People strategy for the digital age: A new take on talent - 18th Annual Global CEO Survey

The digital revolution is reshaping the way we live our lives and the way we work. As business strategies undergo a fundamental re-think, so must organisations’ people strategies. A wholesale re-design of work is now required.

The speed of change makes it almost impossible to predict the future with any degree of certainty. In such a climate, organisations need a credible and forward-looking leader; a role that has never been more critical. CEOs need to understand how technology can improve their business and the customer experience, and plan for things that seem a distant dream

One of the biggest headaches for CEOs is making sure that the organisation has the right people to cope with what lies ahead. There’s the basic question of planning for the skills that are needed now and in the future: Which roles will be automated? What new roles will be needed to manage and run emerging technology? What skills should the company be looking for, and training their people for? Where will we find the people we need?

But more importantly, CEOs need to be sure that the business is fit to react quickly to whatever the future may throw at it – and that means filling it with adaptable, creative people, working in a culture where energy fizzes and ideas spark into life. If they can’t be found, they must be created.

Whatever technological innovations are ahead, it’s the people that will make the difference between eventual success and failure. That’s why CEOs need a people strategy for the digital age.

A volatile, unpredictable world

CEOs are standing on constantly shifting ground. They see before them a boiling mix of opportunities and threats, driven by technology that’s mining new markets but which is also transforming everything around them, from how their customers behave to what their people expect from work. They’re reacting by exploring new business models, sectors and unexpected partnerships – in a bid to adapt quickly, find growth, but increasingly to access the skills they need.

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Skills at crisis point

The skills shortage has become a crisis-level priority for CEOs; 73% name it as a threat to their business, compared with 46% just six years ago. The digital age has transformed a nagging worry into something far more challenging; 81% of CEOs say they’re looking for a wider mix of skills than they have in the past. Businesses desperately need hi-tech innovators and ‘hybrid’ workers who understand not only their own sector, but complex digital technology as well.

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A new take on talent

Success in the digital world demands new ways of thinking, especially when it comes to talent. Workers with the most in-demand skills are creating a ‘gig economy’, where they’re in control of where and when they work. Organisations, in turn, are rethinking their talent mix and exploring the potential of automation; and CEOs have woken up to the value of diversity – of thinking and experience – to create value in the digital age.

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Using data wisely

There’s still some way to go before organisations make the best possible use of the people data they collect. Under half of organisations consistently use analytics to provide insight into how effectively skills are being deployed. CEOs are fully focused on the role digital technology plays in engaging customers; so why are they ignoring its value when it comes to engaging employees?

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Great leadership required

Competitive advantage in the digital age lies not in securing the best technology, but in using and managing talent well – and that demands truly great leadership. But this is leadership in a radically transparent world, where organisations are far more complex, where ideas are a commodity, and where talent is mobile and autonomous. Leaders must create a culture where innovation thrives, ideas spark into life and people – whoever and wherever they are – are bound together in a common cause.

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Explore the data

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“You have to create multiple futures and multiple options for your company, because you don’t know when the world’s going to look like three to five years from now.”

Denise Ramos, Chief Executive Officer and President ITT Corporation

“Any company, to survive in the current environment and into the future, has to be on the forefront of technology. We’re using robotics in our plants to be more productive, effective and efficient, and to operate our plants even more safely.”

Alan D. Wilson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer McCormick & Company

“To be able to attract people with multiple talents is an absolute key in the whole digital economy, and is also probably our largest single headache.”

Pekka Lundmark President & CEO Konecranes Plc

"We are actively finding ways of rotating people between Asian countries and the Nordic market. We are highly mindful that it is very important, also for the development of the company, that we have such cultural diversity and rotation taking place. In that sense the value of diversity somewhat overrides the additional cost.”

Kimmo Alkio, President & CEO Tieto

“We’ve been much more proactive in identifying capabilities and skills that we think our top leaders will need to compete in the new world. We spend an enormous amount of time as a team talking about people’s skill sets, how they have to evolve and what are the best roles for them to take on.”

David I. McKay, President & Chief Executive Officer RBC

Contact us

Jon Williams
Partner, Joint Global Leader for People and Organisation, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 (2) 8266 2402
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Jon Andrews
Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation
Tel: +44 20 7804 9000
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Justine Brown
Director, Workforce of the Future research programme, PwC UK
Tel: +44 (0)113 289 4423
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