CEOs Eye 2022 With Optimism and a Dash of Uncertainty
Tuesday, January 25th, 2022
Nearly two-thirds of CEOs expect their organization's growth to be "very strong" or "strong" over the next 12 months.
Concerns about financial market instability and inflation have risen sharply with 36% of CEOs naming it as among the top three issues that may influence or disrupt their business strategy in 2022.
Seventy-eight percent of CEOs indicate supply chain disruptions have spurred increases in business costs as well as margin impacts, while 45% say the supply chain has caused revenue losses and customer service issues.
Talent remains a top concern for CEOs, with nearly half of surveyed participants saying it's the biggest challenge they face.
Thirty-two percent of CEOs do not see the business effects of the pandemic being over in the foreseeable future, while 60% expect pandemic business effects to conclude by mid-2022 or end of 2022.
Why it matters to CEOs?
In the Winter 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey fielded between January 4-12, 2022, 175 CEOs across 15 industries shared their perspectives, expectations, thoughts, and priorities for the next 12 months. Leaders surveyed include Fortune 500 CEOs, Global 500 CEOs, and select CEOs in the global Fortune community.
The first CEO survey of 2022 shows leaders threading the needle between feeling "hopeful" and "uncertain" about the year ahead. CEOs expect business growth to remain strong, but continue to highlight challenges with talent, the continued pandemic, and supply chain disruptions. Holding steady on expectations for growth, surveyed CEOs appear cautiously optimistic that their organizations have adjusted and adapted to a "new normal" marked by the enduring uncertainty of COVID-19.
2022: A year to be marked by déjà vu?
When asked in the Fall 2021 survey about when pandemic business effects would be over, nearly one-third of CEOs said they didn't expect the impact of COVID-19 ending anytime in the "foreseeable future," while 11% said business effects would be over by the end of 2021, 23% said by mid-2022, and 35% said by the end of 2022.
The timing of the Fall 2021 survey coincided with the rise of the Delta variant in September 2021, while the current survey was fielded at the beginning of January 2022 during a time of high disruption by the Omicron variant. Even so, CEO expectations are remarkably unchanged from four months ago. Similar to predictions they made back in September, 8% of CEOs claim that the business effects of the pandemic are already over for their organization, and just under a third say they will not be over in the "foreseeable future." About 20% say by mid-2022, and 40% say by the end of 2022.
Expectations for growth are also relatively unchanged from the Fall 2021 survey, with almost two-thirds of CEOs expecting their organization's growth to be "very strong" or "strong" over the next 12 months. The remaining third expects "modest" growth, and a fractional 2% expect "weak" growth.
However, CEOs have updated their outlook on financial and market instability. In the current survey, 36% of CEOs pointed to this issue as a top external concern, compared to 13% in Fall 2021. That figure rises to 62% for CEOs in the Financial Services industry, where it's the top-ranked issue.
"Notwithstanding the challenging societal circumstances at this moment presented by the Omicron surge, CEOs remain optimistic about the business environment and see strong growth opportunities over the next year. A new normal appears to be setting in whereby business leaders simply expect new challenges to arise continuously and are confident they can manage through them to achieve positive business results while making a real difference in society."
Joe Ucuzoglu, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte US
"This is the first major survey of CEOs to be taken since the full effects of Omicron hit. And what it shows is that despite that rapidly spreading virus, CEO optimism about the year ahead remains strong. There are clearly plenty of problems out there – the nexus between talent shortages, supply chain snafus, and inflation being at the top of that list. But for now, business leaders seem confident they can navigate those shoals."
Alan Murray, Chief Executive Officer, Fortune
Talent remains a top concern
When CEOs were first asked in June 2021 about the biggest challenge they faced, a quarter of the responses pointed to talent-related issues. Asked the same question in September 2021, alignment was even stronger, with nearly half of all respondents naming talent. That emphasis continues today with nearly half of all CEOs still referring to talent and workforce as the biggest challenges they are facing in their role.
CEOs specifically called out the difficulties in fighting COVID fatigue with team members, finding and keeping the best people, and responding to new work paradigms. Additionally, 71% of CEOs selected labor/skills shortage as one of the top three external issues they expect to influence or disrupt their business strategy within the next 12 months.
Supply chain disruptions abound
In the January 2021 survey, only 33% of CEOs indicated that their supply chain needed to be redesigned as a result of the pandemic. Since then, supply chain has clearly risen in importance as a major challenge for CEOs. While less than 10% of CEOs say the issues have gone so far as to cause customer attrition, nearly 80% point to higher costs of doing business and margin impacts, 58% point to longer fulfillment cycles, and 45% say revenue losses/customer service issues.
Not surprisingly, CEOs in the consumer products and retail industry indicate higher levels of disruption than some of their peers: 96% say their organizations have experienced higher costs of doing business and margin impacts, 88% say longer fulfillment cycles, and 71% say revenue losses/customer service issues.
Virtually all CEOs indicate they plan to take action on their supply chain over the next 12 months. More than half plan to change their pricing/profit model, and nearly an equal proportion plan to expand their supply chain ecosystem with more partners over the next 12 months. Only 47% of surveyed CEOs say they intend to expand sustainability and climate change initiatives, such as green energy, as part of their supply chain-related actions.
Perspectives on trust
In a multistakeholder environment, trust is the foundation of a meaningful relationship between an organization and its stakeholders at both the individual and institutional levels. When asked what top three areas CEOs felt their organization has issues with around the lack of trust, 41% point to diversity, equity, and inclusion, while 30% point to employee experience. We plan to revisit these two topics in the Summer 2022 survey edition to check in on evolving CEO perspectives.
Leaning on their leadership teams
As CEOs navigate the ongoing complexities and uncertainties in both their external and internal environments, how do they lean on their leadership team? We asked CEOs to rank order the importance of a number of roles to their personal success, as CEO. Two-thirds of surveyed CEOs rank the chief financial officer as most important, and 55% rank business unit/regional leaders as most important, with the chief operations officer and the chief talent/HR officer not far behind. CEOs outside of the United States rank business unit/regional leaders above the chief financial officer. Compared to their U.S.-based counterparts, non-U.S. CEOs also appear to rank the chief talent/HR officer, board directors, the chief strategy officer, and the chief legal counsel higher in importance, and the chief operations officer and the chief information/technology officer lower in importance.
Check out the full report here: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/chief-executive-officer/articles/ceo-survey.html