CEOs Concerned About Talent and a Recession, According to Report

A new global survey reveals that CEOs view a recession as their biggest external concern for 2019. They cited attracting and retaining talent as their top internal concern.

Conducted each year by The Conference Board, the findings from C-Suite Challenge 2019 also show that CEOs feel particularly uneasy about issues including global political instability, leader development, and trade.

The report is based on a survey of over 800 CEOs and over 600 other C-Suite executives, primarily from the United States, Asia, and Europe. Participants weighed in on the top business challenges facing their organizations in both the year ahead and well into the future, and their strategies for meeting those challenges.

External CEO Concerns for 2019

The survey asked both CEOs and other C-Suite executives about their external concerns for 2019.

Key findings include:

Recession fears re-emerge

  • Globally, CEOs rank a recession as their #1 external concern for 2019.
  • Just a year ago, in 2018, they considered a recession as an afterthought, ranking it their 19th concern.

Trade threats are a top concern

  • Globally, threats to global trade came in as the 2nd biggest external concern of CEOs.
  • U.S. CEOs rank this issue 4th; China’s CEOs rank it 2nd.

Global political instability is top of mind for Europe’s executives

  • Europe’s CEO’s rank global political instability as their #1 external concern. Globally, it ranks 3rd.
  • Cyber security is rattling America’s CEOs…much more than China’s CEOs
  • U.S. CEOs rank cyber security as their #1 external concern for 2019. China’s CEO rank it as their 10th.

Internal CEO Concerns for 2019

The survey also asked both CEOs and other C-Suite executives about their internal concerns for 2019. Key findings include:

Talent quality and leader development are top internal concerns

  • Globally, across all regions, CEOs rank attracting and retaining top talent as their #1 internal concern.
  • Developing the next generation of leaders is the 3rd internal concern for CEOs globally.

Anxiety around digital technologies is clearly being felt

  • Globally, CEOs say their 2nd biggest internal concern is creating new business models due to disruptive technology.
  • Compliance with data privacy regulations scores relatively high in Europe at 8th, compared to 10th globally.

China’s executives see different business issues beyond the human capital challenges

  • Better alignment of compensation and incentives with business performance becomes more important in China as wage pressures increase. It is their 2nd main internal concern for 2019, whereas globally it is 4th.
  • Volatility in cash flow as the 4th internal challenge for Chinese businesses reflects rapid changes in business financing as government restricts funding.

“While CEOs are quite anxious about the external challenges the global economy poses to their businesses right now, the survey results suggest they’re aware of the need to stay focused on the longer-term disruptive forces impacting their future go-to-market plans,” said Bart van Ark, Ph.D., a report author and Chief Economist of The Conference Board.

“That awareness reinforces the need to continue the development of new business models, a strategy that will be tempting to neglect if and when the economy starts slowing,” van Ark said.

Let’s hope our government officials see this report and act accordingly. They should do everything they can right now to boost confidence, and avoid doing things that hurt confidence.

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