Finding different ways of thinking and working

Given the scale of the challenges and uncertainties that today’s CEOs face in global markets, it’s little wonder that the one ‘musthave’ attribute they point to for future success is adaptability. It’s clear that in 2015, disruptive change will affect all global markets. But while CEOs are less confident overall about the prospects for the global economy, many believe that there are significant opportunities for their own business to grow in the year ahead.

By PWC Singapore

Views about diversity and inclusiveness seem to have reached a tipping point. No longer are they seen as ‘soft’ issues, but rather as crucial competitive capabilities. Of the 64% of CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved the bottom line. And they also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to harness technology – all vital capabilities for success in the new competitive environment.

The right mix of talent

Having a good mix of talent – and the ability to alter the mix depending on business needs – is critical as companies look to apply their capabilities in more innovative ways, partner successfully and harness technology effectively.
These approaches require people who can think and work in highly different ways: those who can imagine and those who can implement; all-rounders and deep specialists; as well as those who can lead cross-functional, crosssector, cross-cultural initiatives. Equally important are people who can adapt the way they think and work, as circumstances require.
A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work to get this broad mix of talent, and companies are employing a diverse range of strategies to find and develop the people they need. Skills are at the top of CEOs’ talent agenda. 81% say their organisations are now looking for a much broader range of skills than in the past. This is unsurprising at a time when CEOs want to increase headcount but concerns about the availability of key skills are at an eight-year high (see Figure 16).
Smaller companies in particular are suffering: CEOs of companies with up to $100 million in revenue are much more likely than larger companies to be increasing headcount in 2015 and also much more likely to be extremely concerned about access to key skills. A recent survey of family businesses showed that nearly half were apprehensive about their ability to recruit skilled staff in the next 12 months, and 61% saw retention of skills and talent as a key issue that must be addressed in the next five years.19
Technological skills are especially sought after; 75% of CEOs think that specific hiring and training strategies to integrate digital technologies throughout the enterprise are key to getting the most out of digital investments. “As part of the increased clock speed through new technologies, you have to keep your eyes continuously open and really try to learn something new every day,” says Kimmo Alkio, President & CEO of Tieto in Finland. Focused on what Tieto calls Generation ‘T’, Alkio believes today’s organisations “have to think differently about how we serve the young talent [and] what type of opportunities, networking and type of culture you need to develop as a company.”
To find the skills they need, companies are searching in many more places. Seventy-eight percent of CEOs told us their business always uses multiple channels to find talent, including online platforms and social networks (see Figure 17). And 71% said their business actively searches for talent in different geographies, industries and demographic segments. Tapping into the labour pool in emerging markets is particularly important; by 2020, it’s estimated that more than half of graduates aged 24 to 35 years will be found in these countries.20
Developing the skills of the existing workforce is also high on CEOs’ list of priorities. Most (81%) say that their business always looks to equip employees with new skills, through continuous learning or mobility programmes. Nurturing an adaptable talent pool can have real value for the business; research indicates that this could unlock up to $130 billion in additional productivity globally.21 Learning and development is a particular focus; when CEOs were asked which aspects of diversity and inclusiveness were specifically addressed in their company’s talent strategy, this was among the top categories of responses. Indeed, US spending on corporate training grew 15% in 2013 – the highest growth rate in seven years.22
Mobility is also increasingly important as the availability and location of global talent changes; a recent study shows that 89% of organisations plan to increase the numbers of internationally mobile staff in the coming two years.23 Mobility is also important in meeting the needs of new workers, with over 70% of millennials wanting to work abroad.24 

Easier said than done

Much more, however, could be done to leverage the power of different talent.
Gender and knowledge, skills and experience are by far the main reference points for diversity and inclusiveness strategies (see Figure 18). But we believe what’s needed are people who are different across all dimensions – for example other physical characteristics, life situations, experiences, perspectives and personalities. 
What’s more, while most CEOs say their organisations are looking more widely across channels, geographies, industries and demographic segments to find talent, only a quarter cite access to talent as a top-three reason for partnering; even though collaborating with a range of organisations – academia, government and business networks – can be a rich source of talent.

Tough questions about finding different ways of thinking and working


  • How are you getting the visibility that you need to ensure that skills are being deployed effectively in your organisation?
  • Are you measuring how diversity and inclusiveness contributes to your bottom line? And assessing its impact on the capabilities you have or need to develop?
  • How are you ensuring that your organisation has access to the skills it needs now and in the future?
  • What strategies do you have in place to ensure that you are looking as widely as possible for talent?
  • What measures of diversity are important to help your organisation achieve its goals?


- END -