Deloitte’s survey of 2,260 CXOs in 21 countries confirms that organizations that plan and invest in anticipation of disruptions – whether on the scale of an isolated cyber-attack or a full-blown health pandemic – are better positioned to respond, recover, and thrive. It validates the notion that acting early and advanced preparation matter, and offers proven lessons for increasing organizations’ viability.
As we move beyond 2020, rebuilding with resilience will become essential to businesses, as evidenced by Deloitte’s survey, which found that over 60 percent of global CXOs believe we could see occasional or regular disruptions of this scale going forward. However, less than a third of leaders feel completely confident that their organizations could quickly adapt and respond to future threats.
The characteristics of resilience
Deloitte’s research identifies five attributes of resilient organizations that serve as a strategic, operational, and cultural guidepost. Resilient organizations did not necessarily predict the events of 2020, but they withstood the immense pressures by enabling and promoting nimble strategies, nurturing adaptive cultures, and implementing and effectively using advanced technologies.
The survey suggests that organizations that deliberately build the following attributes into their operations and cultures are better positioned to overcome disruptions and help usher in a better normal.
- Prepared. Successful CXOs plan for all outcomes, both short- and long-term. More than 85 percent of CXOs whose organizations successfully balanced addressing short- and long-term priorities felt they had pivoted very effectively to adapt to the events of 2020; fewer than half of organizations without that balance felt the same.
- Adaptable. Leaders recognize the importance of having versatile employees, especially after a year like 2020. To that end, flexibility/adaptability was, by far, the workforce trait CXOs said was most critical to their organizations’ futures. Nearly three out of four respondents from organizations that had implemented actions to make their workforce more adaptable – such as by training or reskilling workers, implementing worker redeployment programs, or offering flexible working options – said their organizations are doing a good job at cultivating resilient cultures compared to just about half of organizations who didn’t have such programs in place.
- Collaborative. CXOs indicated the importance of collaboration within their organizations, noting that it sped decision-making, mitigated risk, and led to more innovation. Two-thirds of respondents who said their companies removed silos in their organizations before the pandemic reported managing the events of 2020 better than their peers. Technology was a critical enabler of collaboration throughout the pandemic. Just 22 percent of surveyed CXOs said their organizations had the technologies needed to facilitate remote working before the pandemic. 42 percent developed and adopted these technologies out of necessity during the year.
- Trustworthy. CXOs understand the challenge of building trust with key stakeholders, yet many did not feel they had lived up to the task. More than a third of respondents were not confident their organizations had maintained trust between leaders and employees. In the context of the pandemic, physical, emotional, and digital trust were particularly important. Organizations that prioritized the physical safety of their employees and customers, the mental health and morale of their employees, and the security of their data weathered 2020 better than those who did not.
- Responsible. Most CXOs acknowledge that the business world has a responsibility beyond the bottom line. Eighty-seven percent of CXOs who said they have done very well at balancing all of their stakeholders’ needs felt that their organizations could quickly adapt and pivot in response to disruptive events. That is nearly 50 percentage points more than the proportion of CXOs who said the same at organizations that haven’t done well at balancing their stakeholders’ needs.