Frank slootman quote

Building a flexible future of work

With people returning to places of work, and governments increasingly looking for business to lead a return to normal, CEOs are focusing more on flexibility rather than wholesale changes to office-based work.

  • Only 21 percent of CEOs plan to downsize (or already have downsized) their physical footprint or office space because of the pandemic and changing working habits. This is a steep decline from the 2020 CEO pulse survey (July/August 2020), where 69 percent said they were planning to downsize. In addition, only 37 percent said that their organization will have most employees working remotely at least two or more days a week.
  • However, they’re prioritizing flexibility. Over half (51 percent) of CEOs are recognizing the demands created by a rapidly evolving future of work and will be looking to invest in shared office spaces to allow for increased flexibility. This is a significant increase from the 14 percent we saw in the 2021 CEO pulse survey (January/February 2021). Forty-two percent indicate they will look to hire talent that works predominantly remotely, seizing the opportunity to expand their reach into a wider pool of talent.

Disrupting the disruptors

CEOs recognize that digital lies at the heart of how companies can create new sources of value. While this is an opportunity, it’s also a risk: The acceleration of digital technologies means that business models that have existed for years can quickly become obsolete and irrelevant.
The research shows that CEOs are embracing the need to push the boundaries of their business and question long-held assumptions of what it will take to succeed in the mid to long term. When we asked them what action they planned to take in pursuit of their growth objectives, close to two-thirds said they intended to invest in disruption detection and innovation processes.

This is an essential step to enable teams to think disruptively: questioning historical assumptions and traditional mindsets and brainstorming new ideas for a vastly different market environment. And rather than waiting to be disrupted by competitors, CEOs also said that they’re actively disrupting the sector in which they operate. This went from 61 to 72 percent in the past 18 months.

Partnering for transformation and resilience

Companies across the world are operating as part of digital ecosystems — collaborating with partners, suppliers to drive operational performance, identify new digital revenue streams and create compelling digital customer experiences that deliver on an organization’s purpose. CEOs recognize the importance of collaboration and a fluid approach, with 70 percent saying “new partnerships will be critical to continuing our pace of digital transformation”.

But as they digitally connect their systems and share data with partners, they need to make sure systems and data — especially customer data — are secure. Cyber security threats limit growth and create boundaries to digital development and inclusion. Purpose-led, sustainable cyber security practices help digital ecosystems thrive, bounce back from attacks and instill confidence that a business is well governed. The research shows that CEOs recognize the importance of building cyber security into collaborations and ecosystems.

Digital agility ecosystem percentage chart

With only 58 percent of organizations saying they’re well prepared for a cyber-attack, CEOs are focused on ensuring cyber security extends beyond the four walls of the enterprise. When we asked them what steps they were taking to build digital resilience and manage cyber threats, the main priority was “focusing on the security and resilience of their supply chains and supplier ecosystem”.

Unless otherwise indicated, throughout this report, “we”, “KPMG”, “us” and “our” refer to the network of independent member firms operating under the KPMG name and affiliated with KPMG International or to one or more of these firms or to KPMG International.