CEOs weigh in on the post-pandemic world of work

April 27, 2021, 10:24 AM UTC

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Good morning.

I spent an hour yesterday moderating a conversation among 30 CEOs, all of whom are struggling to define what the post-pandemic world of work will look like. It’s clearly a topic getting lots of highly-compensated attention these days. Below are some excerpts from the conversation, which suggest the new world may be very different from the old:

“We do actually need to get back out and be on the road…We have had high productivity for the last year, fueled by this crisis. But I personally am now seeing that productivity wane. We need to get back out, we need to engage with our customers, we need to engage with our workers, we need to do it safely.”
—Kevin Hourican, CEO, Sysco

“As we get into 2021…we have started to see a dip in employee engagement. You just can’t sustain these types of levels of productivity.”
—Sunil Prashara, CEO, Project Management Institute

“This is becoming a massive war for talent. If you are coming out of this and haven’t started thinking about whether your employees are going to be remote or not, well, your competitors are, and they will pick off your talent.”
—Jenny Johnson, CEO, Franklin Templeton

“This is the hottest market for talent that most of us have ever seen. If you are too prescriptive, and you have people who really prefer to work in a different way, there are going to be a lot of other organizations that are more than happy to say: ‘That company is going to make you come in X days, and we are happy to have you work at home’.”
—Joe Ucuzoglu, CEO, Deloitte U.S.

“We are treating our employees as customers. They don’t pay you in dollars, but in hard work. That has led us to an employee choice model in the new world.”
—Tom Wilson, CEO, Allstate

“We have seen a massive increase in the need for corporations…to reskill and upskill their employees. In many ways, companies are becoming the universities of the future.”
—Andy Bird, CEO, Pearson

“Being a new CEO, I thought: ‘Yep, it’s a business, it’s about driving revenue, it’s about controlling cost, it’s about profit. But really, we have seen this transition where social issues are becoming business issues. We have to take our leadership to the human level, and listen to our teams, and make sure we are giving our employees a voice to be heard.”
—Chrissy Taylor, CEO, Enterprise Holdings

“It used to be the hard decisions being made every day were around strategy, or prioritization, or resources. It seems like in the last year, the hard decisions have been ‘Do we speak out on A,B,or C?’, not because of the politics, but because of what it means to culture and what it means to standing up for your associates.”
—Jeff Jones, CEO, H&R Block

“Societal issues are becoming business issues. Sustainability is an enormous pressing issue which could be ten times bigger than the COVID challenge we are going through right now.”
—Simon Mulcahy, Chief Innovation Officer, Salesforce

Diversity and inclusion has become such a big part of my job….The way you say things, how you listen, how you become an ally is so important.”
—Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive

More news below. And for the views of one leader who has gone all in on CEO activism, listen to this week’s Leadership Next podcast with Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert, who explains why he is campaigning vigorously against laws that reduce easy access to voting. You can tune in on Apple or Spotify.

Alan Murray


Apple antitrust

The European Commission will reportedly hit Apple with formal antitrust charges this week, over its rules for developers in the App Store. Spotify kicked off the affair a couple years back, when it complained that Apple was forcing it to surrender a 30% cut of its subscription fees. Apple subsequently halved its cut, but only for smaller developers. Financial Times

EU AstraZeneca

As forecast last week, the European Commission has initiated legal proceedings against AstraZeneca over the delivery of just a third of its contractually agreed vaccine volume to the EU. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Deloitte warned the Belgian government back in August—before the EU's AstraZeneca contract was signed—that the contract included no harsh consequences for failure to deliver what was promised. Politico

U.S. AstraZeneca

Continuing its belated abandonment of vaccine nationalism, the Biden administration is reportedly preparing to send up to 60 million AstraZeneca doses to countries that need them over the coming months. These doses are being produced in the U.S., where the FDA still hasn't approved AstraZeneca for domestic use. Associated Press

Archegos damage

Japan's Nomura today confirmed that it lost $2.3 billion over fiscal 2020-2021 thanks to the liquidation of Archegos; it had previously not named the U.S. client that it predicted would lose it around $2 billion. UBS also said today that it had lost $774 million in the fund's collapse. Wall Street Journal


No politics

The CEO of prominent productivity software company Basecamp has been dragged on social media after banning "societal and political discussions" on the company's own Basecamp account, and ending "paternalistic benefits" such as fitness and education perks. "Today's social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," said Jason Fried. Regarding the perks: "By providing funds for certain things, we're getting too deep into nudging people's personal, individual choices." Business Insider

Apple privacy

Apple has released version 14.5 of its iOS mobile operating system. If you listen to the ad industry, this moment marks Armageddon, because it helps people stop marketing outfits from tracking them everywhere. Is the industry right? Time will tell. But in the meanwhile, Fortune's Danielle Abril breaks down the argument and details some of the other features in this update. Fortune

Investment advice

Fortune's Shawn Tully takes you through the current investment outlook from Research Associates, which isn't so hot on U.S. big caps. Good bets include emerging markets and the U.K., because it's "cheap, plain and simple." Fortune

Bitcoin liquidity

Tesla sold 10% of its Bitcoin holdings "to prove liquidity of Bitcoin as an alternative to holding cash on balance sheet," CEO Elon Musk tweeted. Others, of course, see Bitcoin as a speculative investment and nothing more. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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