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Many Business Executives Aren’t Prepared for Future Crises

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Investment & Markets
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Many business leaders give the impression that they are confident enough to handle any crisis that comes their way, but recent research completed by Washington, D.C.-based APCO Worldwide suggests otherwise. The communications consultancy announced today that only 39 percent of Fortune 1000 executives surveyed indicate that they feel very prepared to manage the risks and disruptions that could be posed by any challenge.

And as APCO’s research digs deeper into the types of disruptions that can derail any company, the survey reveals even more troublesome signs:


  • Only 23 percent felt very prepared to respond to consumers’ growing expectations for companies to respond to social issues

  • 22 percent felt very prepared to manage a negative event about their company should it unfold on social media

  • At a time when companies keep touting their diversity and inclusion efforts, only 18 percent felt very prepared to recruit and retain the best talent in their industry

  • In a nod to ongoing concerns about political unrest and volatility occurring worldwide, 14 percent of the executives who responded felt very prepared to respond to geopolitical threats and political uncertainty
The widespread lack of confidence surprised APCO’s researchers - who, during a recent interview with TriplePundit, also disclosed that this uncertainty applies to just about every industry.

“I thought that there would be an industry advantage; for example, many might assume that the tech sector shou

ld be ahead,” said Katie Sprehe, Senior Director at APCO Insight. “But I was surprised to realize that there was actually no discernable industry advantage at all.”

In a nod to the evolving political and social landscapes to which businesses now must adapt, APCO’s researchers found “being able to adapt to changing times and technologies,” was one of the more frequent responses that the survey’s participants repeated time and again.

The survey, which APCO conducted online and by telephone interviews, managed to complete 520 surveys. Respondents represented a variety of functions, including C-suite executives such as CEOs and chief marketing officers, as well as middle managers companies had targeted as aspiring and rising talent.

While the majority of executives APCO had surveyed expressed a strong lack of confidence in their readiness for the future, those who worked within genuinely agile organizations were significantly more likely to have strong financial success. Executives who represented companies that scored highly on what APCO call sits “Agility Indicator” were more likely to experience their companies meet or exceed revenue expectations, to watch their stock price increase and to recover from a major crisis better than those companies that scored lower on the survey.

The difference was remarkable: Sprehe told 3p that 75 percent of the survey’s high scorers said they recovered from recent crises, while 25 percent of low scorers said they had not.

Sprehe suggested that companies and their executive leadership not just focus on preparing for the next social or political crisis in the event they fall into a trap such as those experienced by the likes of United Airlines or Starbucks. “It’s not enough to just focus on the world around you, and it’s not about just monitoring social media,” she said. “It’s about anticipating for these opportunities and looking at the social landscape so you and your team can stay ahead.”

The old rules about what made companies successful, in fact, have changed, suggests this APCO survey. “What we’ve learned is that we have to look beyond the factors that made companies successful in the past,” explained Sprehe. “What business relied on in the past across all sectors, such as simply making money and generating profits, no longer apply. What takes to be agile in this environment is looking inward and taking a hard look at your corporate culture -  and work on a goal of having a more enterprising and inclusive corporate culture.”

Image credit: Sébastien Huette/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye