CEO optimism doubles as inflation, macroeconomic concerns recede

CEO optimism is growing as concerns about inflation and economic volatility fall, with the proportion of those who believe global economic growth will improve during the next 12 months more than doubling from 18% to 38% year over year, according to a Jan. 16 report based on PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey.

For instance, 39% of CEOs said they expect their company’s head count to increase by 5% or more in 2024. However, confidence remains fragile around long-term business outlook — 45% don’t believe their company will be viable in a decade without reinvention, which is up from 39% in 2023.

“As business leaders are becoming less concerned about macroeconomic challenges, they are becoming more focused on disruptive forces within their industries,” Bob Moritz, global chair of PwC, said in a statement.

“Despite rising optimism about the global economy, they are actually less optimistic than last year about their own revenue prospects and more acutely aware of the need for fundamental reinvention of their business,” he said. “Whether it is accelerating the roll-out of generative AI or building their business to address the challenges and opportunities of the climate transition, this is a year of transformation.”

In a survey of 4,702 CEOs across 105 countries and territories, CEO expectations of economic decline have dropped from a record high of 73% in last year’s survey to 45% now. Their perceived exposure to inflation dropped by 16 percentage points to 24%, and perceived exposure to macroeconomic volatility fell by 7 percentage points to 24%.

Generative AI, in particular, appears to be a catalyst for reinvention, according to the report. Overall, CEOs believe AI tools will boost efficiency, innovation and transformational change. Seventy percent of those surveyed said it will significantly change the way their company creates, delivers and captures value in the next three years.

To keep up with the changes, training is a must, the CEOs said. About 69% said workforce upskilling will be required to see the transformative benefits of generative AI. 

Heading into 2024, job applications have decreased, although volume still remains high, according to an iCIMS report. Job seekers are primarily looking for full-time roles and have become more discriminating in their searches, the report indicates.

Employers will likely face more worker turnover during the first half of 2024, according to an Eagle Hill report. Workers noted drops in confidence in their company’s stability, leadership and overall workplace experience.

In response, HR teams could be asked to modernize hiring and reinvent diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts, according to an HR panel discussion hosted by the Florida Bar. In 2024, the panelists said, employers will be required to address work-from-home and return-to-office concerns, as well as work-life balance issues and employee experience, to create a sense of belonging.