Business leaders struggling with inertia, Verizon Business study finds

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Nilesh Pritam

New research examines the impact of COVID-19 on the digital workplace and how technology can enable new ways of working

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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – Business leaders are struggling to seize new business opportunities amidst an unpredictable business climate.

That is the finding of a survey of 600 global C-suite executives commissioned by Verizon Business. In areas such as transforming customer and employee experience — and on critical issues such as talent acquisition and technology deployment — there is a gap between business growth and the ability to drive meaningful long-term change.

Conducted by Longitude, the survey aims to explore how companies have managed the impact of the pandemic as a catalyst for change — and how corporate leaders are reimagining their business for future growth.

The good news is that post-pandemic, business leaders feel better equipped to make decisions quickly (71%), think strategically about long-term objectives (72%), adopt new technologies (75%), and develop more empathetic and trusting relationships with both customers (71%) and employees (69%).

But despite these positive sentiments, faced with continous upheaval and the growing complexity of the hybrid business environment, many companies are now facing a sense of strategic uncertainty. Two-thirds of business leaders (66%) said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in strategy, while 60% said that they struggle to act decisively in response to new market opportunities.

Sampath Sowmyanarayan, Chief Executive Officer for Verizon Business Group said, “The big lesson we’ve learned over the last few years is that there’s not a single right way to lead, build a culture or execute a strategy. This is why we also see many organizations attempting to adopt a ‘bias to yes’ as a guiding principle. They are increasingly giving employees the freedom to challenge the status quo and openly ask questions such as why a deployment may take so long, or why can’t their business deliver on their customer needs.”

Growing gap between intent and execution

More than half of executives surveyed highlighted the increasing role played by leadership teams in technology adoption over the past 12 months – with cybersecurity services (78%), data analytics software and tools (75%) and cloud enablement (74%) among the top technology priorities. However, the report identifies a disconnect between intent and execution. For example, improving customer experience comes out as the top strategic priority (74%). However, only a third (38%), say they have accelerated the use of data analytics to improve customer experience with even fewer harnessing automation to better serve customers. In tandem, the report also highlights a concerning lack of digital skills (33%) as the most common gap facing businesses.

Accelerating into the future

Businesses face a potent cocktail of challenges, from changing consumer behaviors to technology-driven market disruption and the imperative for sustainability, the study goes on to recommend how business leaders can steer their organizations into the future:

  • Navigate a clear path through a deeply uncertain business environment

  • Understand the importance of building resilience and delivering change through partnerships

  • Unite the workforce with a clear purpose

  • Drive innovation through experimentation and fear-free risk-taking

  • Unlock the potential of the whole workforce through inclusive cultures

About the study

The data in this report is based on a survey of 600 business leaders carried out on behalf of Verizon by Longitude, a Financial Times company. Questions were based around the central theme of growth, risk, strategy, and innovation with respondents drawn from across the energy and utilities, finance, insurance, legal, manufacturing, media, professional services, retail, and supply chain industries. The complete report, Business Reimagined - Are you really ready to lead the workforce of the future? can be found online.

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