2015 – A time for confidence or caution for CEOs?

2015 – A time for confidence or caution for CEOs?

Five of our People Powered Performance experts consider the future for CEOs and their people agenda for 2015 and give their top predictions for the year ahead.


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On the surface it looks like 2015 is a year UK CEOs can approach with optimism. But every positive indicator seems to be accompanied by uncertainty… “yes, but”. The UK economy for example, outperformed many others in 2014, but, can this continue or is it destined to succumb to slower growth? 

Five of our People Powered Performance experts consider what lies ahead for CEOs and their people agenda for 2015 and give their top predictions for what lies ahead.

  • Tim Payne, Partner, believes 2015 could bring political uncertainty. “From the UK general election to international events such as the Ukrainian conflict, these issues will give CEOs a hard choice as to whether to continue to back growth in the UK and hire more people, or pull back.”
  • The political landscape could affect pensions too says David Fairs, Partner. “Changes to pensions will cause some unexpected challenges around talent retention, potentially exacerbated by changes to pensions taxation – driven by the post-election political landscape,” he says. However, one of the biggest shake-ups to business will be driverless cars, he adds. “They’re on the way to a road near you and they’ll revolutionise everything from business models to how people commute to work.”

Regardless of political events, technological threats and opportunities are likely to be another general theme. For example, cyber security is only going to become even more critical. Threats will grow, mutate and begin to adversely affect employees in large businesses. Protecting employees – and their data – from cyber attacks will be a huge trend according to the experts. 

The digital divide between organisations, and individuals in organisations, that successfully harness digital technology and those that don’t, looks set to significantly widen this year. This could potentially create some high profile winners and losers. While technology is undoubtedly a powerful enabler, it’s no panacea. How we interact with and harness technology is the critical factor.

  • “Organisations, more than ever, need to possess the ability to re-invent themselves in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity)”, says Rob Bolton, Partner in the HR Centre of Excellence, through technology or culture. “Failure to be ‘fleet of foot’ means failure, full stop – or at best, being consigned to a second division with lower margins and poor growth.”

A number of strategic people issues which existed at the start of 2014 still remain at the start of 2015. For example, there could perhaps have been a greater focus on engaging effectively with multi-generational workforces in the last year – different generations, broadly speaking, value different things. Many companies could benefit from offering multiple deals targeted at the different generations. One size does not fit all.

  • Ingrid Waterfield, Director, says: “I’d have liked to have seen more organisations undertaking meaningful engagement surveys to improve employee engagement. Companies which have a clearly articulated vision, strategy and purpose, are likely to retain key employees better because they can explain what they do, how they do it, and why,” she says. “CEOs are increasingly aware of the need to be an authentic leader whose organisation doesn’t just pay lip service to diversity, but really embeds the business benefits of diverse teams to drive company performance and competitive advantage,” she adds.
  • Contemplating the year ahead, Partner Mark Williamson, concluded that: “Greater innovation across business is coming. I think we’re at a genuine point of inflexion where innovation will become more evident in business life – and I expect it will grow exponentially. These are exciting times.”

Looking beyond 2015, some of the more critical and disruptive people agenda trends are worthy of acknowledgement. Hopefully, mobile technology will become increasingly effective at helping employees to both do their job better and manage their overall life – this could help employers attract and retain talent, something everybody agreed on. 

This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.

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