Traditionally, the CEOs' main goals were maximizing the profits and keeping the shareholders happy. Over the last few years, however, the paradigm started to change.
The pandemic moved the focus of many companies from making as much money as possible to simply surviving. Many businesses had to reinvent the way they do things and adopt new technologies in extremely short timeframes. Additionally, the public focus shifted from mainly an interest in a corporation’s marketing and profitability to including concerns about corporate ethics and the way they treat their employees.
As a result, many managers, and CEOs, found themselves in a new reality where they have to combat the global pandemic crisis, keep their clients happy, and also address how they engage and interact with their employees.
In this article, we are diving deeper into the nuances of the changing role of the CEO, their new goals, and what it means for leadership today.
Goal 1: Treating employees like customers
In 2022, employer-employee relationships should be a top priority of every CEO. In today’s business environment, people are not shy to point out the mismatch between a company’s public image and what’s going on internally. Social media has become a hotspot for current and ex-employees to post horror stories of mistreatments at work.
Companies that had chosen to neglect to monitor staff treatment began facing backlash and boycotts. Ethical issues aside, the viral impact of one story about a company’s bad behavior can undermine years of good PR and reputable brand value.
As we’ve seen with the Great Resignation movement, many people are no longer afraid to walk away from unpleasant working conditions. It’s no longer ‘employees are replaceable’ but ‘employers are replaceable’. So, if CEOs don’t want to be captains of sinking ships, they have to work on employee experience and engagement and make sure it’s employees first, followed by customers, profits, and all other business concerns.
Goal 2: The development culture
Another challenge for CEOs is building a base for employee growth and development.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, employees are more inclined to leave unsatisfactory employers these days. And with one of the top complaints being feeling stagnant, it should be a top priority to focus on employee development.
Companies need employees who can take on responsibilities and come up with creative solutions and ideas. The best way to make it happen is to train, educate, and mentor their existing workforce.
CEOs need to design a system in which employees across all levels have a chance to:
- Receive education in some form, whether it is online courses, mentorship programs, project-based work, or something else.
- Experience responsibility, even at entry-level positions.
- Learn more about the inner company’s and industry’s processes.
- Take on challenging tasks that will teach them new skills, both soft and hard.
Task 3. Attracting and retaining talent
For many years, talent management has been one of the central areas of focus for HR departments, especially in competitive industries such as IT.
If we are looking at attracting and retaining the best available talent, the basic offer of a decent salary and office perks is not enough. These days, people expect more and it’s up to the top management to match their expectations.
Among the things that best employees value and request are:
A sense of community and belonging to something bigger. This can come in many shapes and forms. One way to create this feeling is through the company’s mission and what they’re actually doing. Companies like SpaceX or organizations like Cancer Research naturally ace this point. Yet, any business can work on its values and goals beyond the annual growth that will motivate and unite the staff.
A strong leader is another factor that plays a big role for many people. Human beings naturally want to be inspired and to follow someone they trust and believe in. CEOs have great potential to become role models and attract and retain the greatest talent - think Steve Jobs. Despite some of his controversies, he was an inspiration and a mentor to many within his company, and great products were created under his guidance.
Making a difference and being heard within the company is the next factor that more candidates are expressing interest in. People want to feel that what they’re doing is meaningful and they make a difference. It’s up to the CEO to build the culture where people are heard across all levels.
Task 4. Stimulating innovation
We iterate products faster than ever, with new innovations arriving daily. Companies that want to stay ahead of the competition must think faster and innovate better.
It is hard to deliver breakthrough solutions all the time, but that is the ultimate goal in today’s competitive market. This is where effective CEOs leadership makes a difference. Their role is to support and encourage innovation that goes beyond concepts and prototypes and becomes finished products and services.
But what can business leaders do today to stimulate innovation in their companies, besides hiring talented and productive people?
First of all, allow employees to experiment. CEOs may know a lot about the company’s global strategy and operations, but they hardly ever understand the little things about the work in departments. The actual team members there will have much more insight and many more ideas that could potentially improve business processes, reduce costs or increase revenue. Allowing those employees to test out their ideas will only benefit the company, even if the said initiative ends up not working. Success and failure can be equal instructors if employees are given the freedom and accountability for taking calculated risks.
True breakthroughs happen when people are not afraid to fail. And to support that, the entire management needs to have an agreement on the topic, and the extra bureaucracy around new projects needs to be reduced so creative employees don't become discouraged.
Giving people the freedom to learn, do new things, work on passion projects within the company, and make decisions will do wonders to the company’s workplace culture and innovation potential, inevitably affecting financial success for the better.
Task 5. Joint leadership
Finally, CEOs will have to broadcast the idea of cooperation, not competition, within their companies.
For the longest time, the goals and objectives of different teams did not coincide with one another. With inner tensions and competition, the companies were missing out on new ideas, profits, and talent. The last few years have very well demonstrated that the best way to survive and thrive was to unite and work as a team. In a booming economy, businesses might have once gotten away with ignoring company politics and neglecting to engender a supportive culture, but now the business climate is less forgiving.
The concept of joint leadership which implies horizontal cooperation between the leaders of divisions in order to solve common tasks for the business has to become a part of every organization’s DNA.
Another form of joint leadership is stakeholder capitalism. Businesses are part of the communities, and there is a pressing demand for them to consider employees, customers, suppliers, and society as a whole.
That doesn’t mean that the CEOs will now have to invite those groups to board meetings or conduct public voting on any internal process. But, they need to consider the interests of the wider groups and provide them with the solutions that are wanted and needed. Additionally, they must factor into their decision-making sustainability and the long-term benefits of business solutions.
Leadership is changing and shifting. CEOs are now expected to be more involved and lead with compassion and authenticity. Those leaders who will create a culture of open-mindedness, fair treatment for all, and curiosity for innovation will have greater chances of withstanding any hurdles and becoming market leaders.