CEO Series: tackling the major challenges
New to the Annual Meeting this year was the CEO Series, peer-to-peer sessions designed as a learning experience uniquely for chief executives. Topics included organizational agility and learning in a complex world, tackling talent scarcity, business in frontier markets and cyber resilience.
Organizational Agility and Learning in a Complex World
One challenge companies face today is how to maintain a balance between stability and agility, to stay focused on core values and strategic vision, while maintaining the flexibility that allows them to be innovative and responsive to market forces. For companies to succeed in a fast-changing world, CEOs need to develop a clearly defined strategy, move beyond centralized HQ boundaries and permit regional decision-making, and build resilience by establishing a clear set of core values and sticking to them. CEOs should also build and celebrate value-based cultures that foster trust, and hire people who can work with volatility and ambiguity.
Tackling Talent Scarcity
Despite 200 million unemployed worldwide, including 75 million youth, one-third of employers cannot find human resources with the skills they require. This mismatch between supply and demand of skills is an urgent problem that needs to be understood and resolved to reduce severe unemployment. To close the gap, CEOs should work with government and NGOs to create broader awareness about opportunities in specific sectors, create more part-time job opportunities and encourage job seekers to take them, and adopt apprentice systems, which have had success in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Doing Business in Frontier Markets
There are risks and challenges of doing business in pre-emerging markets, but there is potential for long-term returns on investment, both portfolio and foreign direct investments. Sectors such as oil and gas, power, infrastructure, agriculture, retail, healthcare and education offer especially interesting opportunities. Before investing in frontier markets, CEOs need to have strong balance sheets and corporate governance, as well as zero tolerance for corruption. This can be achieved by instilling core values in employees, irrespective of location.
Cracking the Code on Cyber Resilience
The sophistication and determination of cyber criminals continue to grow exponentially, as do those involved in government and corporate espionage and terrorism. Thus, it is essential for companies and governments to develop a wide spectrum of security capabilities. Companies that deal with sensitive and critical information such as those in financial services should put cyberattacks at the top of their list of risks. While CEOs and corporate boards are increasingly becoming aware of the threat, not everyone knows how to respond to it effectively. In today’s hyperconnected world, companies need to have dedicated IT teams to constantly monitor technology systems and devise ways to repel cyber attacks. Encryption is another line of defence as is two-factor verification – requiring a username and password; use of biometric information, such as fingerprints and DNA, are also useful techniques.
01: Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, United Kingdom
02: Kamal Nath, Minister of Urban Development and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs of India
03: Muhammad Yunus, Chairman, Yunus Centre, Bangladesh
04: John F. Kerry, US Secretary of State; and Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
05: Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo, USA; World Economic Forum Foundation Board Member
06: Matt Damon, Actor and Co-Founder, Water.org, USA
07: Young Global Leaders session