PwC’s 25th annual Global CEO Survey, launched on January 17 this year, underlines a direct correlation between customer experience and the top line. Unhappy customers today not only make for a source of learning but also, as the pandemic has made evident, impact revenue and brand. This has put the spotlight on the customer, not the brand. Of the India CEOs polled for the survey, 81 per cent included customer satisfaction metrics in their company’s long-term corporate strategy, while 78 per cent and 75 per cent considered automation and digitisation goals, and employee engagement metrics, respectively. These non-financial outcomes are intertwined with day-to-day business performance. Much less well-represented, in strategies and compensation, are targets related to greenhouse gas emissions and workforce gender representation or racial and ethnic diversity. This indicates that despite the rising interest in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) globally, strategy is still primarily driven by business metrics, and not so much by social and environmental outcomes.
The survey findings also show that CEOs are increasingly focussed on building trust in this changing paradigm. The Union Budget 2022, too, with its focus on inclusive development, productivity enhancement, energy transition and climate change shows the government’s commitment to factor in trust as it prepares the blueprint for a fit-for-future India.
This is in alignment with what is top of mind for CEOs. The PwC CEO Survey shows that CEOs with greater trust are more confident and more likely to lead organisations that have made a net-zero commitment. This indirectly suggests a correlation between trust and the ability to drive change amid the demand-supply revolution. On the demand side, customers are spoilt for choices and have ample insights into the quality of the choices. On the supply side, the creation of value is now contingent on building scale in capabilities by enabling ecosystem play.
Therefore, stakeholder value rather than shareholder value, coupled with delivering sustained outcomes, is the top priority for resilient businesses. Given this scenario characterised by a shift to “virtual everything” and set against the backdrop of the growth-boosting Union Budget for 2022-23 presented on February 1, priorities for the CEOs are changing. The capex-heavy Budget led by public investment will perhaps spur CEOs to play a more powerful role in accelerating the nation-building agenda. As CEOs look to transform the fundamental model of value creation, the following priorities can help them navigate the future of work:
Resetting the Conversation
It is important to focus on making organisations outcome-oriented by creating value via ecosystems that bring together differentiating capabilities and multidimensional skill sets. The corporate strategy also needs to factor in environmental priorities that the Budget also underlines to win stakeholder trust and contribute towards a greener tomorrow. Climate-related actions, clean energy transition, and circular economy with innovative financing models need to be prioritised along with measures to handle possible risks around cyber security that may come in the way of sustained outcomes.
With rapid digitisation and a shift from a virtual world to a hybrid world of work, rethinking the composition of the workforce, leveraging the gig economy, and tapping into potential talent from Tier II and Tier III cities may help move the needle on organisational growth. While the Budget focusses on institutional capacity building for job creation and skill development, CEOs, too need to establish top teams based on the right skills mix to propel the fit-for-future transformation in response to today’s demands.
CEOs also need to focus on build ing the foundation for succession planning, and nurture a culture of inclusive growth that ensures business continuity and the resilience of a company. It is time for leaders to disrupt themselves and their approach, and proactively invest not only in upskilling the workforce but also in leadership capability development so that they are geared to act with a ‘think global, act local’ mindset.
Building trust and transparency, as the CEO Survey indicates, is also about balancing business and societal outcomes—interlocking incentives with net-zero commitments and non-financial outcomes. This demands a reinvention of the social contract with one’s people, placing them at the centre of the entire value creation model and equipping them to lead, drive and own the transformation agenda that combines business and ESG metrics.
With people at the centre, collaboration assumes much significance to reposition one’s company by redefining not only the problems but also the differentiating capabilities required to solve them. Adopting a “whole of society” approach involving business leaders, government officials, policymakers, investors and NGOs is the way forward to deliver sustained outcomes driven by human-led tech enablement. This again is aligned with the Budget and its measures such as drones for agriculture and digitised land records, AI-based geospatial analysis, open-source platforms for digital health and chip-based e-passports for inclusive and equitable growth in a digital India.
Reinventing Supply Chains
2021, often labelled as the year of the supply chain, has also shown the need to build segmented supply chains to service the shift in consumer expectations across new channel models such as direct-to-consumer and e-commerce. For this, it is important to understand the true wants and needs of customers for gaining privileged insights to enhance the value created. This in turn strengthens the foundation of trust and purpose with a laser focus on data and technology strategy to fuel sustained value creation. For CEOs today, disruption has been a source of learning that has paved the way to lead by further disruption. To propel organisational growth, this is now a compulsion rather than a choice. Revisiting priorities and realigning commitments could help them to not only stay the course but also secure the collective future of the whole of society.
Views are personal. The author is partner and markets leader, PwC India.
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