CxO Priorities Study 2021

Strategic Priorities of Top Managers

To understand the priorities of top decision makers, we conducted personal interviews during our annual CxO survey with 250 executive board members of international companies from 11 industries and 26 countries. They gave us exciting insights into their management agenda, expected economic developments, future trends and much more.

Here are some of our key findings: The (further) digital transformation has top priority for 69 percent of executive board members and is therefore number one on the management agenda, just as it was in 2020. The focus on sustainability follows with 51 percentage points. Thus, sustainability has gained enormously in importance since our CxO survey a year ago, when only 14 percent of top decision makers considered a stronger focus on sustainable strategies and activities to be very important.

In third place among the most important agenda topics are employee and "new work" issues such as remote work, agile work and leadership or change management. 36 percent of executive board members rate these topics as very important, and another 40 percent as important.

Cost optimization programs rank fourth on the list of priorities, despite the slump in sales caused by the coronavirus crisis. 36 percent of top managers are currently working on adjusting cost and revenue structures with a very high priority, and another 39 percent with a high priority. This lower result compared to the previous year is due to the rapid economic recovery from the consequences of the pandemic. Two out of three top decision makers expect a return to pre-crisis level by the end of the year.

Besides, executive board members are rather dissatisfied with the coronavirus crisis management of their governments. On average, they rate it with a school grade of 3.6. German top managers in particular are even more dissatisfied and rate the federal government with a 3.8.

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