As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Brands and businesses around the world sought to turn a corner in July as imposed lockdowns began to lift and companies reopened on a wider scale. And as a result, chief execs translated this “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective into genuine confidence—for now.

According to the latest data from Worldcom PR Group, leaders in China had the highest increase—up 26 percent and the confidence of CEOs and CMOs from The Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Finland, Poland, Denmark and Belgium increased between 20 percent and 24 percent from the June levels.

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

As some of these countries have seen the virus reemerge since July, confidence levels may decline in August. The increase in China is over three times the increase in the U.S. (8 percent), where some individual states continue to struggle from the impact of the pandemic.

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

Leaders focused on the new skills needed to succeed in a world changed by COVID-19

Upskilling and reskilling saw the largest rise in engagement since June—up 63 percent and remained the #1 topic for leader attention. Hungary had the lowest confidence at just 11.95. Japan’s confidence is almost three times higher at 34.55, making Japan the #1 country on the WCI for this topic.

Employee-related topics took five of the top seven topics in terms of leaders’ attention. Engagement levels for retaining talent increased by 56 percent—making it the #2 topic for leader attention.

“The ‘moving window’ we provide on how leaders are feeling shows how fragile confidence is in the current environment,” said Roger Hurni, chair of the Worldcom PR Group, in a news release. “It also shows that leaders have an increased focus on the skills needed to succeed in a world changed by COVID-19.”

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

Global trade agreements and tariffs was the topic of most concern for both CEOs and CMOs

Confidence in global trade agreements fell six places since June and is now bottom of the WCI. Leaders from Portugal had the lowest confidence in this topic. France—the most confident country on the WCI for this topic—had confidence levels over two and a half times higher than Portugal.

Millennial leaders became the second most confident age group

Another interesting result was the increase in confidence of the two youngest age groups. Millennials became the second most confident age group behind leaders over the age of 65. This may be a result of their desire to be purpose-driven. A report by Deloitte in October 2019 identified higher performance by purpose-driven companies. Leaders in Generation Z saw the biggest leap in confidence in July—up 22 percent. This may be a function of Gen Z being more comfortable than other age groups with flexible working and home working.

Crisis management and sexual harassment remained in the Top 5 topics of concern for both CEOs and CMOs

Leaders in Russia and Bulgaria had the lowest confidence in the ability to protect a brand in a crisis—both below nine points on the WCI. The U.K.—the #1 country on the WCI for crisis management—had confidence levels over two and a half times higher than Russia.

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

French leaders topped the WCI for most topics and Bulgarian leaders came last for most

In July eight countries featured as most confident for one or more topics—China, France, Finland, India, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. France came top for nine, followed by the U.K. and Japan for four each.

Nine countries featured as the least confident for one or more topics in July—Brazil, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, Malaysia, Mexico Portugal, Russia and Slovakia. Bulgaria came bottom for five and Russia for four. The U.K. on the other hand, appeared at the top of the WCI for nine of the 23 topics, closely followed by France which had a top score for seven topics.

Latin America had the lowest confidence score for a Region but saw the largest increase in confidence since June

North America’s leaders remained the most confident out of all regions in July but saw the smallest increase in confidence at just 4 percent. They were most confident about upskilling and reskilling and least confident about handling issues such as sexual harassment and other bad behavior. Latin America’s leaders saw the biggest rise in confidence since June (up 20 percent), but their confidence level is still the lowest of all Regions. They were most confident about upskilling and reskilling and least confident about cybercrime.

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

Australasia’s leaders were most confident about cybercrime and least confident about retaining talent. Asia’s leaders were most confident about upskilling and reskilling and least confident about employee benefits. Europe’s leaders were most confident about the use of technology to collaborate and innovate and least confident about reducing plastics and other sustainability issues. African leaders, like those in North America, were most confident about upskilling and reskilling and least confident about handling issues such as sexual harassment and other bad behavior.

Influencers continued to extend their lead as the #1 audience for leader attention—up 26 percent since June

Influencers—including new types of influencers—extended their lead as the audience leaders think should get the most attention—up 26 percent since June. However, confidence in the ability to satisfy influencers had the lowest increase of all audiences in July—up just 4 percent.

As countries exit lockdown phase, CEO confidence surges as leaders turn focus to new skills

“With so many issues to contend with—from COVID-19, to recession, extreme weather, and diversity and inclusion—it’s clear that leaders are looking to influencers to help address them,” said Todd Lynch, managing director of the Worldcom PR Group, in the release. “The increased focus in July on influencers shows that communication strategies need to give this high priority.”

The Worldcom Confidence Index 10

The Worldcom Confidence Index highlights concerns/confidence across 23 topics and six audiences. The top 10 findings for July are presented as the “The Worldcom Confidence Index 10”:

  • #1 While global confidence remained flat, countries emerging from lockdown saw a surge in confidence. But will this be sustained if the virus returns?
  • #2 Millennials became the second most confident age group
  • #3 Global trade agreements and tariffs was the topic of most concern for both CEOs and CMOs
  • #4 Leaders focused on the new skills needed to succeed in a world changed by COVID-19. Upskilling and reskilling saw the largest rise in engagement since June—up 63 percent and remained the #1 topic
  • #5 The importance of employee engagement to increase productivity saw the second largest increase in confidence since June—rising 28 percent and eight places on the WCI
  • #6 Confidence in using technology to collaborate and innovate saw the largest rise in confidence—up 38 percent since June. This topic is #2 on the Worldcom Confidence Index in July
  • #7 Crisis management and sexual harassment remained in the list of topics causing both CEOs and CMOs the most concern
  • #8 Influencers continued to extend their lead as the #1 audience for leader attention—up 26 percent since June
  • #9 Malaysia, the latest country to be added to the Worldcom Confidence Index, is #16 on the country list with a score just below average
  • #10 Latin America had the lowest confidence score for a Region but saw the largest increase since June—up 20 percent.

View the full July Index here.

The study was able to operate at this scale, and in nine different languages, because the data was captured using a breakthrough approach powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The chosen research firm, Advanced Symbolics Inc (ASI), has developed a patented method of building representative samples and then capturing information with their AI tool.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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