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.
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.
Message from Olga Grygier-Siddons:
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.
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).
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.
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.