As coronavirus reshuffles CEO priorities, talent retention surges 'to the top of the list': KPMG

Corporate America’s top leaders have a lot of new things to worry about as they grapple with COVID-19, a global recession, and a host of supply chain challenges.

And according to a recent survey from global consulting firm KPMG, worries over helping and retaining workers now trump other issues on the to-do list of many CEOs.

“They’ve certainly reshuffled their priorities, if you will, and talent has skyrocketed to the top of the list,” KPMG Global Head of Advisory Mark Goodburn told Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade” in an interview this week.

Earlier this year, CEOs were most concerned about the environment and risks from climate change hurting their business. That’s still front-and-center, but Goodburn explained the pandemic has meant adapting how companies deal with their workers.

Now, they are being charged with providing new tools to keep the talent pool connected as increasing numbers work from home for the immediate future.

CEOs have "reshuffled their priorities," according to a new KPMG survey
CEOs have "reshuffled their priorities," according to a new KPMG survey

“They are going to look at ways to deploy their talent differently and engage with that talent very differently,” Goodburn added.

“I think they'll be focusing in the near term on things like retention and well being,” he said. “In the long term, I do think they will focus on re-skilling of that talent and recruitment of new talent.”

The survey found 75% of businesses are changing recruitment strategies, to try to hire workers who might live far from the office. And with more than two-thirds of CEOs saying there are plans to downsize office space, it seems remote work is here to stay.

“We all are using technologies differently than we have in the past. And I think there's a real opportunity for the CEOs of tomorrow to embrace the technology and change the way they operate their businesses,” Goodburn said.

KPMG graphic showing biggest risks to organizations over a 3-year period
KPMG graphic showing biggest risks to organizations over a 3-year period

Goodburn predicted a different kind of CEO will emerge from this. Already, there’s a reckoning underway for many companies, with 788 top executive departures through July, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

“The CEOs of the future, the successful CEO, will certainly be more agile and will certainly be more decisive. He'll really embrace the purpose of their organization,” he said.

“I think they will find ways to continue to improve their organization and their commitment beyond the business. They're asking themselves the question, What does good business leadership look like?”

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