Land of the clear-eyed realists

What’s on the mind of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe?


of CEOs in CEE are very confident of their own company's growth over the next 12 months


of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe are extremely concerned about the availability of key skills for their organisation


of CEOs in CEE are focused on improving soft skills in addition to digital technologies

If global CEOs are anxious optimists, their counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe are clear-eyed realists

They’re more pessimistic than most about the prospects for the global economy, but they have the smallest “optimism gap” of any region: the share of CEOs who are bullish on their own companies’ prospects is just 5 points lower than the percentage who are optimistic about the economy as a whole.

That’s no surprise, considering what CEOs in this region have come through in the past 25 years. After dealing with war, hyperinflation, economic collapse and wrenching social change, they’re ready for anything the world can throw at them. But there’s one homegrown worry that plagues them: how to attract and retain talent in the digital age.


Central and Eastern European CEOs look at the emerging list of global threats with confidence in their ability to cope with whatever the world throws at them

While CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are similar to their global peers in predicting a better year for the global economy than for their individual companies, two things make this region stand out.

First, our CEOs are more pessimistic than most about the economy as a whole: we have the second-lowest percentage predicting an improvement in global growth, at 45%. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, they’re more bullish on their own companies’ relative performance: we have the narrowest gap between forecasts for the world and for CEOs’ own organisations.

As many as 40% of them are “very confident” about their prospects for revenue growth in the next 12 months.

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CEE findings

In each of the past four years of our survey, the second- and third-ranked business threats have changed every year, with concerns ranging from corruption to changing consumer behaviour. But one issue has ranked first every year, and in the latest survey drew as many as 86% of respondents who were “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned: The availability of key skills.

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The need for companies to find new ways of attracting, motivating and retaining employees, by offering them engagement and purpose, is reflective of a broader tension in society. Countries in our region face the challenge of becoming more cohesive societies by increasing levels of trust.

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Taking a step back to look at the global picture, executives in CEE agree with their international peers’ view that the world is moving toward multiple, fragmented ecosystems rather than a singular, seamless one.

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Message from Olga Grygier-Siddons:

Business leaders in Central and Eastern Europe have proven they have the skills and determination to thrive despite all kinds of business and political challenges. Today, they face a new challenge: adapting their organisations to a new world where values such as trust, engagement and purpose are just as important as dollars and cents. To meet that challenge, here are four things they should focus on in 2018:

Invest in new ways of retaining and motivating digital talent.

Our region has a tremendous asset in the form of its people and their formidable technical and digital skills. The bad news is that rivals from around the world have noticed, and are luring people away, so companies in our region need to learn to compete. The key is not just to offer higher salaries, but more importantly to offer higher engagement: helping employees connect with a sense of organisational purpose, and providing opportunities for fulfilment that go beyond just a bigger pay cheque.

Help strengthen and improve the role of technology in society.

In many areas such as banking and telecoms, CEE has leapfrogged ahead of our Western neighbours in terms of the quality and availability of technology. The challenge now is to ensure that those benefits reach all members of our societies and work to improve the lives of all of our fellow citizens, for example through e-government initiatives. (Fortunately, we have in our midst the clear world champion at e-government, Estonia, giving us an advantage in the learning process).

Work to build an education system for the future.

Companies need to be proactive in reaching out to universities – and all levels of education – to ensure that young people are learning the skills they need to be able to thrive today. While entrenched bureaucracies in some countries make this difficult, they also make it all the more important for business to seek out enthusiastic partners in education, who can lead by example.

Be a part of the conversation as societies rethink measures of prosperity.

Businesses need to find their voice and speak up in the growing debate over how our societies measure success and how we ensure a fair distribution of the benefits of the prosperity we have achieved over the last quarter-century.

Contact us

Jeffery McMillan

Jeffery McMillan

CEE Director of Brand and Communications, PwC Central and Eastern Europe

Tel: +48 519 506 633

Jakub Kurasz

Jakub Kurasz

Head of Communications, Poland, PwC Poland

Tel: +48 601 289 381

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