By Ash Athawale, Senior Managing Director, Executive Search, Robert Half

No one expects senior executives to have answers for every business problem that might arise — especially in this era of workplace disruption. But workers, managers, C-suite colleagues and the Board do expect skilled, thoughtful leadership and a commitment to meet today’s challenges.

I believe we can pinpoint a handful of top concerns keeping senior executives awake in today’s business climate — and I offer some advice that may help them get a better night’s sleep.

1. Preventing skills gaps from becoming chasms

With rapid technological advances, traditional education and training programs struggle to keep up with emerging skills and knowledge required for today’s jobs. And less than one-third (32%) of managers are enhancing or expanding their professional development programs to retain employees, according to data from Robert Half.

Gaps between employees’ current abilities and the skills needed for their success hinder business growth and competitiveness. Executives can put a band-aid on these gaps through on-site workshops and online courses, but I recommend a more long-range, holistic approach: establishing a continuous learning culture.

Building such a culture means encouraging and incentivizing managers and workers to take on fresh challenges, offering rewards for skill mastery, recognizing excellence, and supporting employees interested in learning new skills. Resources and tools for skill development should be easily available to all employees, including remote workers. Additionally, managers should be educated and accountable for the professional growth of their employees.

2. Competing effectively for skilled talent

Don’t bet on the labor market loosening up soon. Your business will likely continue to face intense competition for skilled talent. So, what can your leaders do to help the business gain an edge?

  • As an ongoing process, they should meet with the HR and talent acquisition teams to assess current recruitment strategies and ask some revealing questions, like:
  • Are job descriptions designed to attract applications from a diverse pool of candidates with relevant skill sets, or are they too narrowly focused on restrictive educational credentials?
  • Are current employees encouraged to refer friends and colleagues for open positions — and do they receive 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 fields?

A more diverse workforce brings more diverse ideas and solutions. It can create new opportunities and uncover best practices. And if you’ve instilled a continuous learning culture, managers should feel confident about hiring talented candidates who may not check all your boxes but are coachable and ready to learn and grow quickly.

3. Making your digital transformation strategy a success

Digital transformation, particularly AI implementation, is a significant priority —and often concern — for organizational leaders. However, worries frequently stem from expectations outpacing results.

To address this, companies should openly communicate about AI initiatives, providing updates, opportunities for questions, and discussions about goals, benefits, and impact on employees. Organizations should emphasize AI as a tool to enhance human capabilities — and ultimately the employee experience. With reskilling and upskilling programs, employees are positioned to adopt the new technology quickly and efficiently. This encouragement and support will help employees adapt to the changing workplace.

Executives and managers should be rigorous about modeling ethical behavior. They should also regularly assess the impact of AI on employees and their work, making necessary adjustments and addressing concerns promptly.

4. Employee expectations are changing

Social and economic disruptions, along with remote and hybrid work, have transformed workers’ priorities and expectations. Flexibility, purpose-driven organizations, diversity and inclusion, community contribution and reduced environmental impact are crucial consideration for senior leaders.

Today’s job seekers want to work for firms that share their values, too. In a CNBC/Momentive survey, 40% of workers say they would likely quit their job if their organization took a stand on a political issue they do not agree with. Another survey found more than half wouldn’t even consider a position at a company that didn’t share their values.

Employees seek a positive and inclusive work culture that fosters collaboration, open communication, recognition and growth opportunities. So organizations prioritizing and investing in a strong corporate culture — and effectively communicating that far and wide — can better attract and retain talent, boost engagement and create an environment where everyone can thrive.

A common thread throughout these four challenges is the need to build a trusting workforce culture that embraces change and adapts quickly. Organizations with the creativity to pivot and the resilience to bounce back are well-positioned for the future of work.

A version of this post also appeared as an article in Corporate Board Member magazine.