CEOs of the world’s most influential companies are planning what the ‘new reality’ will look like post-pandemic. The 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey finds that almost half (45 percent) of global executives do not expect to see a return to a ‘normal’ course of business until sometime in 2022, as opposed to nearly one-third (31 percent) who anticipate this will happen later this year. The changes prompted by the pandemic have resulted in one-quarter (24 percent) of CEOs saying that their business model has been changed forever by the global pandemic.
The study conducted by KPMG in February and March of this year asked 500 global CEOs about their response to the pandemic and the outlook over a 3-year horizon. A majority (55 percent) of CEOs are concerned about employees’ access to a COVID-19 vaccine, which is influencing their outlook of when employees will return to the workplace. A significant majority (90 percent) of CEOs are considering asking employees to report when they have been vaccinated, which may help organizations consider measures to protect their workforce. However, one-third (34 percent) of global executives are worried about misinformation on COVID-19 vaccine safety and the potential this may have on employees choosing not to have it administered.
Bill Thomas, Global Chairman & CEO, KPMG, said: “Before any major decisions are made, CEOs want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a dose of optimism as they prepare for a new reality. CEOs are scenario planning for difference across certain key markets that could impact their operations, supply chains and people, leading to uneven economic recovery."
“Our research shows that some executives have taken strong measures during the crisis to transform their operating model and ways of working, accelerating the rollout of key transformational projects, some by choice, some out of necessity. The pandemic has also been a catalyst for CEOs to evaluate the role their companies play in society. Many have given voice to issues they may not have previously commented on publicly — from tackling climate change to supporting the diverse communities they operate in — and we need to keep hearing those voices. There is much more to be done.”
- Nine out of 10 leaders globally (90 percent) intend to ask their employees to report when they have been vaccinated in order to protect the wider workforce. In India 94 percent CEOs intend to do so
- Majority of CEOs globally will wait for more than 50 percent of population to be vaccinated before returning to the office. In India, this number stood at 76 percent
- 66 percent CEOs in India as opposed to 74 percent CEOs globally felt the pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of operations and creation of next-generation models
Government and vaccination rates driving decision-making
Three-quarters (76 percent) of CEOs globally see government encouragement for businesses to return to ‘normal’ as the prompt for businesses to ask staff to return to the workplace. In India this number stands at 86 percent. In addition, 61 percent of global executives as opposed to 76 percent Indian executives said that they will also need to see a successful (over 50 percent of the population vaccinated) COVID-19 vaccine rollout in key markets before taking any action toward a return to offices. When employees can safely return to workplaces, one-fifth of companies (21 percent globally as compared to 18 percent in India) are looking to institute additional precautionary measures by asking clients and other in-person visitors to inform them of their vaccination status.
Global CEOs are less likely to downsize physical footprint compared to 6 months ago
The research finds that only 17 percent of global executives are looking to downsize their office space as a result of the pandemic as opposed to 22 percent in India. In contrast, 69 percent of CEOs surveyed globally in August 2020 said they planned to reduce their office space over 3 years, which demonstrates that either office downsizings have taken place or, as the pandemic has drawn on, strategies have changed. This number stood at 48 percent in India in 2020
Global executives remain apprehensive about a fully remote workforce
CEOs are considering what the new reality will look like, but post-COVID, only three in 10 (30 percent) of global executives as compared to 32 percent Indian executives are considering a hybrid model of working for their staff, where most employees work remotely 2–3 days a week. As a result, only one-fifth (21 percent) of businesses globally are looking to hire talent that works predominantly remotely. In India this number is at about 22 percent This is a significant shift from last year (73 percent in 2020 globally as compared to 77 percent in India).
Cyber security is now the top concern for CEOs
During lockdown, remote working has become the norm, which poses new data security risks to organizations. As a result, global business leaders including in India have identified cyber security as the top concern impacting their growth and operations over a 3-year period. Cyber security was named ahead of regulatory, tax and supply chain concerns.
ESG continues to climb up the corporate agenda
With COP26 taking place this year and the US re-joining the Paris Accord, 49 percent of CEOs globally as compared to 28 percent CEOs in India plan to put in place more stringent ESG practices. A vast majority (89 percent) of business leaders globally are focused on locking in the sustainability and climate change gains their companies have made as a result of the pandemic. In India this number stands at 92 percent. Nearly all (96 percent) global executives including India, are looking to upweight their focus towards the social component of their ESG programs.