Confidence among global CEOs and CMOs has continued to slide since November 2019, and as expected, the global COVID crisis is just adding to the turmoil, according to new research from independent PR firm partnership Worldcom Public Relations Group examining of the confidence and concerns of execs. While Portugal saw the most significant fall in confidence (down 9 percent), the United States saw the biggest increase (25 percent), moving from 14th to first in the latest Worldcom Confidence Index.
The overall level has dropped 9.5 percent to an Index score of 18.03, according to online content from more than 54,000 chief executive and chief marketing officers, has uncovered useful insight into leaders’ confidence about issues central to the COVID pandemic.
“The impact of the COVID-19 crisis is plain to see in the results of the April 2020 Worldcom Confidence Index. It’s driven a massive increase in engagement with topics related to the crisis and, no doubt contributed to a decline in confidence for 19 of the 24 topics,” said Roger Hurni, chairman of the Worldcom PR Group, in a news release. “It’s one of the reasons we will be tracking leaders’ confidence and concern on a monthly basis to provide actionable insight as the pandemic recovery evolves.”
Leader confidence plunges when it comes to government and legislative change, and crisis management
While governments around the world have made unprecedented responses to the current crisis, business leaders are least confident about handling government and legislative change. In fact, this topic is at the bottom of the Index.
Leaders in the U.S. seem particularly concerned and have the third lowest confidence score.
Crisis management has also taken a hit in confidence. It has the fifth lowest topic score.
“The pace of government and legislative change caused by the crisis has also impacted confidence,” said Hurni. “Leaders are least confident in their ability to handle this, and confidence in their ability to manage crises is also one of the top five concerns.”
Suppliers see huge rise in attention, while influencers remain #1 audience for leaders
Along with global confidence, the insights identify the importance of reaching specific audiences and the confidence levels that C-suite execs have in reaching those audiences. In 2019, CEOs were most concerned with reaching influencers. And, while influencers remain the #1 audience for leader attention, the level of engagement fell 35 percent. But confidence in reaching influencers increased significantly, up 68 percent since November 2019. One audience that saw a huge increase in attention was suppliers—up 273 percent. Although still the sixth-placed audience, this rise suggests that the COVID crisis has focused leaders’ attention on securing their supply chains.
The impact and role of the media becomes the #1 topic for leader attention, but people-related topics take four of the top six places
The COVID pandemic has given the media a center-stage role, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the impact and role of the media has moved to the #1 topic for leader attention (from #3 in November 2019). Leaders are also slightly (5 percent) more confident about dealing with the media.
Retaining talent, upskilling and reskilling employees and employee engagement are all in the top five topics. Upskilling sees the biggest improvement in confidence (17 percent), but confidence in other employee-related topics has taken a hit. Attracting talent has the biggest fall—down 13 percent.
Responses to the COVID pandemic drive huge increases in topic engagement
The big risers in topic engagement relate to responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: Government and legislative change increased 1,280 percent; Global trade agreements and tariffs increased 779 percent; Crisis management increased 472 percent. Confidence in handling some of these topics is low in some countries.
For example, the U.S. has the fourth lowest score for global trade agreements and tariffs.
The topic engagement for the impact of the way political leaders communicate on social media has also increased—up 419 percent. France sees the biggest increase in confidence relating to this topic (up 9 percent), while Australia sees the biggest fall (down 14 percent). The U.S. fell 2 percent and has a below average confidence score.
Sustainability and the Weinstein effect are major outliers in Index dominated by the COVID-19 impact
While many of the results can be directly related to the COVID-19 crisis, there are outliers that show that leaders continue to focus on other issues too. The topic of sexual harassment increased by a massive 451 percent, and confidence in handling it was the second lowest on the Index. Reducing plastics and other sustainability issues was a new entrant at #4 in the topic Index. But leaders seem quite confident about handling this with the third highest Indexscore.
“Despite the all-consuming nature of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s not the only topic sustaining CEOs’ interest,” said Hurni. “The Weinstein effect and the global focus on plastics means sexual harassment and sustainability both saw significant growth in attention. It’s a timely reminder for all leaders not to forget other issues that could shape their future once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.”
The Top 10 findings of the Index
The Index highlights concerns/confidence across 24 topics and six audiences. Worldcom outlined the top 10 findings in its “Worldcom Confidence 10.”
#1: Confidence levels continue to slide—down 9.5 percent
- The United States is the biggest riser (up 25 percent) but confidence still lower than 2018 levels
#2: Government and legislative change sees huge rise in attention (up 1280 percent) and the lowest confidence of all topics
#3: In the heart of the COVID-19 crisis, crisis management has fifth lowest Worldcom Confidence Index score
#4: Influencers remain #1 audience, but suppliers see huge increase in leader attention – up 273 percent
#5: The impact and role of the media becomes the #1 topic for leaders’ attention
#6: Employee-related topics continue to feature high on leaders’ agenda
- Retaining talent – the #2 topic
- Upskilling and reskilling – the #3 topic
- Employee engagement – the #5 topic
- Economic migration – the #6 topic
- Employee-related topics take four out of the top six topic places
#7: Plastics and Weinstein effect create outliers in Index dominated by the impact of COVID-19
- The topic of sexual harassment increased by a massive 451 percent and confidence in handling it was the second lowest on the Index
- Reducing plastics and other sustainability issues was a new entrant at #4 in the topic Index. But leaders seem quite confident about handling this with the third highest Worldcom Confidence Index score
#8: Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic drive huge increases in topic engagement
- Government and legislative change increased 1280 percent
- Global trade agreements and tariffs increased 779 percent
- Crisis management increased 472 percent
#9: The impact of the way political leaders communicate on social media is up 419 percent
- France sees the biggest increase in confidence relating to this topic—up 9 percent
- Australia sees the biggest fall—down 14 percent. The US fell 2 percent and has a below average confidence score
#10: Over 65s are the most confident leaders—no doubt drawing on experience of many crises
- Generation X leaders are least confident, and the only age group with below average confidence.
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.