8 Strategic Questions All CEOs Need to Ask
Every quarter, it’s essential for leaders to reflect on past goals, assess progress, and set strategy for the future. For CEOs, such introspection is not only a healthy exercise, it’s a strategic imperative.
Amid rapidly developing technology, regulatory changes, a talent shortage, and other challenges, success will require company executives to be deliberate about their objectives and build effective strategy.
To define the most important goals, consider the following questions:
1. Are we investing in the right tech?
Even companies with a high digital IQ understand that digital maturity is a moving target. According to PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey, executives’ confidence in their companies’ digital capabilities is declining. 52% rated their digital IQ as strong in 2016, compared to 67% in 2015 and 66% in 2014.
Moreover, 70% of executives responding to PwC’s 2017 Global CEO Survey identified the speed of technological change as a top concern.
In addition to the swift rate of technological progress, the sheer number of options available makes choosing which software to invest in a challenge. How does one determine which systems or tools will best fulfill their needs?
The first step to selecting the right digital system — whether for human capital management, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, or anything else — is determining what pain points employees currently face. What problem or inefficiency do you want the new technology to solve? Also, consider your business projections for the future.
Does the system need to be scalable? Who will use the system, and how much support will they require? Are mobile capabilities a must-have? What is the budget for implementing new technology? The answers to these questions will help build effective strategy and ensure an informed choice for your next tech investment.
2. Are we providing employees with the tools they need to be productive?
Companies adopt software systems to enable employees to work smarter and more efficiently. However, complex interfaces, a plethora of features, constant updates, and ineffective training make using this technology a difficult and frustrating experience.
What was intended to improve productivity instead becomes a hindrance.
Software use in on the rise. Instead of resisting digital change, companies should seek tools to simplify the user experience. WalkMe’s Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) sits on top of any software and provides users with onscreen guidance to help them navigate difficult interfaces. Real-time prompts provide tips and ensure users get the most out of available features. The DAP leverages the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to anticipate where a user might experience friction, and provide tailored support. Such tools safeguard your software investment and promote positive ROI.
3. How can we become more adaptable to change?
Succeeding in a volatile and unpredictable market requires a high degree of adaptability. To promote a culture of change, leaders must become more nimble, and look for employees who are flexible.
“Soft skills” have emerged as some of the most important attributes when recruiting talent. According to the PwC CEO survey, the majority of executives identified problem solving as the most important employee skill, followed by adaptability.
However, 61% of respondents described finding talent with these traits as somewhat or very difficult.
To ensure your candidates possess these traits, rank them high on your list of desired skills in job descriptions. Among current employees, provide opportunities—such as games or simulations—to gain meaningful experience problem solving and adapting to change.
Remember: Change is a mindset.
People resist change when they fear it will disrupt their workflow, or when they aren’t convinced the benefits will outweigh the costs. Nip resistance in the bud by being transparent about the reason for a given change, how it will affect people, and the expected benefits.
4. How can we better attract, recruit, and retain top-tier talent?
Filling the ranks with the best talent is one of the biggest challenges facing executives. Although 86 percent of leaders responding to PwC’s CEO survey said they plan to increase headcount over the next 12 months, 77% of respondents identified the availability of key skills as one of their top concerns.
Here are a few general best practices for attracting the best talent. Start with a detailed job description that outlines the exact requirements of the position, as well as a description of the company culture. Doing so will help potential candidates decide if they could cohere with those they would work with. Take advantage of professional networking sites to tap recruits, such as LinkedIn.
One cannot confront the task of recruiting without acknowledging how competitors attract candidates.
Set yourself apart by emphasizing the positive aspects of the job. These might include unique benefits, the ability to work remotely, location, or company culture.
Although it may be tempting to conceal the less desirable parts of the job, don’t. New hires will inevitably discover these drawbacks. Those who feel misled are more likely to underperform and even quit. Being upfront about aspects that may seem unappealing to some will help you weed out candidates who won’t be a good fit in the long run.
Many factors influence a company’s ability to retain customers, but training and onboarding has an outsized effect on retention. Invest time and resources in creating a formal onboarding process. Doing so will lay the foundation for higher employee satisfaction, better performance, greater understanding of roles and responsibility, and less turnover, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
5. Does the culture promote employee well-being?
The importance of company culture cannot be overstated.
Culture affects everything from company reputation to retention to employees’ health. For example, companies with high-pressure, high-stress cultures generate nearly 50% higher healthcare expenses than other companies, according to a study published by BioMed Central.
Stressful work environments also lead to higher levels of disengagement. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, just one-third of American workers are engaged in their jobs, while 16% are actively disengaged and 51% are “just there.” Lack of engagement is a significant challenge to employers, as it results in reduced business outcomes and lower employee satisfaction.
You can foster a culture that promotes employee well-being by encouraging greater communication between managers and direct reports; redesigning performance management in a way that motivates employees; allowing for greater flexibility, such as the option to work remotely; and offering benefits that support healthy lifestyles, according to Gallup.
CEOs who encourage employees to take care of their mental and physical health will have the most engaged and loyal workforce.
6. What emerging trend will have the most disruptive force, and how can we build effective strategy?
Although the pace and direction of change varies across different industries, CEOs must always “aim high” down the road and anticipate which trends, technological developments and other disruptive factors will influence their business.
Beyond staying up to date with industry trends, leaders need to consider the so what? How will new trends, technologies, regulations, or other factors affect the way your company does business? Will changes present operational or cost barriers? Will they require you to hire more employees or create an entirely new department? Will it become necessary to invest in new technology? Constantly asking these questions will help decision makers be more nimble and forward thinking.
7. Are we secure?
As companies race to implement new technologies and grow their data and analytics capabilities, the threat of a security breach rises. To protect their assets, reputation, and trust, companies must protect themselves from cyberattacks.
However, many businesses have not adopted key processes for identifying security risks, according to The Global State of Information Security Survey 2018 by PwC. For instance, less than half of survey respondents (45%) indicated their companies have conducted vulnerability or threat assessments. Just 42% have done penetration tests, while 48% have active monitoring/analysis of information security intelligence.
No company is completely immune to the threat of a cyberattack. However, organizations can build effective strategy to fortify resistance. In addition to adopting security technologies, employee education is key to thwarting a breach. Make sure your workforce knows basic security best practices, such as how to identify a phishing scam and not to open links and attachments from unfamiliar email senders. They should know how to connect to the company’s virtual private network, and how to escalate issues to the IT department before they get worse.
8. How can we gain an edge on the competition?
If your company’s brand isn’t already solid, look for ways to strengthen your image and resonance among your target demographics. Never let customer service be anything less than ideal. Admit it when mistakes happen, and take meaningful actions to correct them. Keep innovation at the forefront.
While companies are primarily accountable to their customers and stakeholders, they are increasingly stepping into roles of corporate and social responsibility. Consumers today care about what a company stands for, not just what they sell.