4 Top Challenges for Senior Executives This Year

By Robert Half on January 31, 2023 at 1:30pm

No one expects senior executives to have answers for every possible problem that might arise, especially in this era of seemingly constant business disruption. What your workers, managers and C-suite colleagues do expect, however, is strong leadership when challenges come up and a commitment to meet those challenges in a manner consistent with your company’s core values.

That’s not to say that agility and preparation are incompatible. On the contrary, the more prepared you are for the known challenges of the coming year, the better you’ll be able to handle the unknown ones when they arise. With that in mind, here are four issues keeping many executives up at night right now — and some advice for tackling them.

1. Preventing skills gaps from becoming chasms

Technology advances so rapidly now that traditional education and training programs in business often fail to provide workers with the most up-to-date skills and techniques. This can lead to a gap between the abilities your employees currently have and those required to achieve optimal success, hindering your business growth and competitiveness.

On-site workshops and online courses are among the quick and easy ways that executives can address skills gaps in their organizations. However, a longer-term and more holistic approach is necessary to create a continuous learning culture in your organization. That approach includes:

  • Encouraging managers and workers to take on fresh challenges and seek new knowledge and experiences in their field.
  • Offering rewards for people who demonstrate a mastery of vital skills.
  • Creating a system of recognition for employees who demonstrate excellence.
  • Supporting workers who express an interest in learning new skills.

Finally, help make sure that all your employees, including remote workers, can access the resources and tools they need to keep their skills and knowledge current.

2. Competing effectively for skilled talent

Don’t bet on the labor market loosening up in 2023. Your business will likely face intense competition for skilled talent.

What can you do to help your business gain an edge? First, meet with your human resources and talent acquisition teams to assess your current recruitment strategies. Together, consider questions such as the following:

  • Are your job descriptions designed to invite applications from a diverse pool of candidates with relevant skill sets, or are they too narrowly focused on restrictive educational credentials?
  • Do you encourage current employees to refer friends and colleagues for open positions — and offer incentives for successful referrals?
  • Could unconscious bias be holding you back from exploring new talent pools, such as professionals with nontraditional paths to education, mature workers, military veterans and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields?

If the answers to these questions reveal a limiting approach to hiring, encourage your managers to think differently. Recruiting only certain types of candidates leaves your workforce with a lack of diversity and the creativity that comes from having professionals from different backgrounds collaborating on the job.

A more diverse workforce can create new opportunities and best practices that can improve many aspects of your business. If you’ve instilled a continuous learning culture as recommended above, managers should feel confident about hiring talented candidates who may be rough around the edges but are ready to learn and improve quickly.

3. Boosting your workforce value proposition

Behind every successful recruitment and retention strategy is a compelling workforce value proposition. Put simply, what are you offering employees in return for their contributions and loyalty?

A strong workforce value proposition typically includes both tangible and intangible benefits, such as competitive compensation, flexible working hours, professional development opportunities and a positive work environment.

An outdated workforce value proposition might have little appeal with talented candidates in 2023. In fact, research for the latest Salary Guide from Robert Half shows that 71% of employees would leave a company whose values didn’t align with their own. And many workers today are particularly interested to know what steps you’re taking to build a diverse and inclusive workforce and embrace environmentally sustainable practices.

Many senior executives are leaning toward the idea of a new social contract in which they reward employees for their hard work not only financially but also by prioritizing an environmental, social and governance (ESG) program and demonstrating accountability at all levels of the organization. An excellent place to start is the C-suite.

Current and potential employees will notice if your diversity and inclusion targets taper off at the senior levels of the company. And while an effective ESG program can’t be built in a day, CEOs and executives can model behaviors and practices that reflect the company’s priorities, such as valuing work-life balance and being mindful of sustainability.

4. Making your digital transformation strategy a success

Few challenges are more likely to weigh on the minds of CEOs and executives this year than digital transformation. Worries about transformation are often the result of expectations running ahead of results.

Digital transformation is not a linear, technology-driven process that will guarantee immediate, radical growth. Companies that attempt to complete digital transformation in a single project — and focus on tech rather than people — often find that the time and money invested yield few tangible results, which can lead to disappointment.

Get (or keep) your digital transformation on track in 2023 by thinking of it as a constantly evolving mission in which people and company culture are at least as necessary as technology. Technology is relatively easy to purchase or upgrade, but your transformational efforts will likely stall unless you get buy-in from the employees using it daily.

Create this buy-in by identifying the challenges your employees face, then provide the reskilling or upskilling needed to overcome these barriers. Accept that workers, managers and even your fellow executives may be resistant to change, and promote a culture where people feel free to air and debate such concerns. Communication, feedback and review are critical to ensuring goals are met and that any new systems serve their intended purpose.

A common thread running through all these challenges is the need to build a workforce culture that not only adapts to change but also embraces it. The future of work belongs to organizations with the creativity to pivot when disruption strikes and the resilience to bounce back quickly afterward.

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