8 Resolutions on the CEO's Desk

Some may be obvious but still get missed as the grind of the business year cycles through. Others are new and unique to 2018. Either way, the breath of this year's resolutions that experts believe CEOs need couldn't be wider. 

A tight focus on culture, to prevent so many of crossed wires that befelled many too CEOs last year. Some real change--more than talk--about diversity at all levels. A much deeper pipeline of talent to fit the fast improving job market today. And so on, as Korn Ferry experts provides the following overview:  

Create an effective culture.

As business leaders look ahead to 2018, many of them are looking for ways to drive cultural change. It makes sense: five years ago, salary and benefits were the No. 1 reason a job candidate would choose one company over another; today, culture is No. 1. Organizations have found that when they lead with purpose, transparency, fairness, and accountability, they’re able to attract and retain better talent, and inspire greater creativity and innovation—all of which ultimately helps their bottom line, experts say. And while culture permeates every aspect of a business -- from its systems to its ethics to its processes -- as a business leader, a change in culture starts with you. "It's a mistake for top leaders to believe that culture is somehow separate from themselves or a separate project,” says Arvinder Dhesi, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. “Everything that we do contributes to the culture. There’s no culture-neutral behavior." 

Improve the engagement of your employees.

Countless studies have shown that employee engagement is critical to overall business success. And yet, only about a third of employees around the world say they feel highly engaged. The problem? “Organizations rely too heavily on the innate motivation employees bring to work with them each day,” says Mark Royal, a Korn Ferry senior principal. Experts advise focusing on making employees feel that they are at a company where organizational success equates to individual success, putting in the time to coach employees, rewarding them fairly, lifting barriers to workflow and publicly recognizing excellent performance. 

Be more transparent with stakeholders. 

In today’s 24/7 hyperconnected world, it’s important that your communication with stakeholders is authentic, transparent, and emotionally intelligent, particularly when communicating problems. “Instead of thinking of timing of a message, think about the depth and quality of the message itself and how it affects all stakeholders,” says Kevin Cashman, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and leadership coach. This is particularly important in the context of employees: a recent study by the American Psychological Association found that people who say they don’t trust their employer are more than three times as likely to say they’re typically stressed out at work and more than four times as likely to say they plan to look for a new job within the year.

Understand the power of diversity.

Having a diverse talent pipeline isn’t merely nice—it’s necessary. “The reality and statistics show that when leadership teams and boards are diverse in composition and thought, performance is quite strong,” says Tierney Remick, vice chairman of Korn Ferry’s Global Board and CEO Services practice. Indeed, a lack of attention to diversity and inclusion has been shown to contribute to employee turnover, and companies such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, which have recently taken up shareholder proposals to add more women and minorities as directors, are listening. But employers overall have work to do: 42% of respondents in a 2015 Korn Ferry survey said they feel there is an element of unconscious bias in their workforce when it comes to diverse backgrounds such as religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Be a better teammate. 

As a leader, it’s important you lay out a clear strategy and vocalize it often. But that doesn’t mean you need to be the only voice in the room. This year, take stock of whether you need to become more of a team player. Experts advise asking yourselfAre you too vocal or dominant? Do you interrupt others before they can finish a thought? Or are you too reserved? Do you hold back opinions that you later wish you’d shared? By fine-tuning your approach, you can actually create an environment that’s more cooperative and innovative, which can drive greater success overall. "When you can truly develop a collaborative mindset in the organization, you can unlock an enormous wealth of speed, agility, and productivity,” says Brigitte Morel-Curran, senior partner at Korn Ferry, in a recent report.

Be more agile.

Rapid advances in AI and automation have put pressure on businesses to innovate and embrace ambiguity like never before. The retail sector has been the world’s cautionary tale -- as consumers continue to flock to Amazon and other forms of ecommerce, stores announced more closings in 2017 than in any other year on record. But experts say humans could actually become even more valuable in the workforce as partners with machines—if they increase their agility skills. Learning agility, the ability to develop new skills and perform well in times of great uncertainty, may be critical for navigating the rise of the robots. “If you remain curious, you will probably be able to adapt. If you’re sitting behind your computer moaning, if you don’t develop yourself, there’s a big risk you’ll be out of the race,” says Eric van Zelm, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. Indeed, a recent Korn Ferry study found that there are two reasons the value of human capital far outweighs that of technology: 1) People don’t have just one purpose; their skills and potential can be continually shaped. 2) Their value also appreciates as they develop more knowledge, experience and seniority. Machines, on the other hand, generally have a defined purpose and depreciate with time. 

Create a deeper leadership/talent pipeline.

The best leaders know that the success of their company hinges on their ability to hire and train employees. And yet it’s an area where many executives are struggling: not only is it getting harder to find qualified talent, but companies are failing to adequately groom the talent they have—more than half of business and HR leaders rank the ROI for their leadership development programs as “fair," "poor," or "very poor,” according to Korn Ferry research. To thrive, it’s important that business leaders understand the needs and motivations of workers in 2018—the top being company culture. “Talent acquisition leaders can’t rely on what worked yesterday when they’re eyeing top talent today, and tomorrow will probably bring a new set of candidate expectations,” says Jeanne MacDonald, Korn Ferry's global operating executive and president of talent acquisition solutions. “Organizations must understand these new priorities and requirements of the modern-day candidate and adapt if they are to secure and retain the best talent.”

Be a mentor. 

Giving feedback to a colleague on their performance is one thing, but coaching a colleague to achieve larger goals requires next-level skills that focus on active listening, putting your own agenda aside and asking the right questions, experts say. The personal benefits of helping someone achieve his or her larger goals cannot be overstated. Studies show that leaders who serve as mentors are more satisfied than others with their jobs and more dedicated to their employer. But there are other career-boosting benefits as well. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership shows that managers who mentored their direct reports were viewed more favorably by their own higher ups.