While issues of technology are raising concerns for many CEOs, they feel increasingly comfortable taking action on political issues, the 2019 edition of the EY CEO Imperative Study revealed.
Speaking out on a big political issue isn’t something most corporate leaders will shy away from in 2019. What really freaks them out? A cyberattack.
Such is a key finding of Ernst & Young Global Limited’s EY CEO Imperative Study, which lays out the largest concerns and issues that chief executives are expected to face in the next decade. Among external forces, cybersecurity issues, job losses from technological change, and income inequality are the biggest challenges facing global organizations, according to the report.
“Future corporate growth depends on trust, whether between corporations and customers, people and technology, or management and employees. The increasing risk of cyberattacks and the failure to find the right balance of digital and human in the workplace damages trust in all these critical dimensions,” explained Gil Forer, EY Global Markets’ digital and business disruption lead partner, in the report.
But there are plenty of internal challenges too—and they start at the top. For one, the C-suite may be poorly calibrated to future needs; just 34 percent of respondents say it’s working. On the plus side, top execs appear to realize this, adding new positions such as chief digital officer and chief strategy officer. Around 72 percent of CEOs, and 82 percent of boards, expect to make future changes to better adapt to issues such as digital transformation and innovation.
One thing that isn’t fraying the nerves of many leaders? The potential to show a little political backbone where needed. The survey noted that around two thirds of companies were becoming more willing to speak on social issues—something the report suggests might be the result of an increased openness toward difficult leadership issues.
“Historically, most business CEOs have chosen to remain noncommittal with respect to global challenges, particularly those that are sources of political friction,” the report said. “Now, we have come to a tipping point of change as the CEOs of global companies, their board directors, and institutional investors align on the need for corporate action and, most importantly, CEO leadership on these issues.”
The report noted that more than 40 percent of boards, investors, and leaders saw it important to link internal governance approaches and performance measures to the solving of global challenges.
EY Global Chairman and CEO Carmine Di Sibio argued that there was a place to bring organizational leadership to broader issues.
“CEOs, boards and investors recognize they have a role to play—along with the public sector—in addressing social challenges that speak to their values and in pursuing inclusive, sustainable growth,” he said in a news release.