UK CEOs rate tech risks as top business concerns of 2015

Social media management and cybersecurity key challenges to strategic aim of improving customer engagement

UK CEOs have named ‘social media management’ and ‘cybersecurity’ among their top three ‘hot button’ issues demanding their management attention in 2015 in a new report released today 16th April 2015.

According to the findings of the CEO Challenge 2015 report produced by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and The Conference Board, the challenges posed outrank business risks including growth of competition, corporate tax reform, difficulty of filling key positions and financial instability in Europe.

The comparative global report surveyed 943 business, public sector and not-for-profit organisation leaders, including 38 from the UK.

The UK respondents cited ‘social media management’, ‘changes in consumer behaviour’ and ‘cybersecurity’ to be the three biggest tactical challenges they face this year. Their three big concerns broadly match those of continental Europe CEOs, with the exception of fears about financial instability in Europe being high on the list for their counterparts.

‘Changes in customer behaviour’ was the only ‘hot button’ issue to make the top three of CEOs surveyed in all of the four regions covered by the report - the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

In contrast, UK CEOs taking a long-term view rated ‘creating a strong customer-centric culture’, ‘creating a culture of accountability’ and ‘empowering employees to make appropriate decisions’ as bring their top three strategic concerns for achieving high organisational performance.

US-based business insights organisation The Conference Board has run the annual CEO Challenge survey since 1999. This is the third year that it has teamed with the CMI to garner the perspective of UK CEOs. According to the CMI’s CEO Ann Francke the report sheds light on the issues dominating UK boardroom discussion:

“For UK CEOs, the latest tech advancements feed into great strategic opportunities but in the immediate term are causing plenty of headaches. Leaders urgently need to think about how they manage social media and cybersecurity as part of their primary strategic focus of creating a strong customer-centric culture.”

To read the CMI’s CEO Challenge 2015 infographic, visit:

For more information contact:
CMI - Tristan Garrick, Head of Strategy, Planning and Campaigns
tel. 020 7421 2705 email  

Further information

Ten major global trends clearly emerge in the results of CEO Challenge 2015:

1. On the offensive against slowing global growth
Cost-related defensive strategies are now trumped by more growth-oriented, aggressive monetary and time-investment strategies in intangibles such as business process redesign, improving workforce and leadership skills, and employee engagement and productivity.

2. Focus on controlling the controllable
While global geopolitical and economic risks certainly impact the business environment, the focus of CEOs in this year’s survey is on internal development of strong cultures of engagement, customer centricity, innovation, and accountability. They see organizational agility and flexibility as a critical competency and place relatively less emphasis on geopolitical risk.

3. Strengthening human capital through a grow-your-own strategy
CEOs see success in meeting their most urgent business growth challenges as being inextricably linked to the strength of their human capital. Effective use of human capital resources is their top challenge, and their strategies to improve productivity center on greater leadership effectiveness, building a performance culture, providing training to upskill their workforce, and raising engagement.

4. Building a stronger and more dynamic relationship with customers
CEOs are now placing more emphasis on what their customers are trying to achieve than on what their companies are trying to sell. Judging by the importance they place on customer-centric strategies to meet an array of challenges, understanding changing customer needs is at the centre of their growth strategies.

5. Sustainability emerges as a top global challenge
For the first time, Sustainability ranks globally among the top-five challenges. However there are considerable ranking variations between regions, with China and India placing it higher than in the United States and Latin America. CEO priorities focus on meeting market demand for socially/environmentally conscious products and ensuring sustainability is part of their corporate brand identity.

6. A more integrated approach to innovation
While technology still plays a role, the notion that corporate culture and an engaged and empowered workforce are now the critical enablers of innovation —a dominant theme this year—argues for a more integrated approach involving the human capital function and overall management of intangible assets, from process improvements to upskilling the workforce. CEOs see an inseparable link between customer centricity, human capital, and innovation, as well as the importance of diversity on innovation teams.

7. CEOs seek to rebuild trust, sometimes below the radar
Even though Trust in Business is not seen as a top challenge by CEOs, the emphasis they place on fostering trust-building behaviour through their high ranking of strategies related to ethical accountability and transparency to meet an array of challenges shows that trust building is viewed as fundamental to growing their businesses.

8. A surprising lack of emphasis on cross-cultural competency
Mastering cross-cultural competence, even among the largest companies in our sample, is a relatively low strategic priority. This runs contrary to what we hear from human capital practitioners in our Councils across the globe, who say cultural sensitivity, or the lack of it, presents a major challenge to organizational alignment, performance management and measurement, and the development of effective global leaders.

9. Increasing comfort with big data, but continued uncertainty about how best to use it
Last year’s top hot-button issue has moved to the middle, indicating increased comfort with the concept of big data. However, its strategic value may not yet be fully recognized by CEOs. For many companies, it is still early in the learning cycle. Processes for gathering the right data and tying it to the bottom line are still in development.

10. CEOs expect much of themselves
CEOs see themselves playing a very hands-on role by personally engaging with key customers and clients, as well as government regulators. They clearly embrace the concept that organizational culture is character in action, and that it starts with the boss, as ethical leadership ranked as a top-three strategy to meet the Trust in Business challenge.


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