Click to learn more about author Bob Cahill.
One year ago, domestic and global business planning was thrown into confusion virtually overnight as lockdown, remote working, and a growing public health crisis took hold. Today, as vaccination programs gather pace, company leaders are taking stock and beginning to look ahead, many with growing optimism and confidence.
There are certainly grounds for positivity. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), for instance, recently updated its forecast for the U.S. economy, predicting it will grow by 6.5% this year – a considerable increase from its December 2020 estimation, which stood at 3.2%. As pointed out in an analysis by the Chief Investment Officer website, “It would be only the second time since 1966 that US GDP growth exceeded 6%, following behind 1984 when GDP growth was a red-hot 7.2%.”
Welcome as this news is, it doesn’t simply indicate a strong economic rebound to a situation where organizations return to pre-pandemic business as usual. Big questions remain: Have company leaders, for instance, become more domestically focused on their strategy, or will international growth once again rise up the list of priorities?
In the last year, much has changed and savvy industry leaders are drawing on lessons learned during lockdown to innovate around their business models. Take CFOs, for example, who perhaps more than any other group across the business landscape, have a detailed appreciation of the impact of a global pandemic and how organizations should plot a course out the other side. A useful indicator of general prosperity are the plans they make for international expansion, and my company’s recent research has revealed some fascinating findings.
The survey revealed three major illustrative trends, particularly around how talent acquisition and workforce management strategies are closely tied to growing levels of confidence among CFOs that we are now entering a robust and sustainable recovery. Specifically:
1. CFOs are taking a global view within their business strategies and hiring approaches.
CFOs have a high degree of interest in tapping into a more cost-effective, global talent pool (a concept favored by 85%) and capturing market share through global expansion (favored by 81%). By contrast, in our corresponding 2020 CFO survey, only 63% of respondents said they were moving forward with global expansion plans in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked to describe their hiring strategy over the next 12 to 18 months, 42% said they want to attract new talent that is unbounded by the geographic restrictions of their company’s operating model.
2. CFOs have altered workforce management strategies.
Three-quarters of the executives also said the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the way they think about hiring and workforce management and 81% said it altered how they consider remote employees or the work-from-anywhere model. More specifically, 75% of the survey respondents anticipate operating remote or hybrid workforce models in the next 12 to 18 months.
3. CFOs are optimistic in 2021 and believe that their success is tied to global expansion.
Ninety-three percent of the surveyed executives predicted that their companies will meet or exceed their 2021 goals and a resounding 81% are planning expansions into new countries as part of their long-term growth strategies. This near-ubiquitous level of confidence is extremely good news, especially given the huge levels of uncertainty that dominated corporate thinking throughout much of 2020.
But how will talent strategies change as a result? Clearly, the survey data points to the fact that CFOs are now recalibrating their plans in order to maximize the opportunity that global remote teams provide from a long-term business perspective, including cost efficiency and access to hard-to-find talent. In addition, the hubs for highly skilled talent are shifting and currently half of the world’s college graduates come from top emerging countries, which means that companies that adopt this strategy now will be able to gain a competitive advantage in the future.
Also, an added benefit that should be noted is that a global workforce typically provides better bottom-line results. Study after study points to the fact that employees who are part of a diverse culture are much happier and more engaged.
Despite the challenges of the last 15 months, CFOs are putting their optimism into practice. Global expansion opportunities abound, including newly shaped post-pandemic markets and M&A opportunities. The pandemic has reshaped attitudes about remote and borderless work, and CFOs who can reimagine their business models to tap into the global talent pool will build their companies’ most important asset: their people.