Irish CEOs prioritise digital

Digital products, employee retention and flexible working top the agenda for the Irish C-suite as economic recovery now expected to take more than a year.

Almost a quarter (23pc) of Irish CEOs have ranked the development of digital products as their single highest business priority.

That’s according to the findings of the latest PwC CEO Pulse survey which found an overwhelming majority (97pc) will protect their people through flexibility and wellbeing initiatives.

“Business leaders now need to rethink how they operate in the future. They may need to rethink everything”

Irish CEOs have said that they expect recovery to take more than a year, something they foresaw earlier than their global counterparts.

A third of respondents (33pc) have decreased leadership financial compensation compared with 32pc of their global counterparts.

A new perspective

Man in white shirt, red tie.

Feargal O’Rourke, PwC Ireland managing partner

With a no-deal Brexit on the horizon, Irish C-suite leaders will need a new perspective, said Feargal O’Rourke, PwC Ireland managing partner.

“Business leaders now need to rethink how they operate in the future. They may need to rethink everything. What’s critical now is that they use the important knowledge they’ve gained about their organisations effectively to balance short term recovery, with long term rethinking of their strategy.

“They need to establish a flexible business and workplace plan, invest in digital tools and take their commitment to agility and innovation to the next level. And with a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, businesses also need to continue to plan for all Brexit eventualities.”

Remote working and automation

The survey also highlights a whole new business landscape is emerging. Two-thirds (67pc) of Irish CEOs believe that shifts towards remote collaboration and automation will have a lasting impact on their business models as a result of the pandemic – although more global CEOs think so (76pc and 78pc respectively).

With Brexit high on the agenda and Ireland’s high dependency on exports and imports, 63pc of Irish respondents believe shifts in supply chain safety are here to stay (Global: 58pc). Significantly, more Irish respondents are of the view that climate change mitigation (63pc) is a lasting trend (Global: 47pc). 

Ciarán Kelly, Advisory Leader, PwC Ireland, said: “The survey findings illustrate the ways in which CEOs are adapting to a new reality. In the early days of the pandemic, many business leaders quickly realised that the digital capabilities of their organisation would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

“This awareness has helped speed the adoption of digitisation initiatives, among both employees and customers.  With new business models emerging from the crisis, the rapid adoption of next-generation technologies together with the new approaches will set a precedent for organisations to navigate future cycles of challenge and prosperity,” said Kelly.

Local realism

According to this latest CEO Pulse survey, business leaders are downbeat about global economic growth with global CEOs being slightly more cautious when it comes to future revenue growth.

Six out of ten (60pc) Irish business leaders are of the view that global economic growth will decline in the next 12 months (Global: 65pc), but still a third (34pc) expect global economic growth to improve (Global; 30pc).

At the same time, 60pc of Irish participants are ‘somewhat confident’ about their organisations’ prospects for revenue growth in the year ahead albeit global businesses are slightly more cautious (45pc).  

People are the priority

An overwhelming majority (97pc) said will protect their people including well-being initiatives – companies will be even more employee-centric with Irish CEOs taking a lead on prioritising flexibility 

Nearly half (47pc) stated that maximising employee retention will shape their future business models – ahead of global peers (36pc).

It is not surprising, therefore, that Irish CEOs believe that their actions to combat the pandemic will serve them with greater positive impact on their long-term reputation.  For example, nearly half (48pc) said that protecting employee health and safety will have the single greatest positive impact on their organisation’s long-term reputation (Global: 41pc).

CEOs also plan to develop a more flexible and employee orientated workforce. Nearly a quarter (23pc) ranked remote working as their highest-priority business model change – higher than global counterparts (15pc).  13pc ranked expanding employee health and safety and well-being programmes as their single top priority.

Ciara Fallon, Director, PwC Ireland People & Organisation, added: “As well as being the right thing to do, employers who focus on creating a safe workplace – whether in the office or offsite – will earn trust, build loyalty and enhance their organisation’s reputation. Any thoughtful and purposeful efforts to improve safety in the current context have the power to act as a true differentiator, in terms of both the employee and customer experience.”

Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 23 September, 2020