The CEOs of high-performing companies consider managing the workforce of the future to be a top leadership challenge, according to the results of a survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV). The “Find your essential” study highlighted that during 2020, empowering the remote workforce was CEOs' top priority; moving forward, half the CEOs of high performing companies say that managing that same remote workforce will be a challenge over the next few years.
Mark Foster, Senior Vice President, IBM Services, attributed this to employees' expectations of their employers having significantly changed over the past year. “The 'anywhere' workforce can require leaders to provide agile technology, to adopt more empathetic leadership models that prioritize employee well-being and to champion flexible and inclusive cultures,” he said.
Curiously, the study found that the CEOs of low-performing companies—defined as those within the bottom 20 percent for revenue growth—were much less likely to consider the 'anywhere' workforce a priority. Only 25 percent of them counted it as a top leadership challenge, although the study did not examine why.
Questions around employee well-being also highlighted a similar disparity between the views of top and bottom-performing company CEOs. 77 percent of CEOs of top-performing companies said they plan to prioritize employee well-being even if it affects near-term profitability, but only 39 percent of CEOs of underperformers shared that view.
The focus on leadership and employee welfare may drive these companies' ability to attract and retain talent—or not. A separate IBV study found that 25 percent of employees are planning to change jobs in 2021, with the top reasons cited being the need for a more flexible work schedule or location.