Executive insights from 2020

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Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

We all want to forget about the year 2020 at the earliest. The Covid-19 and its resulting pandemic have disrupted life, business, and how the world operated. Fortune recently surveyed the CEOs of various organizations that were on the 2020 Fortune 500 list. The results from this survey are a revelation indeed. The questions revolved around the resumption of economic activity, how much has the world changed, and top concerns regarding business risk management. The economic activity has been hampered beyond recognition because of the pandemic. Nearly 52.4% of respondents claimed that economic activity would return to pre-pandemic levels by the first quarter of 2022. 25% of the respondents viewed that till would happen by the first quarter of 2023. Work-from-home has become a norm in the new normal. In this regard, 26.2% of the respondents said that 90% of their workforce would not return to their usual workplace. 20.2% thought it to be January 2021 and 17.9% consider it to June 2021. We all want to forget about the year 2020 at the earliest. The Covid-19 and its resulting pandemic have disrupted life, business, and how the world operated. Fortune recently surveyed the CEOs of various organizations that were on the 2020 Fortune 500 list. The results from this survey are a revelation indeed. The questions revolved around the resumption of economic activity, how much has the world changed, and top concerns regarding business risk management. The economic activity has been hampered beyond recognition because of the pandemic. Nearly 52.4% of respondents claimed that economic activity would return to pre-pandemic levels by the first quarter of 2022. 25% of the respondents viewed that till would happen by the first quarter of 2023. Work-from-home has become a norm in the new normal. In this regard, 26.2% of the respondents said that 90% of their workforce would not return to their usual workplace. 20.2% thought it to be January 2021 and 17.9% consider it to June 2021. Traveling has also been affected and in this regard, 51.1% of the respondents said that business travel at their company would not return to the pre-pandemic levels. When talking about layoffs, many companies either seized to exist or faced immense losses. When asked, “have you laid workers in response to the crisis?” 48.9% of the CEOs did not order for a layoff while 22.6% of CEOs ordered for layoffs of more than 10% of the workforce. When asked about their expectations of the total employment in January 2021, 53.6% said that it will be slightly less, 13.1% said it will roughly the same while 3.6% said it will be much more. A cut in compensation was also a result of the pandemic. 50% of CEOs agreed to implement a cut in compensation as a result of the pandemic while 48.8% did not agree to take such a step. The Covid-19 has brought us closer to technology as students, faculty members, and corporate professionals began using various tech-based products to communicate. According to the survey, 75% of the CEOs think that the crisis will affect the pace of technological transformation at their company while 19% said that there would be no effect. When talking about layoffs, many companies either seized to exist or faced immense losses. When asked, “have you laid workers in response to the crisis?” 48.9% of the CEOs did not order for a layoff while 22.6% of CEOs ordered for layoffs of more than 10% of the workforce The capital spending and its modus operandi were also changed because of the pandemic and the lockdown. 35.7% of the CEOs responding to this survey claimed that they expect capital spending at their company to exceed 2019 levels by 2021. 27.4%, however, thought that this will not happen until 2022, and 13.1% were of the view that it will happen in 2023. 4.8% of the respondents thought this would never happen. Regarding moving toward stakeholder capitalism, 48.2% of the CEOs believed that the pandemic would accelerate the move, 31.3% thought it will have no effect and 18.1% opined that it would slow the move. The pandemic may have affected the world, but the regions of the world were equally affected. The respondents were asked about the country or the region that they considered presenting the best investment opportunity in the next year (2021). 74.3% thought it was the USA, 11.5% considered it Asia other than China, 9% voted for China, and 2.6% considered it to be Europe and India respectively. Interesting information has also been collected regarding how the CEOs view the world after the pandemic has passed. Over 60% agreed that business travel will become less frequent and that it will be replaced by video conferencing. Over 60% agreed that nationalism will rise and global supply chains will become less common. Over 70% agreed that government surveillance techniques would become more common worldwide. When asked the top affairs concerning business risk management in today’s current environment, 60% thought about keeping their employees safe and productive. An interesting question was also asked in this survey. Respondents were asked which that other than their own company, which Fortune 500 company’s stock they would invest in? The top three answers were: Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. The three most admired CEOs, according to the survey, were Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, (23%), Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart (16%), and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft (7%). Four keywords of wisdom were brought to the fore by the CEOs when they were asked about the single most important thing the crisis taught them. This included: “working from home works”, “a business cannot wait for the transformation it knows it needs”, “leadership and values matter always, but especially in a crisis”, and “the meaning of the word essential.” When asked about the best book they read during the lockdown, two replies emerged. These included The History of Bees by Maja Lunde and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

 

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