Business leaders are optimistic yet mired in inertia

business inertia
Image by Jan_S | Bigstockphoto

Business leaders worldwide feel that their companies have emerged from the COVID pandemic stronger and better than ever. And yet they are struggling with inertia amidst an unpredictable business climate, which appears to be widening the gap between intent and execution.

That’s according to a new survey of 600 global C-suite executives commissioned by Verizon Business and conducted by Longitude to explore how companies have managed the impact of the pandemic as a catalyst for change, and how executives are reimagining their business for future growth.

The good news is that as the pandemic wanes, business leaders feel better equipped to make decisions quickly (71%), think strategically about long-term objectives (72%), adopt new technologies (75%), and develop more empathetic and trusting relationships with both customers (71%) and employees (69%).

But despite these positive sentiments, many companies are now facing a sense of strategic uncertainty as they face continuous upheaval and the growing complexity of the hybrid business environment. Two-thirds of business leaders (66%) said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in strategy, while 60% said that they struggle to act decisively in response to new market opportunities.

The gap between intent and execution

This is reflected in the additional finding that there is a considerable gap between strategic intent and execution. In almost every area, more respondents agreed on the need to act than had actually done something about it. Either that, or the actions that were taken didn’t quite line up with the company’s post-pandemic ambitions.

For example, improving customer experience comes out as the top strategic priority (74%).  However, only a third (38%), say they have accelerated the use of data analytics to improve customer experience with even fewer harnessing automation to better serve customers. In tandem, the report also highlights a concerning lack of digital skills (33%) as the most common gap facing businesses.

In areas such as transforming customer and employee experience — and on critical issues such as talent acquisition and technology deployment — there is a gap between business growth and the ability to drive meaningful long-term change.

Another example is technology adoption. More than half of executives surveyed highlighted the increasing role played by leadership teams in technology adoption over the past 12 months – with cybersecurity services (78%), data analytics software and tools (75%) and cloud enablement (74%) among the top technology priorities.

Source: Verizon Business, Business Reimagined – Are you really ready to lead the workforce of the future? (2022)

However, says the report:

Nearly two-fifths (38%) of the executives we surveyed said their leadership team had failed to take an active role in technology adoption over the past 12 months. This shows in the lack of alignment between technology investments and new business priorities, such as improving CX. Relatively few participants reported increased use of technology to accelerate transactions or improved personalisation.

Moving the business forward

In short, executives need to find a way to break that inertia and find a way to move forward sustainably. Recommendations from the report include:

  • Navigate a clear path through a deeply uncertain business environment
  • Understand the importance of building resilience and delivering change through partnerships
  • Unite the workforce with a clear purpose
  • Drive innovation through experimentation and fear-free risk-taking
  • Unlock the potential of the whole workforce through inclusive cultures.

The full report is available here.

Related article: How COVID-19 kicked digital transformation into overdrive

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