It’s hardly news that the last two years of change and disruption have been tough for an entire generation of leaders. What is surprising? The depth of that difficulty. How tired, bewildered—and increasingly paranoid about their ability to keep their jobs—it has left them.
Amid the endless reports of the “Great Resignation,” a new survey out last week finds a whopping 72 percent of executives are actually “worried about losing their jobs due to disruption,” — up from 51 percent in 2021. And 94 percent of those surveyed said that they would have to change their business models within the next three years to remain competitive.
Those are among the key findings of a new report out from AlixPartners, who polled 3,000 executives around the world and across nearly every industry to compile their 3rd annual “Disruption Index” — a yearly guide to what’s keeping business leaders up at night, and what they plan to do about it.
“Fully 64 percent of executive concern is around disruptions stemming from new technologies and the emerging business models and implications that come from them,” the report finds. “They see the huge opportunity technology presents—as the recent frothy capital markets over the past year will attest to—but also worry that if they don’t pick up pace, their companies will be left behind.
“In the face of these pressures, executives know that they cannot change fast enough…In this topsy-turvy environment, no one feels safe.”
What’s most concerning to those surveyed? What you’d expect:
- Supply chain, with 69 percent of CEOs expressing worry with the ongoing disruptions, especially about shortages that impact production.
- Workforce, with 62 percent worried about the shortage of qualified workers.
- Digital, with 60 percent saying they are concerned with their company’s ability to adapt digital tools and technologies effectively. Especially challenging: timely execution of new tools.
Overall, 57% of those surveyed by AlixPartners said they worried that their company is not adapting fast enough to the pace of change.
Given that, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that automation, AI & Robotics (12 percent), new business models or evolving competition (11 percent) and technological advances in materials and processes (11 percent) top the list.
What isn’t a priority: Covid-19. Two years into the global pandemic, only 3 percent of executives they polled said it was their number one priority for 2022—behind protectionism and tariffs and regulation and politics.
Along with the findings, AlixPartners offered a few top-line strategies for everyone trying to lead through waves of change, including:
- Take an action mindset. Plan less, do more.
- Lean into the change. Start small, scale fast.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of a clearly communicated vision. Repeat it often.
- Have the courage to break away from tried-and-true, but rapidly fraying, business models.
- Embrace a future-first mindset. Envision the possible and then lean into the change.
- Know that taking a wait-and-see attitude is too often the beginning of the end. Invest in the next, not the now.
- Focus on the business problem, not the technology.
- Don’t let the sins of the past define the future. Today’s digital is not yesterday’s IT.
- Build greater digital IQ everywhere—in the boardroom and on the shop floor.
“Over the past 20 years, we have seen the pace of gains only accelerate as the IT revolution and free-trade movements have brought a record number of people into the global economy, creating new and robust economic flows,” AlixPartners CEO Simon Freakly writes in the report. “But as we fully enter the 2020s, much of the economic logic of the Post-World War II era is being upended.”