including — “AI will change the nature of my work in a negative way”, with 13% in CEE compared to 14% globally, “AI will replace my role” — 9% versus 13%, and “AI will impact my job in other ways” — 9% compared to 11%.

Question: What impact, if any, do you expect artificial intelligence (AI) to have on your career in the next five years? 
What impact, if any, do you expect artificial intelligence (AI) to have on your career in the next five years?

The overall impression is that CEE employees are open to AI’s potential. Survey responses particularly revealed CEE employees' attitudes to AI are moving ever closer to their counterparts in Western Europe and North America. 

Automation and digital transformation has become an inherent part of the development of our business beyond breweries. Due to long-term pressure on the job market we see AI as a way to grow while keeping our people on board. We also invest into reskilling and training to keep up with the transformation. Our teams use AI in various innovative ways that show internally and externally the potential way forward. A compelling example is sustainability, where we run, together with technological partners, projects in regenerative and precise agriculture for hops and barley. We also test AI tools both in trade and in outlets to look for new bold ideas. These examples and conveying stories of innovation and tangible impact both on business and planet help to bring our people onto our transformation journey.

Dragos Constantinescu, CEO at Plzeňský Prazdroj

About the survey

In April 2023, PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey gained the views of almost 54,000 workers. The sample was designed to reflect a range of industries, demographic characteristics and working patterns. The sample was structured across 46 countries and territories and sample sizes were scaled to reflect each territory or region’s share of global GDP. CEE was represented by around 3,000 respondents from 4 countries.

 

Contact us

Adam Krasoń

Adam Krasoń

CEO, PwC Central and Eastern Europe

Michał Grzybowski

Michał Grzybowski

Partner, PwC Poland

Tel: +48 519 098 034

Katarzyna Komorowska

Katarzyna Komorowska

Partner, PwC Poland

Tel: +48 519 504 001

Jeffery McMillan

Jeffery McMillan

CEE Director of Brand, Marketing & Communications, PwC Central and Eastern Europe

Tel: +48 519 506 633

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