A Canadian perspective on the key themes of the 2017 CEO Outlook Survey.
Commenting on Canada’s results from the KPMG International CEO Outlook Survey 2017, Georgina Black, National Leader, Management Consulting, KPMG in Canada explains how Canadian business leaders are disrupting their operations, overcoming talent shortages, and updating their priorities and capabilities.
Q: The CEO survey this year suggests that Canadian CEOs seem less confident in global economic growth than their international counterparts. Why do you think that might be?
Georgina Black: Firstly, Canadian CEOs tend to be more conservative than their counterparts around the world, so you would expect a higher level of caution. Second, the Canadian economy has really been set back by the slowdown in oil and gas, which makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy as a whole.
Given the political climate in the US, many are concerned about the impact of renegotiating NAFTA and the political instability of other US policy directions.
Q: Canadian businesses are looking to disrupt the markets where they already have a presence. What are the implications of that for the major industries in Canada, and how should they be transforming their businesses to drive that disruption?
Georgina Black: Fierce competition for retention and attraction of new customers is expected to continue to drive disruption of markets in all sectors. Digital transformation will be a key factor to transforming businesses looking to disrupt as well as a strategy to respond to being disrupted. Banks, retailers and even public sector clients are rethinking their business models to remain relevant to customers and to respond to new entrants to their markets.
The competitive landscape is changing for our clients. Not only are there new market entrants, there is a blurring of lines between sectors. Telcos are getting into the healthcare business; Amazon is in the grocery business; Technology companies are in the banking business. As the CEO survey discovered, CEOs expect the amount of change in the next 3 years to be greater than the last 50 years – this means that leaders must constantly be scanning and adapting.
Q: How are Canadian firms overcoming talent shortages?
Georgina Black: Canada has a distinct advantage in this area thanks to our immigration policy. Given recent developments in the U.S. and other parts of the world, Canada is seen as an attractive country. Needless to say, we are watching developments on NAFTA closely, to ensure it does not hinder the free flow of labor.
The country has committed to investing in clusters and superclusters. Essentially, these clusters provide infrastructure to support partnerships and collaborations across sectors and between established businesses, start-ups, academia and customers. Superclusters are designed to attract world class talent, spark innovation and spur economic growth.
Q: The 2017 Outlook suggests that repeatable success and the ability to drive innovation in products and services means balancing human understanding with capability in data and analytics. What advice would you give senior leaders trying to achieve that balance?
Georgina Black: It is essential to involve customers in providing guidance. KPMG in Canada does a lot of work designing customer experiences, whether that be patient experiences in hospitals, or the experience of customers purchasing a bottle of wine at their local store. You can have a ton of data and analytics, and technology, but unless you design these experiences with customer input, you are likely to miss the mark.
I would also like to stress how important it is to bring multiple generations to the table when designing these experiences. Millennials, for example, see and use products and services differently from their elder peers and have different preferences when it comes to customer experience.
Q: In the 2017 CEO Outlook, we see organizations striving to build trust with the public and become more empathetic. Is there a clear business case for doing so, and what steps should organizations take to improve how they’re perceived?
Georgina Black: Arguably the business case for building trust with the public has never been stronger. I’m thrilled to see through the CEO survey that CEOs are paying more attention to values and culture. Enduring companies have a clear set of values – a deeply held set of beliefs that leaders will defend even in the most pressing of times. These beliefs form the culture which in turn shapes how employees engage with one another and customers. Building trust with the public starts from the inside of an organization. This requires leadership which involves dedication to the values and authentic expression of the values with employees and customers alike.