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25 Jan. 2019 | Comments (0)

Since 1999, The Conference Board CEO Challenge® survey has asked CEOs across the globe to identify their key business challenges and the strategies they intend to use. Over the years, the CEO Challenge has become one of The Conference Board flagship reports. Since 2017, the C-Suite Challenge™ has expanded the survey pool to the C-suite, to provide a more holistic view of the global business environment. This year’s survey, conducted between September and October 2018, asked 1,426 C-suite executives, including 815 CEOs across the globe, for their views on the challenges facing their companies.

A full analysis of the results is available here for members of The Conference Board. In this blog we highlight from the report the key insights related to labor markets.

To assess their main challenges and pressure points, we presented our respondents with a list of “hot-button issues.” Hot button issues are short-term events and situations that executives believe will require a special focus in the coming year. They are divided into “external impacts” and “internal concerns”.

C-suite executives are taking notice of global talent shortages. Attraction and retention of top talent was the top ranked internal hot button issue by CEOs in every region of the world (Table 1). At the same time, wage increases are ranked among the bottom of the hot-button issues across regions. This is in line with current wage data for most regions, but with the wage acceleration in recent quarters in many parts of the world, we do expect this to change in 2019.

Internal hot-button issues from The Conference Board C-Suite Challenge 2019™.

Talent is likely to remain a burning issue in the coming years. When asked about their organizations in the future, CEOs see lack of skilled talent as the number one obstacle to innovation by 2025.

CEOs are perhaps less focused on diversity and inclusion than some had expected. Only about one-third of CEOs globally believe future success with customers hinges on having employees that reflect the diversity of their customer base. In that context, when asked about the top traits that will define a truly inclusive organization, only 7 percent of CEOs picked mandates equal pay for equal work. The option ranks 14 out of 15 globally. Finally, only about one-quarter of CEOs list improve work-life balance of managers among their top three priorities.

As for external concerns, even though the survey was fielded before the financial turmoil in December 2018, recession risk was already on the minds of senior executives. Global CEOs indicated this is their top concern in the coming year, closely followed by threats to global trade systems and global political instability. With the global economic developments since the survey was fielded, concerns about global economic and political conditions have probably increased. We should note here that we at The Conference Board expect global economic growth to slow down in 2019, but don’t expect to get close to a global recession.

  • About the Author:Gad Levanon, PhD

    Gad Levanon, PhD

    Gad Levanon is Vice President, Labor Markets for The Conference Board, where he oversees the labor market, US forecasting, and Help Wanted OnLine© programs. His research focuses on trends in…

    Full Bio | More from Gad Levanon, PhD


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