Business leaders look ahead to key 2021 challenges

January 18, 2021

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has today published the findings of a new survey highlighting the perspectives and predictions of CEOs on the major business issues for 2021. Responding to a series of questions on the year ahead and beyond, the findings provide key insights from business leaders on what they believe the business landscape will look like in 2021 and what this means for business planning.  

While the challenges posed by changing headwinds in the global economy (88% of respondents listed this as a challenge) and the ongoing battle of Covid (73%) will continue to shape the business agenda in 2021, the findings show that other prominent areas of strategic importance include the availability of talent (78%) and the low carbon transition agenda (50%).  

Commenting on the survey results, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “In 2021, Irish business will have to deal with a much-altered landscape in both local and global terms, as the new post-Brexit reality continues to take shape and Covid disruptions endure. The findings show that despite these challenges, CEOs are looking beyond this disruptive period that we find ourselves in, that they are buoyed by the prospect of the widespread availability of a vaccine in the coming months and are now planning accordingly.”  

The survey identified the following as the top 5 areas of focus for CEOs over the next 3 years:  
1. Increased investment in technology to support business changes  
2. Succession planning/Supporting younger workers  
3. Development of new products/services to meet altered demand  
4. Promoting an inclusive culture within the organisation  
5. Development of new business processes for existing products  

The survey highlights that almost two-thirds of CEO’s (65%) agreed that Covid has meant a permanent change in their business models. Furthermore, 73% of respondents cited the impact of Covid on collaboration and innovation as a challenge for their business, while a similar proportion (72%) cited the challenge presented by returning to the office following COVID-19. 78% of respondents identified that the availability of specific skills and talent will be stretched moving forward.  

Amongst the findings of the challenges posed by Covid, since the introduction of restrictions in March 2020, include:  
Absenteeism – 51% of respondents said that absence rates remained the same while 29% saw an increase. 
Employment rates – 50% of respondents saw no change in numbers employed, while 26% saw an increase in employee numbers and 23% saw a decrease.  

The research also focused on the evolution of the role of the CEO and their priorities for 2021. The findings highlight the business communities’ ambitions of embracing policies and practices that best position their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders and the environment.”  

These findings include:  
87% - Over four out of five CEOs personally support and strive to create an inclusive workplace culture.  
79% - Of those surveyed, almost four out of five have a clear vision and purpose for their organisation over the next five years.  
65% - 65% of respondents are working to create a positive social impact by including Environmental Social Governance goals in their organisational strategy.  
49% - Half of respondents agree that leading their organisation to a successful low carbon transition is a key current priority.  

The full survey can be found below.

Business in 2021 and Beyond - A CEO Perspective pdf | 620.4 kb