South African companies are doing their best to survive and adapt to these challenging circumstances, and as we head further into 2021, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time for them to set their biggest priorities for the near future.
For its 24th annual Global CEO Survey, PwC polled a little over 5,000 CEOs across 100 countries and territories in January and February. Among them were 37 from South Africa. The survey aimed to gain a deeper understanding of CEOs’ outlook for the rest of the year and learn how they plan to position themselves for future success.
CEOs say that digital upskilling is at the top of their training agenda, something which may have emerged as a critical response to narrow the skills gap in the workforce. One of the smartest moves companies can make is to train and develop the workers of tomorrow in-house.
There is an opportunity to create and grow workplace training programmes that not only meet the demand for technology skills but also enable digitalisation in their companies.
How CEOs are changing their workforce strategy to make the greatest impact on their organisation’s competitiveness.
When it comes to people and productivity, South Africa’s CEOs are prioritising skills and adaptability (South Africa: 43%; Global: 31%). Additionally, they are readier than before to embrace automation and technology (South Africa: 49%, Global: 36%) as a way to keep pace with the competition. There was also a focus on workplace culture (South Africa: 43%, Global: 32%), and the health and wellbeing of their workforce (South Africa: 32%, Global: 28%).
To tap into the full growth potential of their companies, CEOs are showing a keen interest in leveraging innovations like artificial intelligence. Ninety percent of CEOs in South Africa 90%) agree that AI will dramatically change their business over the next five years.
Further, when asked about their investment in digital transformation, nearly 49% of CEOs foresee their company budgets for emerging technologies to increase by 10% or more.
More than half of South African CEOs (59%) plan to pursue greater cost efficiencies and increase their rate of digital investment by 10% or more.
Top business concerns
While accelerating fundamental shifts in the workplace, CEOs also highlighted the most pressing problems their companies might face in 2021. It should be noted that South African CEOs are significantly more worried about these challenges than their global peers. Among the top ten concerns for 2021 are inadequate business infrastructure (65%), volatile energy costs (57%), availability of key skills (51%), and cyber threats (49%).
Increased business optimism
The survey found that despite ongoing uncertainty and persisting pandemic challenges, the majority of CEOs are optimistic about global economic growth the year ahead.
With the availability of ultra-fast business internet connectivity, these companies are in a greater position to take advantage of today’s most cutting edge technologies, which can place them at the forefront of digital transformation.