The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe has put a big question mark on returning to pre-COVID normalcy this year. According to a recent survey by KPMG, despite improved confidence, most of the enterprises are apprehensive if the business would return to normal until 2022. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)
According to the findings revealed by the 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, 45% of the top executives expect that the pre-COVID normalcy would return sometime in 2022 instead of the 31 % who expected the transformation to happen sometime later this year.
This report is a stark contrast to the earlier sign in late 2020 that things would be back to normal for businesses by late 2021. Early last year, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 cases impacted the business continuity of several enterprises drastically. It paved the way for distributed, remote working culture and transformed businesses’ go-to-market action plans across the globe.
The Pulse survey findings are based on the responses received from 500 global CEOs (of companies that have annual revenue over US$500M) in February and March this year. The CEOs from the world’s leading companies across 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the USA) were asked to provide their 3-year outlook on the economic and business landscape, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Employee safety and vaccination top priority
For most CEOs, the pace of vaccination distribution is among the top factors that will influence their decision to resume physical offices and return to pre-COVID normalcy. About 55% of CEOs shared that they were anxious about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to their employees. Not surprisingly, 90% of the leaders are contemplating asking their workforce to resume offices only after they are vaccinated.
One-third (34 percent) of global executives are concerned about distortion of facts on COVID-19 vaccine safety and the influence of this misinformation on the employees deciding not to administer the vaccine. Twenty-one percent of organizations will ask clients and guests who were visiting their facilities if they have been vaccinated, and 26 percent planning to significantly reduce global travel until the pandemic situation placates.
For half of the CEOs, increasing awareness around workforce stress and societal issues remains a high priority. They plan to increase their HR resources to help manage employee wellbeing and mental health.
The digital transformation continues to be a focus area
The acceleration of digital transformation continues to be a top boardroom agenda for CXOs with a deep focus on deploying strong collaboration channels. 74% of business leaders in the survey report that their organization’s digitization efforts have been accelerated significantly, up from 50% in August 2020.
Understandably, for most business honchos, new digital business models, developing seamless customer delivery models and revenue streams remain a key focus. Across organizations, the understanding of the growing threat landscape has also increased. Most CEOs, according to the survey, are planning to increase their investments in beefing up the cybersecurity capabilities that could enable them to innovate confidently and provide consistent value to their clients. (See: Combating cyber threats in the new normal).