01/22/2018

Winning talent (and transforming society) in a world where engagement is key

Author: Olga Grygier-Siddons, Chief Executive, PwC Central & Eastern Europe Olga

Business leaders in Central and Eastern Europe have proven they have the skills and determination to thrive in the face of mounting threats to growth, such as terrorism, climate change and rising populism. But closer to home, they face a new challenge: adapting their organisations to a new world where values such as trust, engagement and purpose are just as important as dollars and cents. To meet that challenge, here are four things they should focus on in 2018:

Invest in new ways of retaining and motivating digital talent. Our region has a tremendous asset in the form of its people, and their formidable technical and digital skills. And yet 51% of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe report that they’re extremely concerned about the availability of key skills for their organisation, according to our Global CEO Survey, released in Davos this week. In fact, it’s the top perceived threat to business success in the region. What’s more, 62% of regional CEOs (compared with 50% globally) say it’s very or somewhat difficult to recruit for digital talent.

One big reason is that rivals from around the world have also noticed our talent pool, and are now competing to hire our brightest stars. So companies in our region need to learn to compete with global players – and that means competing on different terms than they’re used to. The key is not just to offer higher salaries, but more importantly to offer higher engagement: helping employees connect with a sense of organisational purpose, and offering opportunities for fulfilment that go beyond just a bigger pay cheque.

Help strengthen and improve the role of technology in society. In many areas, such as banking and telecoms, CEE has leapfrogged ahead of our Western neighbours in terms of the quality and availability of technology. The challenge now is to ensure that those benefits reach all members of our societies and work to improve the lives of all of our fellow citizens, for example through e-government initiatives. Fortunately, we have in our midst the clear world champion at e-government, Estonia. That can give us an advantage in the learning process – if we are willing to open up and learn the lessons we need.

One important way that technology can flow outward to benefit society as a whole is in the area of trust. While countries in this part of the world often struggle with low confidence in interpersonal interactions, we have relatively high trust online. Companies need to explore ways of turning digital trust into the face-to-face kind. The promising news here is that business leaders in our region are becoming aware of the importance of this issue: our survey found that 74% of CEOs in CEE (the same as globally) measure the trust between their organisation and its customers.

Work to build an education system for the future. While we rightly trumpet our region’s impressive digital skills and the impressive cohorts of technical and engineering graduates that our universities produce, we need to be honest in pointing out that our education systems often fail to teach important skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, communication and leadership. This is also borne out in the survey results: 97% of CEOs in our region (compared with 91% globally) believe it’s important to improve soft skills in addition to digital technologies.

While it’s good that executives are realising the need for better soft skills once people have been hired, our societies need to find ways of equipping our youth with those skills earlier: at the moment when they walk out the doors of the education system and enter the job market. That means companies should be proactive in reaching out to universities – and all levels of education – to ensure that young people are learning the skills they need to be able to thrive today. While entrenched bureaucracies in some countries make this difficult, they also make it all the more important for business to seek out enthusiastic partners in education, who can lead by example.

Be a part of the conversation as societies rethink measures of prosperity. Finally, businesses need to find their voice and speak up in the growing debate over how our societies measure success and how we ensure a fair distribution of the benefits of the prosperity we have achieved over the last quarter-century. By changing the way they engage with employees, customers, the education system and government as a whole, CEOs in this region have a vital role to play in this transformation.

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Olga Grygier-Siddons is the Chief Executive Officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) which comprises 29 Member Firms of the Global PwC Network. Olga is a member of the PwC Global Strategy Council which comprises the Territory Senior Partners from the largest 21 territories in the PwC Network.

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« 3 reasons why CEOs are optimistic about 2018 | Main | A strong business outlook means it’s time to invest in people and in digital: Findings from PwC’s 2018 CEO Survey »

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