To better understand their leadership challenges and opportunities, business and technology consulting firm West Monroe conducted two recent surveys of C-suite leaders focused on operations during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The surveys looked into actions C-suite executives are taking during the pandemic, their biggest restart challenges once people return to their work environment, and the areas of their business that will be permanently altered in the post-Covid era.
Kevin McCarty, CEO of West Monroe, added perspective: "The decisions that lie ahead of us are as meaningful as they are unanticipated. When we are on the other side of this crisis, our trajectories both individually and collectively will be determined by our actions and leadership during this period of immense uncertainty."
Breaking down the data by CEOs' responses, the surveys revealed several key insights, including:
One in five CEOs have already had to make business decisions that contradict company values
When asked how their decisions during this time compare to their corporate values, 21 percent of CEOs admitted they've had to make tough decisions that conflict with their values. This might be because, for nearly a quarter of CEOs, their top concern right now is the unpredictable behavior of partners and clients in this environment.
This is followed closely by a narrow focus on their organization's long-term survival. As a result, many may feel cornered into making decisions that preserve these partner and client relationships at the expense of their corporate values.
CEOs' biggest restart challenge once they return to work: managing their business through social-distancing measures
Once employees are able to return to the office, 26 percent of CEOs say their biggest challenge will be managing their business through social-distancing measures, including flexible scheduling and work location. This is followed closely by a concern about consumer and business confidence, spending, and fear.
When asked about the primary action their organization is taking to change its business model or strategically pivot during the pandemic, some revealed they're looking to "operate more productively (or do more or the same with less)."
Other responses noted they're primarily "focusing on safety," undergoing a "digital shift [because of] new opportunities" presented by the pandemic, or pivoting now as an organization at a rate they didn't expect for another three to five years.
The way the current market crisis will fundamentally alter organizations? Their approach to remote work
More so than any other factor, nearly half (47 percent) of CEOs said the crisis will fundamentally alter their organization's approach to remote work in the long term. But we've long been heading in that direction.
In fact, an earlier West Monroe poll found that 91 percent of employees agree they are just as productive working from home as they are in the office. Clearly, remote work has reached a tipping point, with the pandemic providing the final push needed to fully embrace this new way of working.
When asked how the current market crisis will have a lasting impact in the U.S. economy at large, one-third of CEOs agreed that a top factor will be increased agility and speed of work, such as more rapid decision-making and prioritization.
Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly changed everyone's lives both personally and professionally, but it has also forced companies and executives to work with more focus and dedication than ever.
This pandemic is creating a situation of forced adaptation. For companies across industries, digital transformation is no longer something to plan for: It's now a daily mandate. Business leaders cannot afford to be complacent. Instead, they must rise to the unique challenge of this moment with an intentional evolution.
The pandemic can change business for the better -- if we embrace the agility it's creating.