How HR Can Help the CEO Reach Their Higher Purpose

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Jan 27, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Each year I look forward to the PwC CEO survey findings.

And they’re just out. You can see their Top 10 findings here.

If you’re in HR you need to know what your CEO is thinking about. What she’s worried about. What keeps him up at night. What she’s planning to tackle in the next several years.

And if you don’t have access to your CEO, this survey can help you make sure you’re preparing for what may be coming down the pike. These survey results could help you be brilliant for your organization – and for your CEO.

Top issues that CEOs expect to confront this year

The Top 10 issues for 2016 identified by U.S. CEOs in the survey are fascinating. They cover regulation, cyber security, tax reform, doing deals, paying attention to customers, investors, employees – and understanding the organization’s higher purpose. A virtual smorgasbord for HR!

Top issues CEOs are expecting to confront in 2016 include:

  1. U.S. market prospects will outshine the low-growth world.
  2. Over-regulation will continue to pose a threat to business growth.
  3. Regionalization in trade and divergence in economic models and regulatory frameworks, with threats to the open Internet.
  4. Customers and other stakeholders will expect business to demonstrate a higher purpose over the coming years.
  5. Prospects will improve for laying the groundwork for U.S. tax reform.
  6. Strengthen the technology foundation to set their business apart.
  7. Do more deals, especially domestically.
  8. Hold fast in China, while recognizing the bumps along the way.
  9. Anticipate the needs of future customers and other stakeholders
  10. Prepare the Millennials for leadership roles

Where HR gets involved

I’m fascinated that three of the Top 10 land squarely in HR’s court:

  • Demonstrating a higher purpose (that’s culture);
  • Anticipating the needs of…stakeholders (that’s talent); and,
  • Preparing Millennials for leadership roles (that’s talent development).

If you ever wondered whether or not your CEO thinks about HR, the answer is a resounding YES in 2016.

I’m particularly intrigued with the higher purpose issue.

It’s no secret that bringing humanity into the workplace is a topic on the minds of many business leaders. Having CEOs concerned that customers, investors, employees, strategic partners all want in on the higher purpose is pretty darned interesting. What are you doing to help the organization understand and communicate its higher purpose this year?pwc-ceo-survey-2016-1

Helping to meet the CEOs needs

Anticipating the needs of customers and employees is another thought provoking issue. Addressing employee needs like wellness – physical and financial, parental leave, career development, and providing opportunities to contribute to society are clearly articulated needs of today’s U.S. employees.

Are you helping your CEO provide options to meet these needs?

And preparing Millennials for leadership roles is front and center, isn’t it? Investing in their development brings a number of benefits to the organization in addition to deepening your leadership bench.

Millennials frequently report that learning and skills development are as – or more – important than compensation growth. Many report that they leave their employers in search of learning and growth opportunities. Investment in their leadership development undoubtedly impacts retention in a positive way. Are you beefing up your succession plan and its supporting programs?pwc-ceo-survey-2016-2

What’s the plan?

My guess is that most HR practitioners and leaders are currently thinking about these three priorities, among a long list of others. Isn’t it nice to know that your CEO may just be ready to help you tackle these issues?

The bigger question may be, are you ready for your CEO to start asking “what’s the plan?”

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.