Gartner Research

Executive Pulse: Leaders Are Changing the Way They Evaluate the Future

Published: 30 July 2020


Here’s a roll-up of pandemic-related executive sentiment and insights from thousands of functional leaders across the C-suite.

Fast word on tactics and concerns from thousands participating in our conference calls andpolls.

More detailed role-specific reports may be available on the website, depending on your subscription.

While strategists tell us they are weighing the potential for upheaval along different fronts to affect their company’s future, most executives say their organization lacks a formal process to track and respond to disruptions. That will change. And in finance, sales, R&D and HR, functional leaders are already adjusting the way they plan.

Strategy leaders are asking:

  • Where and to what extent will the virus reemerge?

  • Will financial distress spread to new markets (commercial real estate, manufacturing, energy market, etc.)?

  • What will be the long-term impact of the pandemic on customer behavior?

  • What will be the long-term impact of the virus on the working environment and productivity?

  • How quickly will demand recover?

Yet in a webinar poll of over 200 C-suite leaders, only 23% said their company has a formal plan for tracking and responding to disruptions. An additional 45% take a more ad hoc approach. Of those that don’t have any process in place, about one-third plan to formalize one in the next 6-12 months.

Figure 1: Presence of a Formal Focus for Tracking Disruptions

At the functional level:

  • CFOs are considering how well investments perform against multiple scenarios, rather than only the most likely one.

  • Sales leaders are basing their forecasting on longer cycle times because customers are more prone to “wait and see” while conditions are murky.

  • More than half (54%) of R&D leaders report that increased cross-functional collaboration is the main change to their scenario planning process, followed by the involvement of more senior-level management from their own team.

Figure 2: Changes to R&D’s Scenario Planning Process

Re-aligning the culture for a hybrid workforce of remote and on-site employees is the largest obstacle to planning, 54% of HR leaders told us.

Figure 3: Most Challenging Aspects in Setting Strategy for a Hybrid Workforce

Most (87%) are taking steps to reevaluate company culture — how it will change and how it should change. Nearly 7 in 10 said their HR team (66%) and/or executive team (68%) are holding this kind of conversation. Three-quarters of HR executives in companies with remote workers (73%) expect a moderate to significant change to culture.

Figure 4: Extent of Organizational Cultural Change During COVID-19

What cultural values will loom larger? The most popular responses were:

Which will diminish in importance? Poll participants said:

A majority of HR leaders see communication (77%), self-discipline (76%) and time management (53%) as essential skills for employees working from home.

Figure 5: Skills Needed to Work Remotely

Compiled by Steve Shapiro

Contact with any questions or comments.

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Cost optimization can be risky. The wrong moves can result in cuts that impede an organization’s ability to maintain liquidity, retain key talent, keep innovating and prepare for recovery. We’ve provided the research and tools to help leaders make data-driven decisions supported by proven approaches.


Corporate Strategy Research Team

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