The CIPD has recently partnered with Winmark to produce The C-Suite: 2024 & Beyond, a new report offering key insights from over 200 C-Suite executives globally on how to lead organisations to continued growth and success in 2024. It reveals that embedding agility into strategy, culture and operations will be crucial. 

As Mark Twain observed, it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future. Today, as this research shows, we are in some of the most uncertain and changeable times most of us have experienced, with issues and challenges across many dimensions. Hence the focus on the themes of agility and adaptability, setting up our organisations to be able to respond and adapt to fast changing context, whether driven by geopolitical change, economic uncertainty or technology disruption.

But many organisations are struggling with immediate challenges of recruitment and skills shortages, and the ongoing impact of inflationary pressures on the cost of doing business while they seek to renew their business strategy and boost adoption of AI and other technology.

These are significant challenges in the short term which are not likely to change much during the coming year. It requires leaders to try to optimise their business strategies and manage costs in the short term whilst also looking ahead to consider how to change and optimise their operating models and business models for the longer term.

Being able to engage and listen to the different experiences and voices within organisations to help shape the future is vital. Individual leaders can’t know everything, and many issues are new to our experiences from the past, so we have to be able to collaborate with others, take on board different views and seek to forge a common direction. The report highlights the need for integrated thinking among leaders working across different business functions and provides many useful insights and recommendations. It emphasises the importance of an in-depth understanding of the key people issues at board level, supported by good quantitative and qualitative data and insights.

It is clear from this research that most business leaders see that they will have to transform their businesses in the coming years, not least because of the impact and opportunity of AI. At the heart of transformation are people, and business strategy cannot be complete without people strategy. Strategic workforce planning has become an essential part of understanding what skills and capabilities will be needed for the future, and what the options to access these capabilities are - whether to buy, build, borrow, or bot (automate) the capabilities needed. These are strategic choices, but in all cases, organisations will need to increase their abilities to upskill and reskill their workforces as job skills and needs change ever more rapidly with the impact of technology and digitisation.

Organisation culture must also be part of the strategic thinking. As was famously said by Peter Drucker, culture eats strategy for breakfast, so understanding culture and where and how it might need to change will need attention too. Cultures of command and control, or the leader knows all won’t work in a fast changing world. Furthermore, it is not what the younger generations in the workforce now expect. They also expect to be heard and will readily challenge if they are being ignored. They want to work within inclusive and supportive organisations with clear purpose and a recognition of responsibility to all stakeholders, not just the financial stakeholders.

To enable agile organisations, we will all need cultures of continuous learning, experimentation and adaptation, empowerment and engagement. This requires consistent behaviours and beliefs through leadership at all levels supported by good people management, flexible working practices, and growth mindsets.

Through times of significant change and uncertainty, there is also real opportunity. The opportunity to use AI and technology to enable not only higher levels of productivity, but also better jobs that use and enhance people skills more and help us all lead more fulfilling working lives. But we have to work together to build this future, and to respond positively to challenges. As has been observed before, the best way to predict the future is to shape it.

Discover the report findings.

About the author

Peter Cheese

Peter is the CIPD’s chief executive. He writes and speaks widely on the development of HR, the future of work, and the key issues of leadership, culture and organisation, people and skills.

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