Survey: America's CEOs Start 2021 Concerned About Taxes, Optimistic About Trade, & Eager to Return to the Office
NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- As 2021 begins, a new survey from The Conference Board reveals the biggest issues that will keep business leaders up at night in the new year. CEOs in the United States are more worried about higher corporate taxes and increased regulation, but less worried about global political instability and disruptions to global trade. And compared to their global peers, U.S. CEOs are more eager to have staff return to the physical workplace. U.S. executives also see the widespread availability of a vaccine as a game changer for their businesses.
The survey gauged CEOs and C-suite executives from around the world about their biggest business challenges in 2021. Among the top stressors worldwide, respondents primarily cited COVID-19, recruiting and retaining top talent, recession risk, vaccine availability, and accelerating digital transformation.
The survey, C-Suite Challenge™ 2021, was conducted between November 7th – December 10th. More than 900 CEOs and more than 600 C-suite executives weighed in from primarily three regions: Europe, Asia, and North America. Highlights and insights include the following:
External Challenges in 2021: Highlights
U.S. CEOs think vaccine distribution will have an outsized impact on their businesses.
U.S. CEOs are more worried about regulation & taxes, less worried about trade & global turmoil.
Recession fears: Chinese CEOs are more worried than U.S. CEOs about another downturn.
Internal Challenges in 2021: Highlights
Turbocharging innovation: COVID-19 has accelerated the need for creativity.
As recession fears linger, companies stay defensive by prioritizing cash flow & controlling costs.
Human Capital Management Challenges in 2021: Highlights
Returning to the office: U.S. CEOs are most committed to bringing workers back.
Remote work stabilizes: Few CEOs plan to further increase or decrease their remote workforce.
Talent reigns supreme: Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest remains the top priority.
COVID-19's Legacy: CEOs Rank the Pandemic's Long-Term Impacts
Reduced business travel is likely here to stay.
Will my work office shrink? U.S. CEOs expect reduced office space.
CEOs expect automation to accelerate.
Commentary on the survey results
Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Human Capital, The Conference Board"In 2021, a hybrid model with a mix of onsite and remote workers will likely be the new norm. In this environment, as new employees join teams and have little personal contact with existing team members, leaders will need to ensure that all have a sense of belonging. Organizations should take a hard pause to ask themselves: Is the culture we had – and, perhaps, want to preserve – the right culture for this new environment?"
Dana Peterson, Chief Economist, The Conference Board"While CEOs continue to fret about a possible downturn, 2021 is poised to be the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. In most regions – especially the United States – CEOs believe the distribution of a successful vaccine will have a significant impact on their businesses this year. The spread of COVID-19 vaccines will, among other benefits, provide greater clarity and predictability around short-term planning and operations."
Chuck Mitchell, Executive Director of Content Quality, The Conference Board"The current crisis means the luxury of having a years-long lead time to digitally transform is gone. Investment in digital technology is only a piece of that puzzle. Organizational culture, enlightened leadership, and talent will ultimately create a sustainable competitive advantage. Recovery will require finding the right balance between conserving cash and investing in innovation needed to succeed in a new commercial landscape."
Ataman Ozyildirim, Global Research Chair, The Conference Board"Looking beyond reduced business travel, altered landscape of commercial office space, and increased automation of tasks, CEOs believe the need to address the resilience of global supply chains will be one of the most likely long-term legacies of COVID-19. During the pandemic, many policymakers and companies learned that a heavily optimized supply chain often lacked the agility to substitute alternate sources of supply. While concerns about global trade disruptions diminished recently, the global pandemic has exposed new vulnerabilities in supply chains."
About The Conference BoardThe Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what's ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org
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