PwC’s Tim Ryan: CEOs Must Invest in People and Society to Stay Relevant

"People now more than ever want companies to do the right thing and be transparent and accountable for their business practices," writes Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC.

PwC is No. 4 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

PwC's Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan

In today’s business world, disruption seems to rule. Megatrends — including digital transformation, demographic changes, and a growing scarcity of resources — are shifting markets and challenging traditional business models. If businesses do not see what’s happening around them, they’re going to be left behind.

In addition, consumers and employees alike are demanding that businesses and brands do more for society. People now more than ever want companies to do the right thing and be transparent and accountable for their business practices.

All of this may seem random and uncertain, but I guarantee you it’s not. These megatrends are having an enormous impact on business and how it should be conducted. These trends may seem fast-moving and far-reaching, but they’re not random.

In my role, I’m regularly talking with other CEOs about these trends and what they mean for business. And while all of us recognize these trends, even the best of us can sometimes get distracted by tunnel vision. But maintaining our competitive edge and staying relevant means having to constantly be aware of these dynamics. CEOs that pay attention to these influences have a real opportunity to inspire their employees, serve their clients better, and create greater impact beyond the bottom line.

Indeed, more and more of our customers and clients expect us to be aware of what is happening around us, even if it doesn’t seem to be part of our core business. In fact, they demand that we be responsive to their needs and expectations. And increasingly both employees and customers want companies and their leaders to have a moral conscience and to speak up when we see injustice in the world. As business leaders, we know that we will not be able to recruit and retain the best talent or pursue growth and profits without being socially aware and engaged in our communities.

Given all of this, here are three investments that business leaders can make to stay relevant, competitive, and responsive to external forces:

1. Invest in the wellbeing of your employees. Business leaders today have to go beyond just motivating their employees. They have to inspire them and invest in them holistically; this means their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. It also means we have to help our people maximize their wellbeing in and out of the workplace. They have to be well in order to work well.

2. Invest in the digital upskilling of your workforce. As technology disrupts industries and creates new opportunities, we have a responsibility to bring our people along. Automation and artificial intelligence can be scary because it causes people to worry about losing their jobs. But as business leaders, we should try to ensure that no one who is willing to grow with these changes is left behind. We should digitally upskill members of our workforce who are willing to learn so they are able to take on the jobs of tomorrow.

3. Invest in solving societal problems. With a well-skilled and inspired workforce, anything is possible — including solving some of the most pressing societal issues of our time. So as business leaders, we must work with our people as committed members of broader society to address issues like climate change, racism and bigotry, and inequality and poverty around the world.

While investing in these three areas may take a lot of time and financial resources, at the end of the day it will be good for business. A more skilled and inspired workforce that is conscious of the issues facing our society will ultimately be more agile and responsive to customer and client needs. They will be more innovative in finding solutions to business and societal problems and much more adaptive and nimble to external changes and disruptions.

As we look toward the future, many people see volatility and uncertainty, but I see a tomorrow that is bright, hopeful, and full of opportunities. That’s why at PwC, we are always looking at what is happening around us — going beyond our business and examining the external forces that are already changing the world as we know it. It is also why we realize that businesses today have to act differently and why we’re investing in these three areas ourselves. We want everyone at PwC to be leaders that can own their own future and make tomorrow a better place for business and society.

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