CEO perspectives on talent challenges

Is the solution increased flexibility and empowerment?

CEOs weigh in on the top tactics for combatting talent retention challenges, naming increased flexibility and employee empowerment as most effective.

The war on talent: Not just a CHRO problem

Entering into 2022, talent/labor shortages continued to surface as a critical issue on CEOs’ agendas. CEOs listed talent as a primary factor expected to disrupt business strategy within the next 12 months (71%) and as one of the top challenges they faced as CEOs today (Figure 1).1

Figure 1: The biggest challenge facing CEOs today (January 2022 Fortune/ Deloitte CEO Survey)

How to retain talent? CEOs believe the answer lies in flexibility and empowerment

Since talent retention continued to remain an issue throughout 2022, we decided to dig deeper for the Summer 2022 Fortune Deloitte survey and asked CEOs to share what tactics they perceived were most effective for combatting ‘the Great Resignation.”2 Rising to the top of the list were providing greater flexibility (83%) and training leaders to better empower and engage workers (62%) (Figure 2).

The potentially good news is that these also won out over financial-related tactics such as increased pay (26%), expanded benefits (23%), and referral bonuses (8%). On the other end of the spectrum, CEOs also highlighted concerns that hybrid models could impact employee engagement and loyalty especially for the long term.3

Figure 2: Which of the following tactics do you expect to have the greatest impact on combating the “Great Resignation”? (June 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey)

Maintaining culture and cohesion in a largely virtual world.

– January 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey respondent (biggest challenge)

Companies have demonstrated their ability to provide flexibility, but what about empowerment?

Moreover, while companies and leaders have demonstrated their ability to offer their workers more flexibility via remote or hybrid working locations, what has been less evident is how organizations are going about empowering workers (e.g., giving them the autonomy, resources, ability, and freedom to make decisions). Worker empowerment is not only believed to stem attrition, but also better motivate workers, engender greater trust in leadership, and foster creativity.4 Given the benefits of empowerment, we decided to explore this issue further in the Fall 2022 installment of the Fortune Deloitte survey, to uncover any specific tactics being used by companies, and whether they might offer an alternative, or complement to increased flexibility.

Over half of surveyed CEOs (54%) believe hybrid workplace models lead to lower employee engagement and loyalty. (Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey)

Talent - motivation to come to the office; talent acquisition and talent retention.

–  January 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey respondent (biggest challenge)

Who’s on first: Empowering workers is primarily happening through…flexibility

So, what are companies doing to empower employees? Nearly three quarters (73%) of the CEOs say their companies are recognizing and rewarding workers for taking on more responsibility, and over half (58%) are reskilling and upskilling employees. Half are also creating alternative career paths / internal mobility (50%). However, despite misgivings toward hybrid models, the primary way the majority of organizations are empowering workers is by allowing more flexibility and predictability in hours and locations (87%) (Figure 3).5

Figure 3: Actions company is taking to empower employees6


Over forty percent of CEOs (44%) would like employees back in the office, but don’t feel they can mandate it due to the tight labor market. (Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey)

Employee engagement due to hybrid and mostly remote work.

– Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey respondent (biggest challenge)

Managing employee expectations driven by desire for greater flexibility… with need for higher productivity in a highly volatile and unpredictable macro environment.

– Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey respondent (biggest challenge)

A delicate tension or healthy balance: Developing new tools or gaining comfort with old

This leaves us wondering, are organizations placing too much focus on workplace flexibility? Alternatively, is there an opportunity for organizations to take advantage of the benefits of remote or hybrid work models? After all, despite misgivings expressed about hybrid, an even greater proportion of CEOs (80%) believe new tools will be developed to drive engagement and loyalty that don’t depend on co-location. What does this mean for CEOs setting the tone for employee experience moving forward? This tension may suggest that leaders have adjusted and will likely continue to adjust their expectations for the hybrid workplace or continue to explore new ways to empower their employees, such as reskilling. We will continue exploring the ways that CEOs are addressing employee empowerment over the coming months, and we welcome your suggestions and insights.

Creating a cohesive culture in our remote/hybrid work reality of today.

– Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey respondent (biggest challenge)

About the Fortune/Deloitte Fall 2022 CEO Survey

121 CEOs representing more than 15 industries participated in this Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey. 90% of respondents were based in the United States, and 10% were based outside the United States. This Fall 2022 survey is the eighth edition of the Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey series. 

Fielded September 28-October 6, 2022, the survey consisted of questions intended to explore CEO perspectives and predictions regarding growth, the economy, the evolving talent landscape, artificial intelligence, and the importance of trust in employee and customer relationships. Surveyed CEOs include Fortune 500 CEOs, Global 500 CEOs, and select public and private CEOs in the global Fortune community.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Molacek for her contributions to this article.

1 Winter 2022 Fortune Deloitte Survey highlights

2 2022 CEO Priorities Survey | Deloitte US

3 Fall 2022 Fortune Deloitte survey highlights

4 Employee Empowerment: Definition, Benefits, and Factors - Achievers

5 Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey

6 Fall 2022 CEO Survey

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